Learning for the future was the driver of Wakefield Council’s Learning at Work Week. One of the Council’s key goals is to support its people through their journey of lifelong learning. It recognises that as the world of work changes and customer needs evolve, traditional skills may become outdated. People will need to continuously develop their skills, adapt and be open to new directions. 

Learning at Work Week was an opportunity to empower and encourage people to try learning in all its forms from work shadowing through networking, to sharing and learning from each other. The week was used as a platform to develop a skills and action plan linked to the Council’s business priorities ‘Successful People’ and ‘Successful Council’ and to highlight the principles that underpin the way the council works which include helping people to help themselves and being forward thinking which are all part of ‘The Wakefield Way’; the Council’s People Strategy and Children’s improvement plan. 

To achieve this, the council decided to offer positive learning experiences for colleagues, exploring innovation and promoting reflective practice.

Nearly 20 events were run, attended by over 200 people with many more accessing self-help material on the Council’s Learning Portal. Learning activities were designed and delivered to be inventive, creative and most of all convenient to ensure maximum impact and attendance.

They included ‘An audience with’; the Chief Executive and the Head of Intelligence and Technology, who shared their insights and learning with managers of the future. 

Workshops for Social Work practitioners looked at gang culture and the use of virtual reality to learn new skills. Others covered Digital Skills and Mental Health awareness. Colleagues could learn about the Council’s Libraries App and how to access self-help material on the employee Learning Portal.

To support its People Strategy and our journey of lifelong learning the Council launched its Masterclass programme 2019 - 2020.  To discuss new ideas and concepts that will develop ways of working and also generate ideas for new ways of delivering excellent services to citizens.  This included masterclasses on Presenting Like a Pro and Understanding Your Target Market. 

To support reflective practice, colleagues tried Cornerstone Virtual Reality which used 360 degree immersive films and VR headsets to explore practice linked to domestic abuse and attachment related trauma. Short videos ‘through the eyes of a child’ helped colleagues to understand and interact with vulnerable children. The week also saw the launch of the Council’s workplace choir ‘One Voice’, which unites colleagues from across the organisation.

A ‘One Council approach’ to promote Learning at Work Week saw the Chief Executive put the spotlight on the week through her weekly blog. The internal intranet raised awareness across the Council and Manager Alerts, emails and Team Briefs cascaded information across the Council’s directorates. To engage colleagues on frontline services, posters were displayed in rooms and canteens. 

To evaluate the week, feedback from participants was captured at all events and afterwards, through graffiti boards and at information stands placed in key locations demonstrating the Council’s Learning Portal. 

Learning at Work Week has acted as a catalyst and contributed to the Council’s journey of change and a culture of continuous development. Colleagues have been able to access and try new ways of learning, discover how they can develop themselves, and network with each other. Skills learned in masterclasses are being put into practice. In addition, the Wakefield Learning Academy was launched in September 2018 as a vehicle to drive forward practice improvements through effective learning solutions and interventions across the Children and Young People’s workforce.  The evaluation of the Virtual Reality sessions has led to VR now also being part of Wakefield’s Practice Model ‘Connecting Practice - Relationships for Change’. VR will be used to understand how trauma impacts on the ability of adults and children to protect themselves and others as well as knowing how to successfully intervene in these circumstances.