Bridges to Learning is an exciting partnership between UNISON, the Open University and the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). Originally established in 2001, since 2009 the project has expanded and now receives its funding from the Union Learning Fund.
Our purpose is to help people achieve professional qualifications and employment opportunities, whatever their starting point: and to build the union role in lifelong learning and workforce development. Since 2009 the partnership has engaged thousands of learners, many of whom had done no learning at all since leaving school. Learners have entered into all levels of adult learning, from entry level English and Maths to postgraduate research. Working with employers and UNISON branches throughout the North East, Bridges to Learning has developed progression pathways for learners in the health and social care sectors, and is now developing links with the education sector. The project is delivered in the workplace by specialist UNISON Union Learning Reps. In each of these workplaces learning partnerships between UNISON and the employer have been developed and strengthened to the mutual benefit of individual learners, the employer and the union. There are currently seven partner workplaces involved in the region: five NHS Trusts and two local authorities. As well as providing progression routes to other learning providers the project hosts regular workshops and conferences both in the workplace and at the Open University in the North, on the Gateshead Quays.