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Unionlearn News

Newcastle City Council

The union-led learning projects at Newcastle City Council are every bit Climbing Frame veterans.

They have been involved with the system since its inception, giving feedback and evaluating the system before it was even a web-based tool and had to be loaded onto an individual PC. Wendy Aitman, Unison ULR at the Council said, “It was always a good-looking system, but needed tweaking to make it more user-friendly and fulfil its potential as a ‘go-to’ resource for learners and ULRs. The new web-based version is now just that.”

The Climbing Frame works really well across a vast and disparate workforce particularly for data collection and storage because it is electronic and can be accessed anywhere there is a computer with internet access. All of the ULRs who use it find the ULR organiser tool very useful in setting up reminders and actions and keeping their ULR activity separate from their substantive/paid posts.

Caroline Simblett, Unison ULR for the last two years and is based in a large admin team, is a prolific user of the Climbing Frame site and uses almost all of the functions available on it and praises the way it allows her to keep track of all learners – and how it engages them from the outset, “Learners receive confirmation that they’re registered via email and this makes them feel included and involved with their learning right from the beginning of their journey. Many learners are intrigued by the site and the actual ‘frame’ itself is a great way to display their progress and is visually stimulating, too.”

Between Wendy and Caroline they have registered around 50 learners onto the Climbing Frame, with lots more waiting to go on, and the ultimate goal is to register all learners in the future. Many learners and ULRs use the system as both a tracker and planner for their formal and informal learning, especially those who have long-term goals such as to become a teacher or social worker, that require a very definite journey with several steps to take. However, it is increasingly being used by staff looking to re-train for career progression or career change (i.e. taking voluntary redundancy/severance) – both inside and outside the Council. The Climbing Frame offers an excellent way to identify what learners need to do to achieve their goals and how to get there, either through supplementing existing skills, up-skilling or re-training altogether, as well as identifying transferable skills.

As the Climbing Frame has moved on it has evolved into a ‘one-stop-shop’ resource, providing not merely data collection and storage facilities but constantly updated information and resources for Union Learning Reps to help them deliver the most professional and current service to their members and colleagues as possible. This is reflected in the fact that all new ULRs at the Council are being introduced to the system as a vital tool for them as well as for learners. A prime example of which (that both Wendy and Caroline made reference to), is the addition of the very comprehensive Apprenticeships Learning Theme – one of several areas of development work for union learning, individuals and employers.

Gemma Taylor, UNISON Regional Lead on Learning and Development said, “The Climbing Frame is a fantastic tool for ULRs, it is a one stop shop that provides learning and skills resources and materials that all ULRs can use to help and support learners in the workplace. It has also helped ULRS provide an accurate, up to date and accessible database of learners’ records. The Climbing Frame is very popular resource and is used by the majority of UNISON ULRs in the Northern Region.”