Case study - Lead Workplace Learning Advocates

Workplace Learning Advocates (WLAs) are people who inspire people to learn at work. They are trained to do this by informing, encouraging and supporting others to participate in learning at work.

A big part of the WLAs role is to spread the message about the benefits of learning at work to their colleagues. This can be through offering information and advice to colleagues, organising taster activities designed to encourage people to consider new skills and developing learning clubs in the workplace.

Lead WLAs are people who have developed the skills to operate effectively as a WLA in the workplace and now want to share this knowledge with other people. 

As WLAs are all about sharing information it’s not surprising that some Lead WLAs are choosing to take their message further afield by reaching out into the wider community. This includes using their local business and community network to encourage others to take a look at the benefits of the WLA approach. Lead WLAs are also working to;

  • Identify people who may be interested in coming to a WLA Information Session
  • Promote WLA Information Sessions and encouraging people to sign up for on-line training
  • Organise WLA network meetings to share learning and experiences
  • Work in partnership with unionlearn and Community Learning Champions to open up access to learning for the whole community
  • Contribute information to the WLA Newsletter/E-Shot/Website/Social Networking sites

WLAs is an approach that works most effectively when embedded within the business with support from the leadership. With benefits to business including enhanced team working and greater engagement in learning and skills development among employees, Lead Workplace Learning Advocates are keen to ensure other organisations benefit from the approach.

They have been working closely with other businesses through their trade associations, local business networks and organisations within their supply chain to explain the benefits of informal learning and the WLA approach. For example, Lead WLA Steve Whyberd of W M Armstrong (Longtown) Ltd is working in partnership the Road Haulage Association to promote the WLA approach through presentations and newsletter articles. First hand testimony as to the benefits has proven to be a powerful lever.

Some Lead WLAs have chosen to take their skills and knowledge outside the workplace and into their local community.  They have been partnering with local Community Learning Champions to open up access to learning to the whole community. Lead WLAs were particularly active in Adult Learners Week.  For example in the North West region Lead WLA Wendy Black of Rum Story worked with The Johnston Partnership to set up and run a Learning Opportunities Advice Stand in Whitehaven Library during Adult Learners Week.  Advice on learning opportunities was available to all local residents and the team helped both those in work and those looking for work to make use of the resources available.

The benefits of sharing knowledge and experience are also having an impact on the Lead WLAs themselves; the joint working that Lead WLAs have been involved with has given them access to resources and information to benefit their organisation.  

Amanda Hesketh of Kellan Group saw specific benefits from becoming a Lead WLA. “I attended a unionlearn conference at TUC HQ. That event really helped develop my understanding of youth unemployment and gave me the final confirmation that putting focus into an Apprenticeship scheme was the right thing to do for our business. The Kellan group has just recruited a group of young apprentices and a lot of the information learned on the WLA course has assisted with ensuring they have the right level of support to learn.”

Liz Johnston from Workplace Learning Advocates says “Lead WLAs are helping to build the capacity of Workplace Learning Advocates and to help it’s long-term sustainability.”