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Learning at Work Day – workshop with Toby Greany of the Campaign for Learning


This is the report from the TrainingZONE online workshop held on 23 May 2000, with Toby Greany of the Campaign for Learning as our guest.

Toby Greany: Hello everyone - I'm Toby Greany from the Campaign for Learning. I've been at the Campaign for 4 years, mostly working on our policy and information side, but this is my irst experience of on-line facilitation, so please forgive me if I'm slow!! I'm down to asnwer questions about Learning at Work Day (25th MAy), Learning Local Authorities and Learning to Learn, but am happy to try and answer any questions around the Campaign's work (eg Individual Learning Accounts, The Future of Corporate Learning, FAmily Learning, Motivation to Learn etc). Take alook at our website ( if you want to get a general idea. Equally, I'm keen to hear about your experiences and ideas, so starters for 10 are: Are you planning anything for Learning at Work Day? HAve you ever done a job swap?

Tim Pickles: Today is intended as an opportunity for people to share ideas about LaW, to ask questions of Toby and to discuss ways in which we can promote learning in the workplace.

Tim Pickles: Anyone want to respond to Toby opening question: what are you planning for Learning at Work day?

Ruth Churchill: Hello everyone, hope I haven't missed too much

Rob Hudson: Hello, everyone. I am specifically interested in defining the route causes of barriers to learning within an organisation and what can be done both internally and externally to remove them..

Tim Pickles: Ruth - you can check the Transcript link below, but we've only just got going. Rob, sounds like you've got experience of barriers - do you want to set out any specific examples to look at?

Ruth Churchill: Hi Tony, we're exploring how to market the whole lifelong learning issue effectively in our sector at the moment. With a concept as broad and all-encompassing as this, it isn't easy. Most people donn't have any understanidng where their own learning / training / education fits in to the bigger picture, and we spend a lot of time trying to hjoin up the dots of all the new initiatives which come out, and how they can fit in with them. It really is a mammoth task.

Rob Hudson: I guess my main experience is that after initial training most experienced people within a company seem to lose the desire to learn.

Toby Greany: That's a starter for 50!! We published a guide called 'Understanding barriers to learning: a guide to research and current thinking last year which summarises the barriers as Cultural, Structural and Personal. What struck me is the strength of the personal ones - especially motivation/self-esteem etc. The next phase of the project (funding permitting) is to look at examples of 'Overcoming BArriers to learning', so examples welcome of how you're doing that welcome. The message of L@Work Day is really about creating the climate and demonstrating leadership from the top which, for many organisations is the key really, far more important than whizzy Intranets!! One example of overcoming STructural barriers (whilst also helping motivation) is the Employers pilot of ILAs we're running at the moment. LLet me know if you want details. . '

Tim Pickles: Both comments seem to reflect people operating in isolation and not connecting to the bigger picture of what's changing around them.

Ruth Churchill: We find that learning is made more effective to the individual and therefore the organisation if its grounded in a) things they need to learn to do the job better and b) things they want to learn to make it more enjoyable. We musnn't lose track of learning as fun, and also of needing time and support after a particular learning experience to implement, with the authority to make changes if need be.

Tim Pickles: In your workplace is there an age-related aspect to 'willingness to learn'? Are younger staff more willing to engage in lifelong learning than older staff? Is age itself a barrier (speaking generally, obviously there are exceptions)

Toby Greany: I'd agree with those two Ruth. We're also trying to understand the Viagra factor in learning - if employers support and promote the broad Employee Development Scheme definition of learning, does that lead to people wanting more job-related learning?

Rob Hudson: My experience is that it is not age related but a question of complex interaction of personal orientation and company culture.

Ruth Churchill: We've produced a piece of reserach on barriers to learning for graduets entering into a job in this sector (arts and entertainments), the resuklts of which are not uncommon to may other jobs , particularly in small business, in many other sectors. You can download a summary of this in pdf free from our website ( or I can send the full thing if anyone is inetersted.

Toby Greany: Ruth, I know that Metier have done some interesting online learning work - what have you found to be the advantages/disadvantages of that?

Ruth Churchill: Yes. I think age is an issue, simply because the younger staff have grown up with a culture of change, the speed of which as we all know increased incredibly over the last ten years. Older staff are not just having to learn new skills and knowledge, but a whole new way of learning itself, of having a flexible enough mind to take in new stuff as it hits and assimilate what is useful and what is not. And we all know how much harder it is to learn more as our grey matter decays!

Tim Pickles: Welcome Sue - just click the Transcript link lower on this page to follow the debate so far.

Toby Greany: But all the surveys (NAtional Adult Learning Survey/CfL's MORI surveys etc) show that young people are more likely to be learners. It's not necessarily inevitable, I think it's just that the younger generations in the UK have more experience of learning and more likely to be qualified. As we all know, the more you learn, the more you learn...

Tim Pickles: Rob's point also reinforced the importance of company culture: there are thousands of workplaces where the message continues to be one of not supporting employee development. For trainers/consultants, tackling that negative culture seems to be key.

Rob Hudson: Don't forget the older you are the longer you have been exposed to the working environment.

Toby Greany: Hello Fiona, welcome - we're on age and barriers to learning

Sue Curd: Having just read an article in The Guardian about 80+ folk taking on learning again and the fact that it seems it's good for your health, you'd think older people would join in - the sticky bit in employment is convincing employers that it doesn't have to be strictly job related for the org/co to gain from the individual's achievments

Toby Greany: Changing those cultures is about winning the Learning PAys arguments at a national level and showing how it does in practice. In many ways the best way to do that in the present booming economy is via individuals and there are definitely encouraging signs that they value learning more and more (see for example the DfEE's recent survey coinciding with the NAtional Training Awards lauinch). some interesting new work

Tim Pickles: Toby, what sort of difference do you anticipate Individual Learning Accounts will make to the way in which both individuals and companies view spending time and money on self-development?

Ruth Churchill: On-line learning is very exciting for self-employed because poepl can admit privately what they don't know, and choose what they want to know. Knowledge has become a very precious commodity along with free time. Its importnat to make knowledge accessible, and not hide it for power-mongering. We have an immense learning curve for ourselves in how to do this for communities of people who have become used to being traditionally discriminated against, and not wanting to learn. Barriers can include not just physical access to computers, on-line access, etc., but also to the style of materials, the language in which they're written, the culture they represent, the tone of the narrative. On-line users are so much more sophisticated in their expectations now that they become self-made critics of our work, and rightly so! But the challenge for us is how to encourage everyone to learn with so many needs. Our guidance site, by the way, is at

Sue Curd: It's best if individuals decide to learn for themselves whether sponsored or not, it's shortsighted of employers not to value this in staff - but we're now in a climate of "not jobs for life" so the development falls largely on the individual - not a bad thing. Just gets terribly expensive once they progress to MBAs and the such.

Toby Greany: I think the concept has the potential to change things radically - if individuals have control over public and employer funding (as well as their own savings) top spen on learning then we could finally move to a consumer friendly, empowering market. Thedevil, of course, is in the detail. The NAtional Ftramework due for launch on 1st September will primarily be about indivduals going to existing learning providers to get vouchers/discounts on fees. What we need to move towards is individuals carrying their own ILA card into WHSMiths (or whereever) and being able to put a teach yourself French course. Obviously the governemnt has difficulties with this for quality assurance reasons - but we'll keep plugging away!!

Rob Hudson: Ruth, I agree with the annonymity aspect of online learning but also I am very disappionted in the quality of what I have been able to find so far.proble

Sue Curd: The funding issue often has too much effect on the style of learning "sold" by colleges - I've seen so many students forced through a structre of learning that doesn't take into account their current knowledge - getting past the "already known" learning time to the "what I want to learn" bits is often to much of a turn-off, hence the drop out rate at FE colleges. Oh for learner centred approaches!!!

Tim Pickles: Toby, I like your idea of the ILA card - it really needs to be this flexible. The limitation of ILAs as I see it at the moment is still too closely allied with skills-learning for the immediate workplace. Learning for me is a much broader concept. I'm fascinated by the work which the Campaign has initiated with Peter Honey into just how people actually learn.

Ruth Churchill: What happens if the current trend is perpetuated, i.e. referring to recent news that ILA's are being taken up more by those who already engage in learning rather than those who don't - aren't we in some danger of increasing the learning gap here? Its not helped in our sector by a funding system which hasn't stressed a committment to training within the public funding stream in the past, making it difficult for individuals and employers to invest in their future, but thankfully that's changing

Rob Hudson: Toby, surely in this free market world of ours the government accept that the customer should be the main arbitor?

Toby Greany: I agree with Ruth and Rob on e-learning, though I'm told that what's now available in the US is very much better. We're doing a survey of companies and learning providers with KPMG/UfI to gauge what they're doing about e-learning and attitudes generally. Do you think it would be useful to have a version online here atr TRrainingzone Tim?

Tim Pickles: We'd be happy to publish a survey into elearning on the site. Our own view is that the online learning technology and format is very much in its infancy. We're partnering with one or two of the "better" providers to make some online content available, and I'm really excited by a deal under negotiation to provide trainers with a simple authoring tool to create and publish their existing material online. Once this starts to happen, I think standards and formats will begin to rise.

Tim Pickles: But I don't think that online learning is the solution to promoting learning at work: it's just an additional vehicle. And it still maintains the (false) association that Learning = Training.

Rob Hudson: I would appreciate an signposts to the best offerings available at the moment.

Tim Pickles: Rob - a really great guide to online learning resources can be found at - check it out.

Ruth Churchill: (responding to previous string)That's fine if learners actually know how to identify their needs. This is going to be the No.1 probelm I think for this country in the future, i.e. how on earth we reach non-learners and help them to idnentify their needs, align them to current opoprtunities and products, straddle the immense barriers of finding the rifght mechanism to enable them to learn the most effectively, and see the experience as a success rather than a result of their failure at the same time. These are hugely complex issues which even those of us designing learnign environments around potential users are struggling with.

Rob Hudson: Thanks Tim.

Tim Pickles: Good point Ruth. And of course, it raises that thorny dilemma that "people don't know what they don't know". One of the advantages of the new Learning Centres network is that, hopefully, people will have access to advice and guidance about what and how to learn, as well as the directory information.

Toby Greany: Agreed Ruth, but also unavoidable if we're really going to make learning relevant etc I think the Connexions move towards personal advisors for young people is a good one (though it'll take years for the service to develop) . More importantly we need to make learning to learn one of the key skills for schools to develop, just so that future generations are able to navigate the com[plexity.

Ruth Churchill: I would be interested to talk with you Tim abiout these negotaitions, we're also developing a learning environment which starts with a diagnostic DNA (development needs analysis) and enables trainers and supporters to author their own materials and drop them in to the site, we've written a style guide which helps authors to relate all their materials back to the national standrads for the content, style, etc., and its on a web-ct structure. Currently being piloted across the country, to be launched in December if all goes well.

Rob Hudson: I agree Ruth, perhaps we need to identify who can really influence individuals and should employers be a major player.

Tim Pickles: Ruth - have emailed separately.

Tim Pickles: We're getting to the end of our time. Pity the numbers today are so low. Toby, I wondered finally if you wanted to say anything about the work shadowing approach which I know is being promoted this year?

Ruth Churchill: I also wnated to say that I think the mentoring / coaching system your promoting on TZ is excellent, I've already contacted a couple of hopefuls, and will pray to the money-gods for them to look down on me kindly!

Toby Greany: Sure, it came out of the high profile job swaps worked so well last year, so this year we've gone for NAtional Job Swap Day in asssociation with The idea is really that there's a lot to learned from spending time shadowing people in your organisation. See also our website for free online learning resources from heronin.

Toby Greany: Bye everyone - thanks for coming.

Ruth Churchill: Thanks for helpful discussion, bye.

Rob Hudson: Thanks everyone, bye.

Tim Pickles: Toby - thanks for taking the time to help with this today. I'm sorry the number of participants has been lower than usual . Anyway the quality of discussion an docmment has been good. Thanks to everyone. I'll post the transcript to the website this afternoon.


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