Across Britain, universities and employers are being encouraged to form partnerships for the development and delivery of workforce development programmes. In the social care sector, discussion about workforce development programmes usually focuses on large employers such as local authorities and children's trusts, overlooking the charities that comprise a significant sector of the workforce.
This paper explores an alternative dispersed model of workforce development that encourages voluntary & community sector children's agencies to share learning and development among volunteers, employees and employers within a learning network created by two children's charities (National Council for Voluntary Child Care Organizations and Barnardo's) and a university (the UK's Open University). This learning network – the Children's Workforce Learning Network (CWLN) – operates through communities of practice, distance learning courses and e-learning.
Employer and student feedback suggests that a learning network developed through a partnership between children's charities and a university can be effective, particularly in meeting the needs of ‘hard to reach’ learners who are not well served by existing provision. However, it also appears that e-learning may not yet be a solution to the barriers to learning often faced by isolated, part-time and volunteer workers.