Gaining new skills for Learning at Work Week

30 May 2016 |Written by Michael Skeldon, Laura Binks

We’re an inquisitive bunch here at Good Things Foundation. We’re always learning, sharing and reflecting. We’ve also got a great network of UK online centres, with lots of people who are very good at what they do and know lots about what it takes to engage and motivate people in the community. With that in mind, taking part in Learning at Work Week 2016 seemed like an obvious thing to do. So how did it go?

Following an open invite for contributors across and beyond the network, our learning team put together an exciting programme of six webinars to provide fresh ideas and to help them develop their skills.

Jonathan Gilbert from Social Media 4G got the webinars off to a great start on Monday with an insightful session about planning a digital profile, through websites, email and social media. Then on Tuesday Paul Davies from Destinations@Saltburn, a great UK online centre who has been working with Good Things Foundation for many years, shared numerous ways to help centres become commercially minded and sustainable. Paul said:

‘Learning at Work Week proved to be really positive and uplifting. I was really pleased to be able to share some of our experiences with other fabulous centres from around the country regarding how different ways of approaching what they do can lead to them being more sustainable. To be able to share advice with centres to help them go from strength to strength was a privilege’.

Two more webinars took place on Wednesday: ‘Engaging hard to reach learners via outreach’ led by Ivi Juliane Paduim-Quan from North Somerset Training; and ‘Supporting carers online’ led by Sam Symington, Online Support Manager at Carers Trust. Ivi shared many examples of the outreach work her centre does and encouraged centres to get out of their comfort zone by joining in with what’s going on in their local community. Sam later delivered some important issues regarding supporting carers online and advised about different resources that are a great place for centres to signpost any unpaid carers who need some extra support. Ivi said:

‘It was a very valuable experience delivering the webinar. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I particularly enjoyed the delegates contributing their ideas as by sharing good practice we can all improve’.

The webinars came to a close on Friday: ‘Networking and partnerships’ led by Adam Bhardwaj from Bilston Resource Centre (BRC) and ‘The Eatwell Guide’ led by Associate Nutritionist Fran Uhegbu. Adam shared his story about how his centre has successfully used networking and partnerships to reach a wider audience and improve their centre, including how this led to receiving a grant to extend their building! He also provided many useful ideas for attendees to use at their own centres. Fran later explained the government’s new Eatwell Guide, introduced in 2016 to replace the Eatwell Plate, and highlighted the differences between the two. This webinar was especially useful for those centres who focus on health issues with their learners.

A big thank to all six of our presenters. For most of them it was their first time delivering a webinar (another example of learning), but you’d never know that from how well they all presented.

But that wasn’t all. We wanted to do something in the office so that we could all get involved with learning too. After a shout out for volunteers, we had ourselves five ‘Learn something’ sessions. We kicked off with ‘Gourmet lunch making’, where a busy group effort resulted in turning a bag of locally bought ingredients into a tasty Thai style salad. We had two very engaging sessions on business development conversations and effective writing, which gave us a great insight into areas that some of us were less familiar with. Impressively, everyone who attended the British Sign Language session was able to sign a short sentence afterwards. We rounded things off with ‘Keep talking and nobody explodes’ - an adrenaline fueled half hour in which staff had to work together to defuse a (pretend) bomb!

So what did I learn from the week? People enjoy learning when it’s fun. OK, this wasn’t exactly news to me but it was great to see so many people so engaged in the various activities and getting so much from them. Hearing people say, “I’d like to do more of that…” tells me it was worthwhile. Learning at work doesn’t need to be formal, take hours of planning or have fixed objectives. The ‘fun stuff’, like making a tasty meal or playing games is just as valuable in terms of learning as the ‘business stuff’, like developing partnerships and engaging learners. So long as people are enjoying what they’re doing and gain something from the experience, it’s mission accomplished.

Personally, we're not going to wait until Learning at Work Week 2017. We're going to encourage more people to arrange learning sessions and continue inspiring people to have fun whilst gaining knowledge. If you’d like to know more about what we did and how you could do similar things in your centre, get in contact - we’ll be happy to help...