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Ufi and learndirect -
a new way of learning
by Adrian Beddow
Public Relations Executive
Ufi Limited UK
Ufi's learning services are being delivered
         through learndirect, which provides access to innovative and high quality
         courses, over 80 percent of them on-line. learndirect will enable people
         to fit learning into their lives, learning wherever they have access to the
         internet - at home, at work, or in one of over 1000 learndirect centres.


Asda distribution centres roll-out the learning

Hundreds of Asda employees or ‘colleagues’ have checked out learndirect courses at three of the leading supermarket’s distribution centres.

Now this figure is set to grow rapidly throughout this year as learndirect learning centres are opened at other Asda sites across the country.

Currently Asda colleagues can log on to their learndirect courses at four sites – the distribution centres in Wakefield, Bristol and Washington, as well as at the head office of the Asda clothing range ‘George’ in Lutterworth, in the Midlands. 

These centres give thousands of Asda colleagues the opportunity to learn and develop new skills – anything from basic computing to more specific courses specially designed for their industry. 

Managed by KITS – the organisation that runs the road transport sector Hub for learndirect – the Asda learning centres have proved extremely popular with the supermarket’s workforce.

A pilot learndirect centre was opened at the Wakefield site in October 2001 and around 100 people have registered to learn new skills. 

Courses they are working on include the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), a legal requirement for some employees working in the transport and distribution sector.

One colleague who is already using learndirect at Wakefield is Paul Barton. He said: “I am really impressed with learndirect. My tutor is very good at what he does. He doesn't make you feel stupid if you do something wrong and is always there with good advice. He even took the time to phone me at home to see how things were going. Nothing seems to be too much for these people. Full marks!”

Asda was so pleased with the success of the pilot that it quickly decided to open learndirect centres in Washington and Bristol.

And now learndirect and KITS are working with Asda on plans to open similar centres at their other distribution centres and are also about to initiate a pilot of learndirect in two of Asda’s retail stores.

Iain Scott, Asda’s People Development Manager for Logistics, said: “learndirect is rapidly becoming a key component of our award-winning training and development strategy, where we aim to provide the very best in learning opportunities for all our colleagues.”

Added Lesley Barber, from Asda’s Wakefield site: “Opening the learning centre on site has meant we can provide a flexible service to our colleagues at a local site. 

“Many of the people who work in our Distribution Centre live locally and they know the learning centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they can pop-in to continue their learning.”

Phil Puddefoot, Commercial Director for learndirect, said: “Our partnership with Asda is proving to be a real success. It is proof that learndirect can meet the needs of large companies with a widespread workforce. ASDA requires flexible, accessible learning which is fully supported - learndirect and our partners have shown we can deliver this.”

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learndirect at work – A look at McVities:

Site background

McVitie’s site at Harlesden is at the forefront of United Biscuits’ development particularly with its cutting edge packaging technology.  Harlesden is the largest biscuit factory in Europe, covering 18 acres, and employs 340 people. Currently around a third of the people employed at the factory are local to the site.

In 2001 the factory produced 80,000 tonnes of biscuits generating a sales value of more than £100 million.  Approximately 900,000 biscuits are produced per hour with 5.4 million biscuits produced in a year.  Although the process for making biscuits has changed little in the last 50 years, it is the packaging processes that are now revolutionising the industry.  The factory produces some of Britain’s favourite biscuits, including Rich Tea, Digestives, Milk and Plain Chocolate Homewheats, and Milk and Plain Chocolate HobNobs.

McVitie’s works hard in their local community to increase skills and the factory runs a programme with the Stonebridge Estate to encourage skills training as a way to improve employment prospects.

McVitie’s also supports local football club QPR’s “Playing for Success” scheme by donating biscuits and sponsoring the team mascot kits. The scheme provides an after-school study support centre, giving local children the chance to develop their skills in literacy, numeracy and motivation - all within the context of football.

McVitie’s and learndirect

McVitie’s has recognised for a long time now the importance of providing staff with the opportunity to develop their existing skills and set up a Learning Resource Centre at the site two years ago.  However, it realised the centre was not meeting its full potential and, by liaising with SkillsIT and learndirect re-launched the centre on 23 January 2002.

The aim of the partnership is to promote learning and self-development amongst all employees and, with access to over 400 learning modules, employees will be able to teach themselves skills in literacy and numeracy, business, management and computing.

All McVitie’s staff receive the necessary training to enable them to carry out their roles responsibly and to an agreed level of skill.  The new Learning Centre, however, provides opportunities for staff to further develop their existing skills or learn entirely new skills and most importantly to develop the habit of learning.

Learning through the centre is entirely voluntary for staff, however McVitie’s feels that all staff, from the shop floor to the Factory General Manager, can benefit from lifelong learning opportunities.  The new centre will be of particular benefit to those staff who wish to apply for internal promotion and need to develop or improve specific skills to do so.

The Learning Centre is open 24 hours a day to accommodate staff shift patterns and a member of the SkillsIT team is on-site twenty hours a week to enrol, support and help learners.  Learners will also have access to a free learndirect learner-support helpline to answer any questions they may have while they are on-line.

Sarah Bonnett, Senior Human Resources Officer at Harlesden who managed the relaunch of the centre comments: “Within the three weeks of the Learning Centre being open, we have already had 50 people enrol with the learndirect scheme.  This is great news and confirms our belief that our employees want to develop new skills outside of the workplace.  The centre is an excellent way of enabling those who want to, to learn. We hope to take opportunities like Adult Learner’s Week to further promote the benefits offered by lifelong learning.”

Sally Tate, from SkillsIT, adds: “It is important that the employees at McVitie’s choose to learn and feel they can set realistic learning goals that are well within their sights.  Different employees at McVitie’s will have different personal and professional objectives and each employee signing up for a learndirect course will have an individual learning programme agreed with them by a member of the SkillsIT learning support team.”

Learning in the local community

A recent survey published by West London Workforce showed that 63% of the adult population are non-learners, in that they are not engaged in any formal learning.  The figures also show of that 63%, two thirds have few or no IT skills.  But the figures also show that of the 37% of the West London population who are active learners, half are being paid for or sponsored by their employers. 

McVitie’s is leading the way in the area to encourage other business to open up this resource to their employees and provide access to new skills and learning. 

Sally Tate comments: “On-line learning means people can be offered flexible and accessible learning as an alternative to traditional learning.  I am convinced that the learndirect facility at McVitie’s should help to win back some of the 63% of non-learners in West London.”

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Sustainable Development is key to secure a better future

As more and more research is being undertaken on global warming, climatic change and the use of the Earth’s natural resources it is becoming clear that countries and organisations need to tackle these problems as a matter of urgency. 

All people want to live in a clean, healthy and stable world. 

Sustainable Development seeks to achieve this by encouraging better Social, Environmental and Economic policies and practices for all people across the world to secure a better future.

This online course provides a holistic view of Sustainable Development. It will help the learner to look at how to do their bit, whether they are looking at individual, community or business needs. 

Course details

The whole course will take in excess of 10 hours to complete including tasks, but the learner will have the opportunity to pick the areas that are relevant to them.  It is aimed at:

  • young people between 16-30 wanting to broaden their knowledge and understanding
  • Local Authorities responsible for Local Agenda 21
  • anybody involved with environmental management or environmental practice at work
  • businesses wanting to improve their chances of survival
Learning objectives from the course include the learner being able to:
  • Promote social progress that recognises the needs of everyone
  • Identify how to protect the environment and how to use natural resources prudently
  • Identify how to maintain high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
The course comprises the following modules:
  • Introduction to Sustainable Development

  • This module looks at what sustainable development is, how environmental, social and economic factors impact on it and how to develop a holistic approach to it.
  • Sustainable Development for Individuals

  • This looks closely as issues like quality of life, sustainable development in the home, family and neighbourhood and transport and sustainable development.
  • Sustainable Development for Business

  • This module looks at the definition of a sustainable business, businesses and the environment and social responsibility, and economic sustainability for businesses.
  • Sustainable Development for Communities

  • This module takes a closer look the problem with communities, how to build solutions and partnerships and addressing the longer term.
  • Sustainaville

  • This last module is an e-learning game, where the learner plays the role of the Mayor of the town of Sustainaville.  Using what has been learnt from the course, the learner has 20 years to turn Sustainaville into a more sustainable community.
The course – which uses a mixture of audio and video, as well as text and pictures, throughout the modules – is one of the most advanced and innovative courses in the learndirect portfolio.

Carl Fritchley, Commissioning Manager for Ufi learndirect, said: “Sustainable Development is becoming more and more important for both governments and companies.

“This course takes individuals through the issues they need to think about in new and innovative ways, using the very latest in e-learning technology.

“For example, we have never had a game as complex and detailed as Sustainaville as part of a course before.

“We have been showing test copies of the course to a number of organisations, like the North West Regional Assembly, and they have been very impressed with both the content and the functionality of the course.  I would urge people to take a look at one of the free trial CDs we have available.”

Further details

Sustainable Development for All is eligible for LSC funding and will be available for hubs and centres to preview by the end of February.  The course will be available for learners in March.  More information about the course and the free CDs is available via email: cfritchley@ufi.com

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