Workplace Learning Advocates (WLAs) and Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) announced in autumn 2015 that they were delighted to be able to safeguard the future training and support of WLA volunteers. 

The self-employed and those in micro-businesses (10 employees or less) can find it difficult to address their learning needs because of cost, time constraints or availability. The flexibility of the Workplace Learning Advocates (WLAs) programme means that a solution is always at hand. 

Mark Bowen, Enterprise Development Manager of BG Futures, a Business and Enterprise Centre, based at the Bishop Grosseteste University College campus in Lincoln explains “Since the idea of BG Futures was first conceived, we have had ambitious ideas about providing an environment for new businesses that would optimise their development potential and evolve into a self-sustaining business growth and learning community. At a time when most business support has been replaced by web-based solutions, the enabling environment provided through the WLA programme has allowed us to address the importance of learning from others at a time and in a way that is most appropriate. Learning opportunities have included an excellent social and digital media session delivered by one of our tenants, a ‘meet, greet and eat’ session so the businesses could learn about each other and a local businessman sharing his hints and tips for business success”. BG Futures contributed to one of the WEA Employer Panels used to shape future developments of Workplace Learning Advocates.

WLAs can play an important role in encouraging and supporting workplace learning, providing information and advice to colleagues to help them access learning opportunities in workplaces where there is no union organisation. Workbase Training and The Johnston Partnership recognised this gap and initiated, piloted, tried and tested the WLA role from 2004. Having proved the model they sought to pass the brand over to a national organisation which would demonstrate the same commitment and ethos. The WLA approach to successfully improving workplace learning uses the experiences of unionlearn (the TUC’s learning and skills organisation) ULRs and Community Learning Champions (CLCs), both of which are also supported by WEA.

When taking over the training and support for WLAs, WEA Chief Executive Ruth Spellman said: “We are honoured to have been given the opportunity to continue and develop Workplace Learning Advocates and excited by the considerable potential to augment our offer to employers." If you would like to initiate a WLA scheme in your workplace contact for more information.