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learningrep » Summer 09

Exclusive

“Union Learning Reps help people change their lives for the better” Union learning is something to smile about for Peter Mandelson

www.unionlearn.org.uk


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» Comment

Three years of growth Taking over from Liz Smith as the Director of unionlearn is a little daunting, but also a matter of great pride. It’s daunting because, as readers of this magazine know, Liz has been a strong and successful leader of what has grown into a formidable organisation. And I’m proud of what’s been achieved, because the two TUC departments that made up unionlearn three years ago were previously part of the organisation department, of which I was the head. I know Liz will be a hard act to follow. But she leaves unionlearn in great shape. We saw how well things are at unionlearn’s third annual conference, where we reported that not only have we surpassed our target of training 22,000 ULRs one year early, we now have more than 23,000. In this edition of The Learning Rep we bring you full coverage of what TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, called “a most cheerful event”. And you can watch the conference online via unionlearn’s website. Having been in the job barely a week, I appeared before MPs on the Business and Enterprise Committee at the House of Commons. This was a useful opportunity to highlight how employers need to raise their skills game to an all-party group of parliamentarians. It’s vital that we continue to show that unions and employers can work together. And as you can see, I interviewed Peter Mandelson in his new role in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. He told me: “I’m such a strong supporter of ULRs” – an encouraging message for us all. Tom Wilson Director unionlearn The Learning Rep, summer 09 Editor: Mike Power mpower@tuc.org.uk Writers: Astrid Stubbs, Martin Moriarty Design: Redhouse Lane Communications Print: Ancient House Printing Group Distribution: Cavalier mailing Cover photo: Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary Peter Mandelson photographed by Jess Hurd.

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Goodbye Liz, hello Tom News Careers Advice relaunch Jo Brand’s learning story unionlearn conference roundup Barrie and Maria top adult learners Peter Mandelson interviewed by Tom Wilson Learning at Keele Business in the Community awards BVT Surface Fleet leads in learning Meet Zoe, new TUC apprentice Unions providing equal learning opportunities High marks from OFSTED TUC Education Contacts Jay knows Free resources

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Annual conference « News «

Say hello, wave goodbye Outgoing unionlearn Director Liz Smith introduced her successor Tom Wilson at the third annual conference in June.

Photo: Jess Hurd

After a prolonged and appreciative ovation for her final set of closing remarks at the close of this year’s unionlearn conference in June, outgoing Director Liz Smith introduced her successor, Tom Wilson, at a champagne reception for the 400 participants. “In three years, unionlearn has achieved a great deal to be proud of and I would like to pay tribute to everyone in the trade union movement who has played a part in this success. And I would specially like to thanks Billy Hayes, who has been an inspirational Chair of the unionlearn Board for all his support,” Liz said. “Not only did we reach our target of 22,000 union learning reps, but we did it a year early and surpassed it by 1,000 – it’s a great note to leave on and I wish Tom Wilson, my successor, the best of luck in the job.” Tom comes to unionlearn after six years at the helm of the Organisation and Services Department at the TUC. Before he started work at Congress House, he had extensive experience in the education unions, first as Head of Research and then Assistant General Secretary at the Association of University Teachers between 1988 and 1997 and then as Head of NATFHE’s universities department until July 2003. “I am deeply committed to union learning: my trade union life began as a WEA tutor and I have at various times taught on TU Education courses, worked for education unions and been involved in education and skills policy at the TUC,” says Tom. “Working with the excellent and dedicated staff, I hope to build further on the already impressive achievements of unionlearn, making it a permanent and vital part of the national skills landscape.”

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» News

New forum is all fired up

Photo: Rod Leon

the learning agreement between the London Fire Brigade and the three trade unions FBU, GMB and UNISON, was finally signed at Southwark Training centre at the end of March. “The signing of this agreement confirms the London Fire Brigade’s commitment to the development of all its staff,” commented Head of Training and Development Gary Reason. “This agreement will allow the brigade to work in partnership with the unions to identify and utilise the learning opportunities available to support all staff to realise their potential and make a real difference in shaping society and the brigade.”

Photo: Rod Leon

The London Fire Brigade management and union Learning Forum set up by the learning agreement signed earlier this year met for the first time in June to further progress workpalce learning in the capital’s fire and rescue service. “Working in partnership with the brigade will enable us to progress the work we have already commenced which will provide learning opportunities for our members and all personnel which can only benefit everybody,” says FBU Regional Lifelong Learning Co-ordinator Tim Davis. After lengthy consultations,

Billy hails icon Liz

Shake on it (from left): UNISON Branch Secretary Tony Phillips, GMB Branch Secretary Charles Adje, FBU Regional Lifelong Learning Co-ordinator Tim Davis, Assistant Commissioner Head of Training and Development Gary Reason, FBU London National Executive Council Member Ian Leahair and FBU National ULF Manager Trevor Shanahan

Unionlearn Board chair Billy Hayes hailed outgoing Director Liz Smith as “a living icon to an awful lot of people” at a packed reception in Congress House to mark her retirement. “Your contribution to what took place in Liverpool in the 1980s inspired people like myself to gain self-confidence through trade union education,” he said, referring to Liz’s crucial contribution to union initiatives such as Second Chance to Learn, Merseyside in Crisis and the Unemployed Workers’ Centre. “We’re measured by our legacy, and you’re leaving behind a legacy of 23,000 union learning reps – unionlearn has been a spectacular success in terms of what it’s done.”

We’ve got 11 years to reach the world top eight Government, employers and learning providers must take further significant action in the years ahead if the UK is to become genuinely world-class on employment and skills, according to Ambition 2020, a new report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). Latest international data on the UK workforce shows we are ranked 17th on low level skills; 18th on intermediate level skills;

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and 12th on high level skills, although, when it comes to lifelong learning, the UK is placed third highest in the European Union. “To achieve our ambition, we need to achieve more than 20 million additional qualifications by 2020 – equivalent to more than one for every second adult of working age in less than 12 years,” points out UKCES Chief Executive Officer Chris Humphries. Chris says that five major

priorities that should drive UK policy and practice over the next five years: ● Create a clear and integrated strategy for economic transformation and renewal, aligning policies and practices in industrial strategy, employment and skills. ● Support effective economic development in cities and local communities. ● Develop more agile and responsive skills and


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News «

Photo: Rod Leon

Learning centre revives Cornish prospects

Spreading the word Unionlearn took the lifelong learning message to this year’s TUC Black Workers’ Conference, where UNISON West Midlands Regional Secretary Roger McKenzie (far left) and Unite East Midlands Regional Learning Organiser Maureen ScottDouglas (second left) discussed the issues with unionlearn Website Officer Jay Sreedharan and TUC Race Equality Officer Wilf Sullivan.

Quick Reads winners revealed Ten union members will be appearing in print when the next batch of Quick Reads are published on World Book Day next March. They are the winners of the unionlearn short story competition, which aimed to collect real-life stories from the world of work for a Quick Reads special next year. The winners are: Karen Barker (NUT), Demelza Burrell (PCS), Anthony Connolly (Unite), Fred Creamer (Unite), Esti Mardiani Euers (UCU), Francis Kenny (UNISON), John Morrison (UNISON), Mick Neville (BFAWU), Garry Pettitt and William Sutton (Unite).

Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor officially re-launched the St Austell Learning Centre in May, set up with union and European Union backing to help meet the learning needs of adult workers in his Cornwall constituency. The Lib Dem MP was particularly happy to oblige, having opened the original Learning Shop in the town centre five years ago (which was closed last summer despite a local outcry). “It was a big disappointment when the old Learning Shop closed, so it’s very encouraging to see the Learning Centre back open and providing even better services to adult learners than before,” Matthew said. “Education and learning support specifically for adults is vital in these difficult economic times, to ensure that our local workforce is as skilled and competitive as possible – that is the key to future employment and better incomes.” The Centre provides customised Skills for Life and

computer courses with expert tutor support provided by New College, Swindon: learners can study at their own pace and even finish courses on their own home computer if they like. A partnership with Link into Learning (part of the Cornwall Adult Education Service) means that no learner will be turned away – if the centre can’t help, it will point learners to those who can. “A tremendous amount of work has gone into making the Centre a first class venue,” says unionlearn Regional Development Worker Geoff Hale. “It really is an excellent resource: all union members, workers and businesses should drop in and check out how the centre can support their learning and skills needs.” New Centre Co-ordinator Les Kennedy says the Centre will do all it can to support learners. “In these tough times, workers and businesses have to think about the skills they need to see them through recession and out the other side – now is the time for people to invest in skills.”

employment provision, capable of anticipating employers’ evolving requirements. ● Transform individual aspiration, maximising motivation and opportunity for everyone to develop and exploit their talents. ● Build employer ambition and capacity to be world-class, capable of competing globally in the knowledge economy. Download the summary of Ambition 2020 from: http://sn.im/keyfindings

St Austell learning centre staff (from left): IT tutor Carol Pearson, unionlearn Project Assistant Carrie Mann, Centre coordinator Les Kennedy, unionlearn Project Worker Rob Garrett, unionlearn Regional Development Worker Geoff Hale and Centre Administrator Jenny Adams

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22,000 ULRs by 2010? Piece of cake! Unionlearn hosted a reception in Westminster in April to mark reaching our target of training 22,000 union learning reps a year ahead of schedule. “This is a fantastic return on the Government’s investment in union learning – keep up the good work and train many more,” enthused the then Skills Secretary John Denham (now Communities Minister). Channel 4 News presenter (and NUJ member) Alex Thompson, who anchored the event, was equally enthusiastic. “This is something that

needs to be shouted from the rooftops and has been amazingly successful,” he said. Joanna Szmit, the Polish bus driver and Unite member chosen to represent the country’s ULRs, received an award to mark the achievement of the target beneath a massive banner featuring her photograph (she also appeared in the previous issue of The Learning Rep, of course). “I’m very glad I got the chance to become a learning rep and help my colleagues: I hope the unions will continue to train many more of

us in the future,” she said. Metroline Chief Operating Officer Sean O’Shea (who is Joanna’s boss) and Head of Training Neil Colston also picked up an award to mark the occasion. “This award is not just for me and Neil but much more for the people (many of them in this room) who represent union learning at Metroline,” Sean said. Everyone at the reception raised a glass to the memory of labour movement giant and pensioners campaigner Jack Jones, who had died earlier in the day.

Right on target (from left): Metroline Chief Operating Officer Sean O'Shea, outgoing unionlearn Director Liz Smith, the then Skills Secretary John Denham, Metroline bus driver Joanna Szmit and TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady

Prison staff take a break for Adult Learners’ Week Helped by funding from unionlearn, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) organised the very first Learning At Work Day at HMP Rochester in Kent in May, with over 100 staff dropping in to try out the activities on offer. With the event organised on the topical theme of “Money Matters”, there was information of on offer from the Debt Advice Network, the BBC RaW Money campaign and details about

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Family Tax Credits. There was also a range of bodywork sessions: Lesley Nowell was booked all day for foot massages; while staff members Lorraine Miller, Lloyd Morgan and Barry Ash offered colleagues back and shoulder massages, Indian Head massages and body “MOTs”. MidKent College and The Open University ran stalls to spread the word about their learning opportunities, while

over 40 people signed up for an onsite IT course delivered by a TUC tutor from Lewisham College (and there are plans to start sign language, t’ai chi and Spanish in the near future). “The day was a great success: Lesley, Lorraine, Lloyd and Barry didn’t stop all day and staff are already asking when the next one will be,” says POA ULR Clare Hatful. Cheryl Moss gets a head massage from Lloyd Morgan


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Now you too can discover the joy of Six Unionlearn and The Reading Agency have got together to publish an inspirational booklet about how union learning reps in Yorkshire and the Humber are encouraging less confident readers to explore the world of books. Getting Reading to Work: Unions, Libraries and the Six Book Challenge shows how the incentive scheme works with short case studies from Tesco, Royal Mail, Fox’s Biscuits, Fletchers Bakeries, Corus Steelworks and HMP Moorland. While seven workplaces took part in the scheme when it was launched last year, almost 40 participated this year, and the scheme has been

shortlisted for the national Libraries Changes Lives Award. Download the booklet from: http://tinyurl.com/mr3q7h

Skills ministry backs staff development Now that the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been created through the merger of BERR and DIUS, unions hope to follow up their recent learning agreement at BERR with similar arrangements in the new department. Management at BERR (as was) got together with the FDA, Prospect and PCS to sign a learning agreement earlier this year. Director of Learning and Development Jennie Merriman, the FDA’s Rupert Marsh, Kevin Etheridge from PCS and Prospect’s Shaun Hartigan put their names to the deal back in March. The unions had already been working closely with HR Learning and Development to encourage more staff to take advantage of new development opportunities, including apprenticeships in Business Administration, Customer Service, Management and IT. All three unions are currently recruiting more ULRs to help spread the message about workplace learning.

We have lift-off at SPACE centre Mail and BT,” explains CWU North East Project Worker Andy Sorton. “Through learndirect, which offers online learning, we are able to extend the excellent work already carried out by ULRs and provide new learning opportunities to CWU members and their families who live and work in remote areas.” Since the SPACE centre opened in 2007 (the name stands for Success, Participation, Achievement Certificated, Education), it has helped many union members complete a range of courses, and was one of the first to launch the Six Book Challenge last year in cooperation with The Reading Agency. Three hundred learners attended when the SPACE centre ran its first open day in March, and

the introductory computer courses on offer proved so popular that the centre was booked solid for two days afterwards. “The SPACE centre has been very imaginative in the kinds of courses which have been run and the help offered to staff. Working together with unionlearn and Bradford College TUC Education Unit, Royal Mail and the CWU have really worked hard to offer Bradford staff the chance to change their lives through learning,” says Dr Alan Roe.

Launching the Digital Divide project are (from left) CWU’s Trish Lavelle, Royal Mail’s Simon Scott and unionlearn’s Dr Alan Roe

summer 2009 «

Photo: Mark Harvey

After joining unionlearn’s UNet learning centre network earlier this year, the Bradford SPACE centre has launched a new online learning initiative with the potential to help hundreds of local postal workers improve their skills. With the backing of the Communication Workers Union and unionlearn, the Digital Divide project will enable CWU members and their families who live and work in remote areas to access learning opportunities. It was launched in June by unionlearn Regional Manager Dr Alan Roe, CWU Education Officer Trish Lavelle and Royal Mail Centre Manager Simon Scott. “The long-term aims and objectives of this Digital Divide project are to break down learning barriers that exist for people who work in smaller and often more remote workplaces within Royal

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» Briefing » Careers advice

Opening new The unionlearn Learning and Careers Advice Service offers ULRs a wealth of resources to help people develop at work.

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nionlearn has launched new materials to promote its Learning and Careers Advice Service. The service is free, impartial and confidential and helps people to develop new skills, improve their job prospects or change jobs. It’s available for all union members, union representatives, TU Education tutors, unionlearn and union staff. Sally Dale, Partnership Manager at the Careers Advice Service, which helped set up the dedicated service for unionlearn, urges ULRs to use the service as part

of their toolkit. “I would encourage ULRs to take advantage of all the resources and advice available,” she says. “We have lots of hits on our website but we want people to take it that step further and pick up the phone – it’s free and confidential and can really help ULRs help people take up new challenges and tackle the barriers that prevent them in learning and work.” Sally says its advisers have access to one million courses and information on childcare and other support in overcoming the barriers

What the services offers to ULRs Check out these services to help learners. ● Course directory for learners, which includes more than 950,000 courses from over 10,000 providers. Search online to find courses in your area. ● Job Profiles section allows you to search more than 700 job profiles online. ● Free expert advice on learning or career options. Ask for a unionlearn adviser to call you

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back at a time that suits you. All calls are completely free: 08000 92 91 90. ● Funding Directory is a vital tool to help find reliable funding from non-charitable sources to help support education and learning. ● CV Builder offers all you need to create a job-winning CV, application form and covering letter. ● Skills and interest assessment to identify key skills and

explore a range of relevant career options. ● Career values tool – an online activity made up of a series of questions designed to help learners make the most suitable career decisions based on what they think is most important in a job.

Everything’s available at www.unionlearn.org.uk/ uladvice


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Careers advice « Briefing «

w doors preventing people going on to learning. “These levels of support may not always be obvious, so it may involve, for instance, signposting someone to a counselling service to help them overcome a problem they have,” she says. Advisers can help people work out what barriers are preventing them moving on before advising them about what’s available. “Our advisers can engage with people to unpick their history and identify what steps they need to make to move on successfully and sustainably – whether that’s promotion or joining a new team. “We can talk to them on a number of occasions to make meaningful interventions.” Sally says it’s important to remind people that the service is not just for people out of work. “It’s also there for those who want to move on or up in their current workplace – there is heaps of information available,” she says.

Promote unionlearn’s Learning and Careers Advice Service in your workplace. Order the new poster (A3), leaflet (A5), and small credit card-sized handout now. The posters are perfect for all workplace notice boards, and any appropriate wall space, especially in learning centres. The leaflets can be distributed during classes, in canteens and can be left in receptions. Make sure everyone in your workplace knows about it. Place you order (postage and packaging is free) at www.unionlearn.org.uk/advicepromo

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» Interview » Jo Brand

Stand up for

learning Being as committed to lifelong learning as she is to the union cause meant that chairing unionlearn’s national conference this summer was no laughing matter for comedian Jo Brand (although there were a lot of good gags). By Martin Moriarty

Photo: David Giles/PA

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he first time Jo Brand returned to learning wasn’t a resounding success. The combination of a sixth-form romance with a local drug-dealer and a massive amount of skiving meant she hadn’t covered herself in A Level glory first time round, so she decided to try again. “I did want to go to university and I thought I wouldn’t get in anywhere with two Ds and an E, so I took them again and got three Es – hooray!” she laughs. The root of the educational problem lay in her parents’ decision to move from Tunbridge Wells, where she enjoyed school, to Hastings, where she didn’t – she missed her old friends, and didn’t get on with any of the teaching staff. “You do need teachers that are in some way inspiring – I’m not saying that they have to be Bertrand Russell but you do need someone that you have

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some respect for, even if it’s just about the amount that they know,” she argues. “A lot of my teachers at school were just not very nice people really: I didn’t even feel inspired to be in their classes, let alone pick up a book.” That’s when (“either consciously or sub-consciously”) she decided she was going to misbehave – hence the deeply unsuitable boyfriend, her appearance at school on one day in five and the all-but-inevitable A Level disaster that followed. “I was going out with this guy my parents hated (possibly because he was the local drug dealer!) and my parents eventually got so fed up with me they said ‘You can stay with him but if you do you’ve got to leave home’. Basically they kicked me out.” She spent the next three years in and out of different jobs. “I worked in a kitchen, I

worked in a bar as a cleaner for a bit and I had a job pulling the heads off chrysanthemums in a flower nursery, which was very exciting!” she recalls. She was 21 when she found out about the work-based courses at Brunel University in West London, and enrolled on the Social Sciences and Nursing degree. “I went and did an interview and it was actually much easier to get in if

“You do need teachers who are inspiring – they don’t have to be Bertrand Russell, but they should be people you respect” you were a bit older and had slightly rubbish exam results, so they let me in for some weird reason,” she says, with her trademark self-deprecation. Being three years older than most of the rest of the first-years technically made her a mature student, although she admits that was more by name than nature. She certainly didn’t feel attracted to the genuinely mature (middleaged and older) undergraduates.

On yer bike (left): Jo helps promote a World Aids Day benefit in 1996


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Jo Brand « Interview «

Photo: Jess Hurd

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» Interview » Jo Brand

Jo struts her stuff for Let’s Dance For Comic Relief (below) and relaxes on stage (left)

“There were a few people in their sixties who expected me to hang around with them because I was a mature student, but I rather ungraciously declined that offer!” she laughs. However, the four-year course was a much more positive experience of what education could offer than sixth-form college. “To my mind, university is not just

about getting your head down and getting the best results you can – it’s an amazing life because you’re learning and you’ve left home, you’re trying to make new friends, there’s loads of clubs on offer, so I just went for it on every front,” she says.

Jo Brand CV Born in 1957, Jo studied Social Sciences and Nursing at Brunel University and worked for six years as a psychiatric nurse in South London in the 1980s, at the same time as embarking on a parallel career on the the alternative comedy circuit. After her first Channel 4 series Jo Brand Through The Cakehole in the early 1990s, she’s appeared on a wide range of TV programmes, from Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week to Comic Relief Does Fame Academy and Countdown, and most recently was a judge on the BBC series The Speaker. She’s also written several books, including the novels Sorting Out Billy, It’s Different For Girls, and The More You Ignore Me, and her autobiography, Look Back In Hunger, is due out in October. Jo is married with two children and lives in South London.

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“But because I was interested in what I was learning, it made all the difference – if I picked a specific topic, I was really interested: I absolutely loved it there and I did do the work because I wanted to.” Her first thought on finishing her degree was to work in television, so she pitched an idea for a series on racism to Channel 4 – more specifically to Trevor Phillips, who now chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission but was then producing the ground-breaking series Black On Black. “I wanted to work on a documentary series on racism and of course when I walked into the room his argument was that I wasn’t black; my counter-argument was that racism is as much about being a white person as being a black person and if we’re ever going to sort it out, we’ve got to start talking to each other in a grown-up way about it – but I obviously wasn’t that convincing because I didn’t get the job!” So she put her degree to work and started as a psychiatric nurse at the Maudsley Hospital in South London, joining health union COHSE (now part of UNISON) as soon as she started. “I’m a union girl through and through,” she says – which is why getting her Equity card when she started out as a stand-up on the ’80s alternative comedy circuit was about more than simply gaining a licence to perform. “It was a closed shop way back when, and I’m a big fan of the closed shop: I think if you’re going to have the benefits of a union, you should all be in it; you can’t just get all the benefits of Photo: Zak Hussein/PA Wire

Photo: Trish Grant

“My parents met each other at the Young Socialists, although I think my dad went for the beer, to some extent!”


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Photo: Piers Allardyce

reorganising pay structures, protecting your rights, health benefits and whatever if you’re not actually a member – I think that’s really unfair,” she argues. To this day she remains unhappy when performers don’t automatically join the union, and is equally disapproving of the big stars who don’t seem to feel obliged to pay any more than the minimum subscription despite having the sort of lifestyles that could support a flotilla of floating duck islands and more than a moat or two. “I feel rather disappointed that some very wealthy famous people who do belong to the union pay the Equity minimum – I won’t tell you who because I’ll get into trouble, but think big!” she says. Last year she fronted the new DVD Gagging For Equity, filmed one night on tour with new union-specific gags – a nerve-wracking way of working despite her years of experience, she admits. “What they wanted me to do was incorporate specific jokes that pertained to a section of their work, so all the stuff was written as new

Photo: Jess Hurd

Jo Brand « Interview «

Jo has recently made a DVD for Equity and says she’s a union girl “through and through”

and I had to perform it one night on my tour,” she explains. “Obviously I was terrified that the jokes weren’t going to work and I was going to die a death so I said to the audience ‘Whatever happens, just laugh your heads off as if it’s really funny,’ and they were very good, they did!” (This is more of her self-deprecation – it’s a very good watch.) Always willing to put her name to causes she believes in, Jo says her political commitment comes from her upbringing. “My parents met each other at the Young Socialists: they were always very left wing, my mum actually much more so than my dad – I think my dad went for the beer to some extent,” she says. “We were a family in which – thank god – girls weren’t just sidelined into going shopping and reading Bunty: we would have very ferocious political discussion.” Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone whose own development has not followed an uninterrupted straight line, Jo’s a major believer in lifelong learning: she was the spokesperson for Adult Learners’ Week in 2007 before chairing the third national unionlearn conference this summer. And she doesn’t just talk the talk: she famously walked the walk a couple of years ago when she took

on the challenge of learning to play the organ in just four months for the BBC series Play It Again, which was made specifically to encourage more adults to return to, or take up, a musical instrument. “I loved learning the organ – it’s something I’d always wanted to do because it’s such a big dramatic instrument: it was absolutely fantastic,” she says. The next stop on her learning journey could be a return to the Open University astronomy course she started before the demands of her young family and career proved impossible to reconcile with parttime study. “It simply wasn’t practical with two children under the age of three to sit there and say ‘No, I’m studying Neptune – be quiet and get back in your cots!” she says. But she remains a powerful advocate of lifelong learning for everyone – including the sort of people (some trade union members come to mind, for instance) who imagine they’re not entitled to develop themselves. “My feeling about learning all through your life is that it hugely enriches your experience: there’s so much stuff out there, I think it’s really important to say to people ‘Look – it’s not other people that deserve this, it’s you’.”

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» Roundup » Annual conference

We’re on th Minister gives us a Pat on the back with approving references to Leaders in Learning, the new unionlearn publication focused on employerunion learning partnerships, and the recent Ofsted inspection of U-Net. To the delight of the 400 ULRs and workplace learning stakeholders in the hall (and probably to the many more watching live online as well), Pat declared: ● Learning plays a critical role in ensuring the hardest to help can climb out of the low-pay trap and earn a better living. ● Learning and training offers people a second chance in tough economic times. ● Developing world-class learning and skills is ultimately the way the country will be able to take advantage of the upturn.

And Pat welcomed the role of the unions in developing the skills agenda to both expand individual opportunity and help build the UK economy of the future. “I believe there is a real opportunity here for trade unions to place skills at the heart of what they do as organisations but also to be part of a national conversation about how we make the best for Britain,” he said. “Union learning is a success story: it’s increasing opportunity for many people and long may it continue.”

Union learning is a success story, says Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills Pat McFadden

Photos: Jess Hurd

It was one of the very first speeches he’d made since becoming Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, so people were bound to pay close attention to his opening lines when Pat McFadden reached the speaker’s rostrum at the third national unionlearn conference this summer. So what did he kick off by saying? He thanked the now 23,000-strong network of ULRs across the country. “The first thing I want to do is thank every single one of those union learning reps for the commitment that they’ve made and for the benefits that they’ve been able to pass on to others.” Pat’s well aware of the benefits of workplace learning, having opened the Mueller Europe union learning centre in his own constituency of Wolverhampton. “I saw there the real commitment in the heart of Black Country manufacturing to improve skills,” he said. His keynote speech was sprinkled

Photo: Rod Leon

23,000 and counting

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady (second left) and new unionlearn Director Tom Wilson (right) meet David Cowey (far left) and Charlotte McConnell on the Tribal Group stand in the learning and skills lounge at the unionlearn conference.

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The trade union movement has built a network of 23,000 ULRs, after another record-breaking year in 2008/9 in which we: ● Trained 4,000 new ULRs. ● Opened 99 new union learning centres. ● Signed 200 formal learning agreements. ● Encouraged 230 employers to sign the Skills Pledge. Download the annual report 2009 from http://tinyurl.com/nwgadw


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Annual conference « Roundup «

the move

Unionlearn showcased the wide range of workplace learning at its annual conference

Unions really mean business, says Brendan TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber had a simple message for politicians and employers: “when it comes to learning and skills, unions really mean business.” With Britain in the deepest recession since the second world war, it was up to the unions to show employers how taking advantage of schemes like Train to Gain and apprenticeships can boost the bottom line. “With our economy still contracting, with job losses mounting and with the global skills race becoming more competitive by the year, the need for lifelong learning has perhaps never been greater than now,” he said.

“We know that businesses who don’t train their staff are around two and a half times more likely to fail … and we know that those who do train will be much better placed to compete when those elusive green shoots of recovery finally appear.” Existing workplace learning partnerships were achieving spectacular results, he pointed out. The union learning centre at Portsmouth-based shipbuilder BVT Surface Fleet was not only upskilling the existing workforce but also revitalising the firm’s recruitment strategy by offering practical support to local unemployed people. “This really is a win–win agenda: on workplace learning, I believe there is genuine common cause between

employers and unions,” he said. In an age of unprecedented global challenge, the TUC and unionlearn had shown ordinary workers that their best insurance policy was higher skills, he said.

Workplace learning is a win-win, says Brendan Barber

How partnerships pay off Employers and union learning reps from London bus company Metroline and public sector organisation Brighton Cityservices revealed how their successful learning partnerships had changed their workplaces for the better. “By offering learning, we get a happier workforce, but also customer satisfaction has increased; we’ve cemented relations with the unions; and we’ve eased the process of change,” explained Cityclean and Cityparks Assistant Director Gillian Marston. “People’s confidence has grown at work and at home – it’s a win-win,” said Cityservices Learning and Development Officer Elaine Sweetman. Former Cityclean GMB senior shop steward Declan MacIntyre explained

how learning had transformed the depot, which had had a reputation for wildcat action in the past, and helped him develop himself first into a union learning rep at the site and now into a learning project worker for rail union ASLEF. Metroline Unite Learning Project Officer Tom O’Callaghan explained how running English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses had helped workforce integration at the

London bus company. “When we got new staff from Eastern Europe, they used to look for their own colleagues in the canteen, but now they’ve been on ESOL courses they can sit at any table,” he said. Chief Operating Officer Sean O’Shea said learning represented an investment in a positive relationship with the unions. “Union learning has created a fantastic atmosphere in the garages to encourage people into learning,” he said.

TV presenter Robin Ross (with mic) interviews (from left) Metroline’s Tom O’Callaghan and Sean O’Shea with Gillian Marston and Elaine Sweetman from Brighton CityServices

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» Roundup » Annual Conference conference reports

Authors John O’Farrell and Lola Jaye offered insights into the writer’s life in their session during the main event, and ran a workshop to encourage people into writing. John said he never aspired to be a novelist when he was growing up and instead spent many years writing for Spitting Image, and then panel shows and talk shows before chronicling his struggles as a Labour Party activist in the best-selling Things Can Only Get Better. “I thought this memoir would be tucked away on the politics shelves and no one would end up reading it but I was amazed at the reaction – it stayed at number one for six weeks and got knocked off by Stalingrad: I think they read my memoir about being a Labour activist under Thatcher and then read Stalingrad to

cheer themselves up!” he said. He was partly inspired by Nick Hornby’s football memoir Fever Pitch. “I did actually get to meet Nick Hornby – we were introduced to each other at a scheme organised by the Metropolitan Police where writers come face-to-face with authors whose genres they’ve stolen!” After the novels The Best A Man Can Get, This Is Your Life and May Contain Nuts, John then turned to non-fiction and published An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, subtitled 2000 Years of Upper-Class Idiots In Charge, last year. “I said I’d write a history book for all the people who weren’t listening at school, which turns out to be just about everyone,” he said. He’s currently at work on a sequel, An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always, and once it’s done, he’ll be back out on the publicity trail. “I enjoy doing publicity events and going into bookshops and doing readings in all the top bookshops – like Tesco’s! I’ve never quite got used to supermarkets selling books: you go up to the shelf-stacker and say ‘Hello, I’m looking for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’

Photos: Jess Hurd

How things really got better for John

John O’Farrell (above), a member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, explains how he wrote an accidental bestseller by chronicling inquorate 1980s Labour Party meetings, while Lola Jaye (below) signs copies of her books for delegates

and they say ‘Oh yes, magical realists – aisle seven!’ He won’t review other writer’s work, he said, knowing the pain of being on the end of a bad review can not only lead to personal heartache. “You got to these literary soirées and what’s supposed to be a great charity evening with lots of cultured authors chatting to each other ends up with a fight in the pub car park and AS Byatt in tears going ‘Leave it Salman, it’s not worth it!’” Lola Jaye recounted how she was writing for eight years before she got a publishing deal – a struggle she writes about in detail in her Quick Read Reaching For The Stars. “Our own fear can stop us doing what we want,” she pointed out. Achieving your dreams takes perseverance and self-belief, she said.

Conference on demand Whether you want to re-live your favourite moments or catch up with what you missed by not being there, you can watch the unionlearn annual conference from the comfort of your computer chair. And you don’t have to sit through anything you’re not interested in (as if!) – there are index points to help you select exactly what you want to watch. Just point your web browser at: www.unionlearn.public-i.tv

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As chair of this year’s conference, Jo Brand kept things moving smoothly, helped promote our new publications and slipped in a quick gag every now and then (sample: “I’m a member of Negative Equity, the union for people who are crap at acting.”)


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Annual conference « Roundup «

No pain, all Gain Barnet UNISON Assistant Branch Secretary Susan Timthong and College of North London IT and Skills for Life tutor Malcolm Seward explained how working with Train to Gain has helped them provide courses for 250 staff and private contractors at the London Borough of Barnet last year, at a pre-conference preview of new research into the union impact of the government’s training programme. Barnet is one of six case studies contained in a new resource pack unveiled at the session, which

also examines the progress Train to Gain has facilitated at the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, Cumbrian manufacturer Innovia Films, and Queensway Primary School, near Leeds. The pack also includes an example of how unionlearn accessed Train to Gain funding to help staff when global packaging company Sonoco closed its Gloucester plant earlier this year, and details how the unionlearn Train to Gain Development Worker in Yorkshire and Humberside has successfully brought together skills brokers and ULRs.

Helping more people aim higher Developing the partnership between the Open University and unionlearn was all the more important in “these challenging times,” argued OU Pro-Vice Chancellor David Vincent in the session on higher level learning. He urged the two organisations to continue working together to lobby on education policy, improve work with ULRs and better communicate about the opportunities the partnership offers to learners. Foundation Degree Forward (fdf) Chief Executive Derek Longhurst explained how the memorandum of understanding between fdf and unionlearn had led to the launch of a pilot project in the southern and eastern region to help more working people access higher education. While research showed that 6 million people could benefit from higher level learning, many hadn’t chosen that route because they weren’t attracted by the prospect of

full-time campus-based learning or assumed that higher education wasn’t for them. “Working together to change that assumption is what this project is all about, and I look forward to continuing to build on the fruitful partnership we have developed,” he said.

Higher level learning helps people move on in challenging times, argue the OU’s David Vincent (above) and fdf’s Derek Longhurst (left)

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» Feature » Adult Learners’ Week awards

A park-keeper who learned to read in his 50s and a nurse who proved her father wrong: meet the ULRs from the GMB and UNISON who won national Adult Learners’ Week awards this year. By Martin Moriarty

N

ot long after Barrie Hughes began in the infants school in Wrexham, he bumped into his teacher at the bus stop with his parents. “She looked down and pointed at me and said: ‘He’ll never be any good’.” Not the sort of start to leave a five-year-old keen to get back to class. And life didn’t improve much when he moved up to senior school. “No one knew much about dyslexia in those days – basically you were just left to muck about, so I got no education,” he says. Little wonder, then, that he quit school at 14 when the family moved to Worthing, Sussex: after a spell as a mechanic, he became a grave-digger where he didn’t need to do much reading or writing. “Most of the time I could bluff my way through, like a lot of people do, and say ‘I haven’t got my glasses’ or ‘I’ll fill it in when I get home’,” he says.

Getting sent on a tree-planting training course three years ago was what convinced him the game was up. “I didn’t want all the guys who were on the course with me to know that I couldn’t read or write so I bandaged my hand and told them I’d had a motorbike accident, but I still wanted to do the course and that was when I realised I had to do something about it,” he recalls. Doing his first literacy course at the age of 57 was difficult at first, he says, but he persisted, and with the help of his wife went on to read his first book – the autobiography of guitarist Eric Clapton (he’s a fan). “Reading about what he’d been through, I thought ‘If he can do this, I can talk to people about my dyslexia and not be scared of it any more’,” he says. After training as a GMB union learning rep and being instrumental in setting up a new learning centre in Stanmer for

Brighton City Parks staff, Barrie won the National Senior Learner of the Year Award during Adult Learners’ Week. As well as looking forward to learning to use computers when the new centre opens in the autumn, Barrie wants to help more of his colleagues discover the possibilities of learning: “My main aim now is to get other people involved in learning – there’s a lot of people out there who need help,” he says. And the Hove Parks and Cemeteries team leader wants to go further in the future. “I’d like eventually to teach people with the same problem I’ve got, and knowing how people are, I think I’ll be able to do that quite well,” he says. Given what he’s achieved in the past three years, there’s not much doubt about that – or that he’ll make a far better teacher than his first one ever was.

Everything’s coming up

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Adult Learners’ Week awards « Feature «

How Maria proved her father wrong Photos: Paul Hickinbotham

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Growing up in a Glasgow tenement with a father who thought women didn’t need education and an unwell mother who needed a lot of care meant Maria Gough left school with three O Levels and the advice to take a shorthand course and become a secretary. “My dad told me I was thick, and that education was wasted on women – much of my education has been sheer bloody-mindedness!” she laughs. Now a Senior Nurse Practitioner at an NHS walk-in centre in Harlow, Essex, 51-year-old Maria has a Certificate in Counselling, a Diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling, a Diploma in Higher Education, a BSc and a Master’s in law to her name – a roll of honour which suggests she’s a lot more than just determined. A union member throughout her working life, Maria became a UNISON steward and ULR in 2005 shortly after her Herts and Essex Borders branch was formed. She’s also continued her own union education. “I’ve done a lot of UNISON courses – the Employment Law course I did recently was absolutely excellent,” she says. Maria was surprised to be nominated for a National Learning Works Award during Adult Learners’ Week. “Being nominated for something doesn’t actually mean you’re going to get it, but when I did get it I was overjoyed,” she says. And she’s not done with learning yet. “I got interested in philosophy in the first year of my Master’s, and it struck me how few philosophers are women, so I have been looking into the possibility of doing a doctorate in philosophy – but I think I’ll probably have to wait until I retire in nine years’ time!”

Photo: Paul Hickinbotham

Maria receives her National Learning Works Award from QCA Strategic Manager Stakeholder Engagement – Adult Skills Jill Matthews

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» Interview » Peter Mandelson

ULRs have got

the right idea How do you see the link between skills and industrial policy, and how can trade unions could make an input both strategically and at workplace level? You can’t have a strong industrial policy, as I want, without looking to your skills base and strengthening that too: they serve each other. When I talk to businesses, skills is one of the top priorities they identify almost every time. The world is changing rapidly and we’re on the edge of a new industrial revolution driven by the shift to a low-carbon economy and the immense power and potential offered by new technologies and ways of doing business. If we want to embrace change, build our manufacturing and develop new products and services on the back of new technologies, then addressing the skills needs of those who work in those industries and sectors is indispensable. There is an inertia which we have to overcome: in many companies, there’s still too little understanding of the fact that a company’s future depends on building up its capabilities – and paramount among those capabilities is its workforce, and its ability to embrace the changes in skills that come with

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technological change. This can’t be an afterthought: it’s something that is a condition for the rest of the company’s activity and success. And if it doesn’t get the right attention and the right investment, then the capability won’t be as strong as it needs to be and the potential of the company and its workforce will be blunted.

One of the reasons why I’m such a strong supporter of union learning reps is because they’ve got the idea and they understand what’s involved – not everyone does. Every day, union learning reps are helping people access the skills they need to do their jobs well and progress. There are now 23,000 ULRs helping nearly a quarter of a million workers: that’s a brilliant ratio, and the more experience they get and the more they build their expertise, the more that ratio of people helped to those serving in that role will increase – and that’s why the Government is such a strong backer of ULRs. We’re working closely with the TUC and trade unions to increase training opportunities across our economy – including through Train to Gain, the Apprenticeships programme and our work to introduce a new statutory right for individuals to request time from their employers for learning and training. The Government is also trying to lead by example: right now, with the unions we’re promoting access to apprenticeship opportunities and skills training to those people working on Government contracts.

Photos: Jess Hurd

New unionlearn Director Tom Wilson asks Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Peter Mandelson how unions and union learning reps can develop their work on the skills agenda.


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Peter Mandelson « Interview «

Photos: Jess Hurd

Peter Mandelson CV

Unions have welcomed the Government's expansion of apprenticeships. How can the Government and unionlearn work together to further expand the number and quality of apprenticeships? I think it’s a case of building on what we’ve achieved together so far: over 130,000 employers are now offering apprenticeship places across 80 industry sectors, and over the last 10 years, more than 2 million people have started an apprenticeship. We’ve got to take that success and

ensure we’re doing what we can to deliver even more high-quality apprenticeships and enable more people and businesses in this country succeed. Central to that is what you contribute to the development of this policy: I know that the National Apprenticeship Service and our Joint Apprenticeships Unit valued the input of the TUC and the unions into new legislation and standards for apprenticeships, and we’re committed to working with you in the future.

Peter Mandelson was born in 1953, and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. After working as an economist at the TUC and as a current affairs TV producer, Peter was appointed Labour Party Director for Campaigns and Communications in 1985. In 1992, he was elected as MP for Hartlepool, where he continued to serve until his appointment to the European Commission in 2004. He was appointed Trade and Industry Secretary in 1998, where he was responsible for the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and the creation of Regional Development Agencies. As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2001, he negotiated the creation of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government. He was EU Commissioner for Trade from 2004 to 2008 and was appointed Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform last autumn, and became Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills following the creation of the new Department in June 2009, when he was also appointed First Secretary of State, and Lord President of the Council.

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Building a low-carbon economy will require a major re-skilling of people already in work. How can unions, ULRs and learning agreements contribute? The world’s low-carbon revolution is both an environmental imperative and economic opportunity. The global market for low-carbon goods and services, which was already worth £3 trillion in 2007/08, is set to

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Man of action (clockwise from top): addressing TUC Congress in 1998; arriving at Number 10 in 2009; and sharing a joke with then then TUC General Secretary John Monks

“Through their work, union learning reps have proven time and time again that they can help people change their lives for the better”

Photo: John Harris/reportdigital.co.uk

We also need to promote the Apprenticeship programme more widely: over the next two years, the National Apprenticeship Service is working with the TUC on the Boosting Union Capacity On Apprenticeships project, which aims to inspire more unions, employers and employees to get involved, increasing the number of apprenticeships available to people of all ages and helping spread good practice in areas like mentoring and tackling inequality. We’ve talked for many years in this country about apprentices and creating new paths of learning and skills acquisition among young people leaving full-time education. Successive Governments have talked a good game without adequately delivering the systems and the infrastructure and the resources to make it happen. This Government is now turning the corner in this area – it’s a personal passion of the Prime Minister’s. You need different Government departments working together to deliver on making the system work: I think we’re doing so now with the national programme that we’ve mounted – but it requires constant driving forward.

grow to an estimated £4.3 trillion in the next six years. We need to ensure that Britain has the right skills to benefit from this change – sector-specific skills to give us an edge in the growing lowcarbon industries of the future and also more generic management and leadership skills to bring about the necessary business change. Our consultations with leading employers tell us that employee engagement is increasingly important to their strategies to improve resource efficiency and reduce energy costs. And I know there are already some great examples of unions working in partnership with business, to help train employees to work more sustainably, empowering people not only to deliver the business change we need, but also to become more environmentally friendly at home. This is just a start. Through their work, union learning reps have proven time and time again that they can help people change their lives for the better: we’ve got to continue to draw on the respect colleagues have for their ULR to drive our shift to low carbon as quickly as possible and ensure people have the information and support they need to prosper through sustainability.

Photo: Sang Tan/AP/Pre ss Association Images

Photo: John Harris/reportdigital.co.uk

» Interview » Peter Mandelson


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Higher level learning « Briefing « She started as a secretary and is now working as a union officer: Karen Cole says her life has been transformed by studying at Keele University.

The Keele that

unlocked life for Karen By Astrid Stubbs

U

nite the union officer Karen Cole transformed her life through a course at Keele University’s Industrial Relations Centre. “I left school at 18 with A Levels but I’ve always regretted that I didn’t go to university,” she says. “When I was in my late 30s I started to think I would like to do a degree and I heard about the Certificate in Industrial Relations at Keele.” Originally set up in 1950, the university’s Industrial Relations Centre offers a large programme of part-time, distance learning, award-bearing courses aimed at union reps, managers and anyone in full-time employment with an interest in industrial relations. Karen says she was interested in doing a qualification linked to her work, which at that time was as an officer for a small staff association in the process of merging with what was then UNIFI (now part of Unite).

“I’ve always had an interest in equality and research and when the merger took place I was studying for my MA, having completed the Certificate,” she says. Karen became a research officer and within a year equality research officer in the new union. “The benefits of doing the MA were that my analytical skills were greatly enhanced and I also did an equality module as part of the MA: it’s also given me confidence – it’s made a huge impact on my life,” she says. “Very few universities would have allowed me to do the MA without having done a degree beforehand and I was given that opportunity at Keele – any other route would have been a much longer process.” Karen is now a project development officer at Unite. “In 1995 I was a secretary and I would never have believed that in 2009 I would be an officer for the biggest trade union in the country,” she says.

Karen Cole greatly enhanced her analytical skills on her MA at Keele University

Back on an even Keele The passion and dedication of tutors and learners at Keele University’s Industrial Relations Centre helped maintain its 50-plus year history when it was threatened with closure two years ago. Learners and tutors helped fight off the closure attempt to ensure the centre continues to be in operation for people like Karen. “The importance of our courses to trade unionists was demonstrated by the widespread support we had,” says Senior Lecturer in Industrial Relations Mike Ironside. “We have successfully defended our jobs and our courses and we remain open for business!” For details of courses at Keele visit www.keele.ac.uk/schools/ems/hrm/

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» Feature » BitC Awards

Ferry well done! The company behind passenger transport on Merseyside has picked up another award for its learning project – this time from Business in the Community.

P

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and also owns and operates the Mersey Tunnels and the worldfamous Mersey Ferries. It originally established its Merseylearn project after a learning survey identified that one in four employees had Skills for Life needs. It has cemented Skills for Life as a sustainable element of workforce development by: ● Ensuring solid, committed leadership. ● Embedding it in the wider Organisational Development Programme. ● Promoting up-skilling to its supply chain, with 35 companies following suit by making the Skills Pledge.

Photo: Colin McPherson

assenger transport organisation Mersyeytravel called on more businesses to develop learning partnerships after winning the npower Skills for Life Award at this year’s Business in the Community (BITC) Awards for Excellence. “We are delighted and proud that the success of Merseytravel has been recognised at the BITC awards,” commented Merseytravel UNISON Branch Secretary Roger Irvine. “I believe that this demonstrates that a formal union/employer partnership approach can bring positive and meaningful benefits to an organisation,” he argued. Chief Executive Officer Neil Scales, who said the company was “absoluterly delighted” with the award, agreed. “The support of unionlearn and all the hard work of our ULRs have been critical in promoting and taking forward Skills for Life within our organisation,” he said. “A partnership approach to the skills agenda really works – I encourage other employers to follow our lead.” Merseytravel has responsibility for transport provision on Merseyside

The partnership approach to skills pays off, says Neil Scales, Chief Executive Officer Merseytravel

The drive to meet the specific learning needs of Merseytravel staff and other employees in the passenger transport sector has had major impacts on the business: ● £186,110 saving per year from reduced absenteeism. ● 50 per cent reduction in customer complaints over a five-year period. ● Staff turnover has fallen to 4 per cent (the best for any Passenger Transport Executive). ● 10 per cent reduction in disciplines and grievances. ● 10 per cent increase in internal promotions. Alongside Merseytravel at the gala dinner to celebrate the awards in July were two other finalists in the Skills for Life category with strong management-union learning partnerships in place – Boots and Royal Mail (see panels). Now in their 12th year, the Awards for Excellence are firmly established


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BitC Awards « Feature «

FINALIST

Royal Mail

Liz Chandler and Roger Irvine show off their BITC award while Liz (below) explains to Prince Charles how they got it at the gala dinner

“The Senior Management Team encouraged the ULRs to promote Skills for Life through the opening of the learning centre in 2005,” explained Dawn Denton, Engagement and Development Manager for Royal Mail Network. “This has been a great opportunity to work with the CWU union, who have continued to endorse the Skills for Life approach through active involvement.”

FINALIST

companies that are addressing Skills for Life in the workplace, highlighting the business and human benefits of workplace training.

Boots (Supply Chain)

Find out more at www.bitc.org.uk/awards _for_excellence

Photo: Alastair Fyfe

as the UK’s most prestigious recognition of corporate social responsibility. The npower Skills for Life Award, supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in association with Investors in People, aims to recognise and reward large

Photo: Colin McPherson

A key focus of Royal Mail’s Skills for Life programme is the National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Daventry, employing 700 people in distribution and processing across a 24/7 shift system. The pilot programme Feeling First Class looked at raising numeracy and literacy levels while improving employee understanding of health and well-being issues and has led to: ● 47 per cent of employees undertaking Skills for Life training ● 46 per cent increase in confidence among participants ● Reduction in sickness absence for 95 per cent of participants.

When Boots UK announced a complete restructuring of its retail supply chain in 2006, 2,500 employees were affected by the plans to replace national Distribution Centres (DCs) with smaller cross-dock facilities. Skills for Life was placed at the heart of a people strategy for those affected, with 18 lifelong learning centres and local learning steering groups ensuring that everyone would reach their desired goal upon closure of the DCs. The impact of the programme agreed with retail union USDAW has meant: ● 1,315 Skills for Life courses completed, and a total of 4,266 qualifications and courses completed by employees. ● Improved employee engagement scores within the DCs – “I recommend Boots as a place to work” up 23 points. ● Engagement in learning has led to stable turnover despite the closure, which has contributed to agency cost savings and an increase in service level to stores, a critical business measure.

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» Feature » Workplace partnership

T

ony Brown had been struggling as a single parent without a job for over seven years when he finally caught a lucky break: his local jobcentre pointed him in the direction of a Skills for Life course at shipbuilding company BVT Surface Fleet. “I was unemployed for a long time – just trying to get a job was a nightmare: I was doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and I wasn’t getting the opportunities for a career,” he says. Like everyone else on the Into Work programme run by the company, the Confederation of Shipbuilding Unions, Eastleigh College and Jobcentre Plus, he’d never had any contact with BVT before, had been out of work for a long time and his adult basic skills weren’t up to scratch. But as well as literacy, numeracy and IT training in the union learning centre, the 10-day programme helped him with a range of on-site preparation for work including CVwriting and interview technique. “Coming through the Level 1 literacy and numeracy course was fantastic because it gave me a little bit more confidence with job interviews and writing CVs, and it gave me an opportunity to show

Shipshape

&fashion Portsmouth

The workplace learning partnership at BVT Surface Fleet is paying dividends for the company and its workforce.

By Martin Moriarty 26 » summer 2009


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Workplace partnership « Feature «

BVT what I could do,” he says. He seized the chance with both hands. “I’m enthusiastic and want to learn and I take that into every sphere of my work,” he says. No wonder the company liked what it saw: Tony is now a trainee plater at the shipyard, one of 40 adults who have come through the Into Work programme in addition to the 140 young people currently enrolled as apprentices. “Nowadays computer skills are so necessary, literacy skills and numeracy skills are so important and people think ‘I can’t do it: I’m too old to do it,’ but they’re not – I’m 44 years old and I’ve learnt,” he points out. “I’d never touched burning equipment, I’d never touched welding equipment until I came here and it’s life-changing – to me, it’s something that should be done throughout the country,” he says. Trainee welder James Marsden had done a spot of welding years ago before he, too, started on the Into Work programme last year. “I had done welding very briefly many, many years ago but no one would give me a chance to actually do anything,” he says. “This opening has given me the opportunity to come from nothing to become what I will be: a fullyskilled welder with qualifications – it’s been fantastic.” Fellow trainee welder Mark Anderson joined the company through the same course, and says his time in the union learning centre has proved crucial for his NVQ. “Computers were a no-go for me, but the course we did has helped a lot especially with my NVQ where

you’ve got quite a lot to do on the PC, saving onto memory cards and stuff like that – that was all alien to me but I feel comfortable around that now,” he explains. For BVT Human Resources Director Wendy Fry, the into Work programme (like the workplace learning culture it’s a part of) is a win-win. “The trainees are committed because they’ve got this opportunity and they just give it everything – they want to race through it – and for me, I get people hitting production as soon as possible with all the right qualifications and all the right health and safety knowledge,” she says. To begin learning their trades, Tony, James and Mark switched from the union learning centre into the on-site BVT Training Centre, into which the company has recently sunk more than £500,000 to kit out workshops, IT and conference suites. “When we started, we were there just to get the basic codes which get you a bit of experience for three or four months and then were sent out to do simple welding and get used to the environment and so on for about three months,” Mark explains. “Then we came back to the training centre to do some more codes and then went out to the main yard where they’re building the ships: they’re trying to get us experience around the shipyard in all different areas.” Overall, useful though it’s been to get to grips with computers through the course, the Into Work

Trainee welders James Marsden (left) and Mark Anderson (pointing) in the union learning centre at BVT Surface Fleet, alongside (above right) apprentice Tony Brown and plater John Mouland (also pointing)

programme has helped Mark make a much more significant change to his life. “I wasn’t really in school: back then I didn’t look at exams or anything like that because there were so many jobs that were available without qualifications,” he recalls. “I’d always done down-and-out jobs, never really held down jobs, never been that way inclined, not the sort of person to do that, and came to a stage where I was 35 years old without a trade or career,” he says. “So now I’m happy that I’m building towards getting myself an actual proper trade, and I can actually say ‘This is what I am’ – I’m pretty chuffed!”

Leaders in learning The workplace learning partnership at BVT Surface Fleet is one of ten case studies featured in the new unionlearn publication Leaders in Learning, which is enclosed with your copy of this issue of The Learning Rep. It sets out how workplace learning can pay major dividends for businesses and organisations, not only by improving shopfloor morale but by directly boosting the bottom line. Other major companies and organisations profiled include Boots Logistics, Fletchers Bakery, JCB, Brighton Cityservices, and the Crown Prosecution Service. The case studies are put into context in three major interviews in the publication – with Merseytravel Chief Executive Officer Neil Scales, TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady and outgoing unionlearn Director Liz Smith.

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» Feature » Apprenticeships

Zoe, you’re hired! Who better to work as an administrator on its new apprenticeships project than the TUC’s new apprentice? The TUC has hired its first apprentice as part of its commitment to apprenticeships. Zoe Molyneaux is starting an apprenticeship in Business Administration while doing the administrative work on the TUC’s apprenticeships project. “I wanted to get more insight into doing a proper job after I was told my A Levels would be deferred for a year, and doing an apprenticeship was what I had in mind,” Zoe explains. “With the economic problems we’re facing, I thought that gaining real skills and getting an insight into what a proper day’s work is all about would put me in a great place for the future.” Zoe has been hired along with Apprenticeships Policy and Campaigns Officer Scarlet Harris, and Apprenticeships Liaison and Promotions Officer Rachael Saunders. The project is funded through the National Apprenticeships Service and will carry out policy work, including working with Sector Skills Councils and developing

existing policy on apprenticeships, and supporting and building union work on apprenticeships across the country. The project will inform policy information and guidance, running events and seminars and working with unions to pilot new approaches to apprenticeships and

Apprentices mean business This bargaining guide provides an overview of apprenticeships, advice on bargaining around apprenticeships and practical suggestions for implementing high-quality apprenticeship programmes. This guide aims to help fulltime officers and senior union representatives in getting apprenticeships on the bargaining agenda, in supporting and organising apprentices and in building equality and diversity.

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Download your copy from: http://tinyurl.com/qw3mpl

Three’s company (from left): Rachael Saunders, Scarlet Harris and Zoe Molyneaux

develop existing work. “We are working with TUC regions, and trade union officials and activists across the country,” says Scarlet. Since it’s vital the team is aware of initiatives around apprenticeships, they’re keen ULRs get in touch with any useful information.

GoSkills call More work needs to be done on the return on investment in apprenticeships and vocational qualifications in general, according to the Economic Impact Report produced in May by GoSkills – believed to be the first such analysis produced by a Sector Skills Council. The report says qualifications are strongly correlated with wage premiums at every level in the sector, showing that passenger transport employers recognise the contribution qualifications make in delivering economically valuable skills. Download the report at: http://tinyurl.com/na7cp4


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Apprenticeships « Feature «

Toasting the future The importance of apprenticeships was the focus of a celebration to mark their contribution to the Midlands economy. Outgoing unionlearn director Liz Smith and LSC National Apprenticeship Service Director Carolyn Savage spoke at the event, which also heard from unions and apprentices representing Brush Electrical Machines, Bombardier, Castle College and Lincoln City Council. Young apprentices from all over the region attended. The event was part of the Trade Unions and Apprenticeship Project, funded by the then Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in order to raise awareness of apprenticeships. The apprentices’ project in the Midlands has worked with unions and employers to promote good quality apprenticeships and has delivered excellent results. Lincoln City Council has taken on three new apprentices as a result of an agreement with the unions, which

“shows that the authority is committed to the future, committed to the area, and that it has staying power,” according to building union UCATT ULR Kev Clarke. At Brush Electrical Machines in Loughborough, which currently has 56 apprentices, the Unite convenor and senior safety reps are involved in inductions for new apprentices. And Nottingham-based Beamlight Automotive Seating has agreed to

This is what we want A scheme to create an extra 35,000 apprenticeships as part of a £140 million Government plan to generate new jobs was launched this year. ULRs are a crucial part of that plan. And in April, the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) was launched with support for employers and individuals, including a national job-matching service. Unionlearn has set out five key areas for union negotiators: ● Equality and diversity: ensuring that young women, black and minority ethnic (BME) and disabled workers, for example, have the opportunity to access

apprenticeships across the economy. ● Ensuring that apprentices have proper contracts and employed status. ● Addressing low pay: 10 per cent of apprentices are currently paid less than £3 an hour and those on low pay are more likely to drop out. ● Training and support: including proper induction, health and safety training and good mentoring are all essential. ● Health and safety: young workers are more likely to have accidents at work than older workers and safety reps can ensure that risk assessments are properly carried out.

Outgoing unionlearn Director Liz Smith meets Midlands apprentices

take on adult and youth apprentices. It has signed an agreement with Community, which commits it to pay young apprentices the same rate as employees of the same age. The project has also promoted protocols for joint working between training providers and unions, which include agreement for unions to visit programmes and talk to them about trade unions and rights at work.

Right and responsibilities Right and responsibilities and the role of trade unions in apprenticeships are areas the TUC wants to see enshrined in proposed Government legislation. The Government is currently considering a statutory framework for apprenticeships, including the development of a Specification of Apprenticeship Standards, setting out the required content of the new Apprenticeship framework. As part of this process it is consulting on detailed aspects of the new specification as it will

apply in England. The TUC response to the consultation makes the case for the Government to set universal minimum standards for the Apprenticeship framework in a number of important areas, while also promoting flexibilities to meet the needs of particular groups, especially adult apprentices. The TUC also recommends that the employment rights and responsibilities element of the framework is strengthened and that the role of unions, including how to join, is covered in more detail.

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» Briefing » Equalities

Building

equality at work Union learning is playing a crucial role in the struggle against discrimination, according to the new unionlearn publication Opening Up Learning For All.

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Union learning can help promote inclusion in the workplace

Photo: Jess Hurd

D

isabled workers don’t enjoy the same access to promotion and training at work as other groups of workers. They’re more likely to be in low paid jobs and face more barriers. But despite these problems Wendy Calder was determined that her hearing impairment would not stop her gaining skills and developing her career. Luckily her union the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is committed to ensuring that all its members and fire and rescue service staff have equality of access to education and lifelong learning opportunities. Wendy is a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) operator in the Fire and Safety Department at the Fire and

Rescue Headquarters in Northumberland. Through learning at the FBU’s Morpeth Learning Centre she has demonstrated to her employers that she is a highly motivated employee, and determined to succeed at work. Wendy’s job involves computerproduced design work, so she has a good level of IT skills but wanted to improve her maths and English. So she completed an initial assessment in September 2007. Following the assessment and with the support of specialist support staff, she progressed through entry level and Level 1 maths, passing her National Numeracy Test Level 1 in July 2008 with flying colours. “Wendy is a very bright woman,


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Equalities « Briefing «

What a difference a union course makes Unions Opening Up Learning For All showcases 10 examples of how union learning builds equality at work. ● Training in ESOL builds workplace cohesion and assists migrant workers develop the skills they already have. ● Raising awareness of mental health issues in the workplace through events, briefings and training courses for union reps and managers and by promoting workplace support systems to reduce ill-health and sickness absence. ● Giving disabled workers the support, encouragement and resources they need to access union learning activities and achieve their full potential. ● Providing support for women to gain higher levels of confidence and management qualifications through the union route and training opportunities for low-paid women at risk of redundancy in order to increase their employability. ● Running workshops to help low-paid black and

Download the new booklet from http://tinyurl. com/ll45mo

minority ethnic (BME) workers move into management positions, and training for activists to encourage new BME union members and reps to become more active in their trade unions and workplaces. ● Ensuring that ULRs and other union representatives involved in promoting and creating learning opportunities carry out their role with a clear understanding of what ‘equality’ means in practice. ● Ensuring that learning really is lifelong by extending the trade union learning offer to retired members. ● Opening up Skills for Life learning opportunities for hard-to-reach workers by providing 24-hour access, and financial and tutorial support. ● Providing accessible, affordable, on-site learning for part-time workers and shift workers in the retail sector. ● Persuading employers to take on apprentices from diverse backgrounds, and negotiating good terms and conditions for these young workers. “The booklet highlights some of the excellent focused work being done to target specific issues of inequality and to seek to redress them through learning,” says unionlearn Senior Management Team member Mary Alys. “Hopefully by sharing this good practice, the booklet will inspire people to try out similar initiatives for their members.”

“In the centre, we offer a learning environment which is free from distractions, with one-to-one support.” who did not achieve her full potential in the past because she did not receive the support she needed in mainstream school,” says Skills for Life tutor Lorna Taylor. “She can lip-read well, but relies on listening since an operation. It’s hard work and she is still practising listening carefully, and needs clear face-to-face instructions. In the learning centre we offer a learning environment which is free from distractions and with one-to-one

support. Learndirect is ideal because it is online, text-based and there are no speaking and listening units involved.” Wendy is about to take the Level 2 numeracy test. “Maths today, English tomorrow, who knows what next? The learning centre support staff encouraged me to progress with my learning. I thought maths and English was not for me. I was encouraged by the staff to try: I have!”

Skills for Life tutor Lorna Taylor (standing) has encouraged Wendy Calder to progress at the FBU learning centre in Morpeth

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» Feature » U-Net

Ofsted gives us a

glowing report

Unionlearn’s network of learning centres has gained top marks from an independent inspection.

By Astrid Stubbs

E

mployers benefit from learning partnerships through improved staff morale, reduced sick leave and staff turnover, fewer complaints and grievances, and higher rates of internal promotion, according to Ofsted’s inspection of U-Net. The report places U-Net among |the best providers in the country, awarding a Grade 2 for all aspects of learning provision. Ofsted judged overall success rates as above national averages and support for

learners as outstanding. The successful partnership between employers and trade unions has produced “learning… highly responsive to employers’ needs (which) meets learners’ needs as well,” says the report. It concluded that this was backed by good employer support to meet the needs of learners who do not traditionally have easy access to learning. This was also reflected in the fact that Ofsted rated Skills for Life

success rates above national averages. The report also found that “learners develop good skills and improve their employability and career prospects” and there was high praise for very good progression. Success rates for black learners have risen from 54 per cent in 2007/08 to 81.8 per cent and for Asian learners from 70.2 per cent to 82.1 per cent – well above the national average. Ofsted judged that ULRs provide outstanding peer support as

How Sellafield centre offers learning to the whole nuclear family The union learning centre at Sellafield prides itself on helping learners with training needs at more than one level. Joanne came to the learning centre in May. She’d struggled with maths at school, and she had targeted a Level 2 qualification. Learning centre staff helped her through several courses and she eventually felt confident enough to take the National Test. She passed, and was then able to move onto what had been her ultimate aim – a Degree in Business Studies for which she required a suitable maths qualification. Set up in 2003, the centre is a partnership between the on-site unions, including Prospect and Unite, the TUC and British Nuclear Group (BNG) management.

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Unionlearn Regional Manager Barney McGill (left) with Sellafield learning centre staff

It offers a wide range of services, reflecting the needs of the diverse learner group. Many of the BNG staff and other users of the centre come from nearby areas of social deprivation, and have had limited or poor education experiences. At the same time, because of the scientific and technical complexity of work at BNG, there are also many

learners who are graduates and postgraduates. ULRs play a central role in the work of the centre. There are now more than 50 at British Nuclear Group and each one brings their own unique set of skills: two are trained to Certificate of Education standard and have embarked on a specialist qualification in literacy and numeracy; a further three are super-ULRs who can give IIPstandard advice and guidance since British Nuclear Group was selected to run a national pilot for Prospect. “The learning initiative at British Nuclear Group is a true example of partnership working between the company and unions bringing mutual benefits,” says BNG’s Head of HR David Savage. “It supports the workforce by helping them achieve new skills and


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U-Net « Feature «

“Ofsted’s praise for our work and for ULRs proves what we have always said – that unionlearn reaches learners other organisations cannot reach” mentors, advocates, negotiators, role models and advisers, whose input learners value highly and cite as one of the most important elements in their learning. TUC Education, which supports ULRs, was described as offering “a well-designed set of specialist qualifications (which) empower ULRs and equips them well to support learners” and said regular supplementary training maintained their expertise. “Ofsted’s praise for our work among non-traditional learners and for ULRs proves what we have always said – that unionlearn reaches learners other organisations cannot reach,” says TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. “I am particularly pleased that U-Net has been recognised for its strong ethos to widen participation

in learning and promote social inclusion and that success rates for Black and Asian learners have risen to well above the national average.” Unionlearn’s mission to change lives through learning has certainly worked for some of the learners who spoke to Ofsted. One said: “I read a book to my little grandchild the other day – it was magic.” Another is now helping their child with homework and said: “When my daughter asked for help on prisms and cuboids, I said ‘Leave it to me!’” One woman who is completely changing her career thanks to unionled learning told Ofsted: “My school said I wasn’t bright enough for nursing – now I know it’s not true.” Download a full copy of the Ofsted report from: http://tinyurl.com/lcw9tq

meeting their personal potential, and boost as it shows that the learning it supports the business as staff are centre is up there among the best more receptive to learning and selfproviders in the country,” he says. development, making them better able to cope with the demands of a changing work environment.” Unionlearn Regional Manager Barney McGill says it’s a credit to the ULRs at BNG learning centre that this initiative has been recognised. Sellafield Sites Learning Centre Manager Dave Riley says the centre has always strived to deliver the best possible learning experience. “The fact that we have been awarded a Grade 2 by BNG Head of HR David Savage (right) and Ofsted gives us a Learning Centre Manager Dave Riley tremendous

Learners rate Derby College very highly

Clark’s a super ULR ULR Clark Summers trained to be a ULR at the award-winning trade union learning centre at Derby College. The department helps learners from around the region and works with many unions. It also has a good rapport with its learners, 80 per cent of whom have rated the support they received at the centre as very good or excellent. The centre has very well-developed links with local ULRs like Clark who are actively engaged in developing blended learning approaches to meet the needs of local workplace learners. “I found out about the course from my UNISON Learning Co-ordinator. I’m part of a team of four ULRs working at De Montfort University in Leicester. I’m a relatively new recruit to the branch but hope to get involved in more projects over the coming months and years,” explains Clark. “The course gave me the confidence to carry out my duties. It provided clear guidance of what was expected of me as a ULR and what support I could call upon from my employer and also UNISON/other members. “Getting to meet other ULRs was great: we were able to share our varying experiences in the workplace and the problem-solving sessions (where we worked in groups) were particularly beneficial – the enthusiasm of the class in general was inspiring! “Lifelong learning is something I passionately believe in: I’d like to help people get the same kick I get out of learning a new skill! It’s always good to put something back into the community and I’ve been very lucky myself with the learning opportunities I’ve been provided with.”

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» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn

All points north TUC education is going from strength to strength in the Northern region – just look at the number of Quality Awards its education providers are picking up. By Astrid Stubbs

Notching up 12 unionlearn Quality Award demonstrates how the Northern region continues to offer top-drawer learning. “There are now 12 education providers in the Northern region who have achieved the Quality Award, which demonstrates the high level of quality learning that is taking place across the whole region,” commented Regional Education Officer Ian West. The latest award was presented to Carlisle College Trade Union Education Department during the unionlearn annual conference.

“This is an excellent achievement for the TU Education department which recognises the hard work and dedication that tutors have in providing highquality education and training for all trade union reps,” commented Carlisle College Principal Moira Tattersall. “It further highlights the commitment Carlisle College has to ensuring continued growth and provision of the TUC Education programme.”

Photo: Jess Hurd

It’s award number 12

Garry Hunter picks up the Carlisle College award from Jo Brand and (below) presents blind ULR John Atkinson with his certificate

Gemma keeps on studying

John gets guided learning

UNISON local organiser Gemma Taylor is a real testament to the success of TU Education. In just four years, Gemma has progressed from being a steward at her former workplace at Sunderland City Council to her full-time union role. Along the way she has taken a clutch of courses, including Reps, ULR, Equality and Diversity, Pension, Sign Language, Discipline and Grievance, and Health and Safety. She’s currently working on her TUC Diploma in Employment Law after being awarded for the Best Performance in TUC Courses. “Gaining knowledge and experience from the TUC courses has helped me progress from being a steward to an Assistant Branch Secretary to becoming a fulltime Local Organiser in UNISON’s Northern Region,” says Gemma. “Working for UNISON has always been something close to my heart. The TUC and UNISON have helped me progress to where I am today and I’d encourage anybody to do likewise.”

Visually-impaired Community member John Atkinson has achieved the TUC ULR Level 2 Certificate at Carlisle College TU Ed Department – with a little help from four- and twolegged friends. Communitas Senior Project Officer Ian Angus signposted John, who works for Cumbria County Council, to the college. John, who has a guide dog called Theo, was provided with Additional Learning Support by the college throughout the duration of the course. “I didn’t feel excluded in any way,’’ he explains. ‘’I enjoyed the course very

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much: it was very useful. I enjoyed networking with fellow trade unionists and particularly taking part in the role-play activities.” Carlisle College TUC Co-ordinator Garry Hunter commented: ‘’John was an excellent member of the group and contributed enormously to the diverse experiences of the class.’’ John has already started using his new-found knowledge and skills as a ULR in the workplace. He’s also planning to enrol on the Equality Reps course at Carlisle College later in the year. “Because of my disability, I can have some relevant input and understand the legal requirements of employers,’’ he says.


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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

WEA helps safety reps gain diplomas The Workers Educational Association (WEA) in partnership with trade union education has celebrated the first Occupational Health and Safety Diploma course taught by Chris Thackrah, WEA Coordinator at Barrow in Furness. The ten health and safety representatives on the course all attended the presentation night, receiving certificates from the Regional Education Officer Ian West. During the night, various learners commented on how they had enjoyed the course and how it had benefited not only them but also their members in the workplace. Reps celebrate passing the Health and Safety Diploma course

Farewell to Dot and John Trade union education in the region bids a farewell to two retiring coordinators this summer – John McCormack from Northumberland College and Dot Burnett from Sunderland College. Dot has been a member of the CWU and its predecessor unions since 1969 and served as a branch official, NEC member and President of the UCW before it helped form the CWU. She started in TUC Education in 2001 as a tutor at Carlisle College and was appointed Coordinator at Sunderland College in 2003.

“I am proud to have been involved in the promotion of learning for union members and officials,” she says. “I did not have this opportunity when I was a rep and I believe that TUC Education and unionlearn have worked very hard to make these opportunities accessible to all trade union members – this is a great success story.” John has been a TU studies tutor at Northumberland College for over 20 years and been active throughout

the local and regional labour movement. “Trade union studies centres provide an essential service to the union movement, ensuring that reps are well trained, motivated and able to develop the confidence to engage with management and more effectively represent their members,” he says. But the world of trade union studies isn’t losing John completely. “I intend to carry on in a part-time capacity until either myself or unionlearn decide it’s time for me to hang up my board marker!” he says.

John McCormack and Dot Burnett are flanked by Regional Education Officer Ian West (left) and Regional Manager Barney McGill

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» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn

Green is good A new TUC Education workbook to help trade unionists target issues around climate change is now available. The workbook is an accompaniment to the increasingly popular Environment Reps course. Trade unions are at the forefront of understanding the need to protect the environment and play a critical role in changing employer attitudes and taking greening the workplace seriously. Environmental reps in the workplace are achieving energy savings and huge cost benefits for their employers. Small steps, such as recycling paper or turning off lights, can make an enormous difference. But unions and employers need to do much more to help UK businesses clean up their act and begin to make a real change. Raising awareness and educating members will give them a better understanding of

environmental issues. The TUC’s Environment Reps online course has been designed to meet the growing demand from trade union members and reps for information, knowledge and skills to deal with such issues. “Union reps are tremendously enthusiastic about taking on the challenge of climate change,” says Liz Rees of TUC Education. “Making workplaces sustainable is the key to making jobs sustainable, and union reps are at the heart of making a difference at work – winning workplace commitment, encouraging reluctant employers and making sure that far-reaching change is negotiated. This workbook and the courses it supports helps green reps do just that.” The next course starts in October and will take approximately 30 hours, delivered over 10 weeks. To book, contact chawkins@tuc.org.uk

James drives up standards

Photo: Louis Flood

Bus driver and ULR James Lillis has won the Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning for his part in making learning opportunities accessible to all his colleagues at First Glasgow. The company employs a large number of Eastern European

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James Lillis receives his award from Fiona Hyslop MSP and STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith

migrant workers so James learned to speak Polish. “When new employees come to Scotland, it can be a problem. As ULRs, we sit down and help them so they can do their job. It’s a brilliant thing to help others grow in confidence as they strengthen their everyday skills,” he says. As a result of his commitment, Polish workers beginning work with First Glasgow actively approach the union to join. James has also designed, developed and now runs a course that shows the hazards a driver can encounter on bus routes in Glasgow. The course also explores issues such as vehicle checks and customer care. James also runs the workplace learning centre, where he promotes participation in lifelong learning

through short story competitions and setting up various literacy and numeracy initiatives. He received his award at the STUC Annual Congress in Perth from Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop MSP. “James has been instrumental in supporting migrant workers in Larkfield develop their communication skills,” she said. “It is so important that everyone in Scotland gets the opportunity to develop their skills and learning.” Unite Regional Secretary John Quigley added: “The lifelong learning project at First Bus has given our members new opportunities to improve their skills, and to get support and guidance from the union.”


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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

New tool for equality reps Promoting equality and diversity and challenging discrimination are key priorities for the TUC and it sees union equality reps playing a crucially important role in the battle against discrimination and unfairness. Now they have been helped in their role with a pioneering training course workbook Winning in the Workplace, launched to help them get to grips with the new and changing equality agenda. The aim of the book is to help encourage a more systemic movement-wide approach, creating a network of equality reps and spreading best practice. It complements the information covered on the Equaity Reps course. It’s hoped the materials will help equality reps promote fairness in the workplace by: ● Raising the equality agenda

among fellow workers and their own unions. ● Encouraging employers to make equality and diversity part of mainstream collective bargaining. ● Working with vulnerable workers and trying to ensure that every worker receives fair treatment regardless of gender, race, disability, religion, age, gender reassignment or sexuality. “The booklet has been very enthusiastically received by the 220 equality reps trained since September 2008,” says TUC Equality Reps Officer Theresa Daly. “The resources and activities have enabled them to make a difference a work: in an independent survey of the trained reps, 65 per cent reported a success at work after the course.” Details of Equality Reps courses are available at http://tinyurl.com/ll3bds

Women take global action on poverty A range of professions, including a clinical technician, a sound engineer, admin workers, civil servants, an NGO worker, a trade union officer, teachers and lecturers, took part in the latest TUC’s Gender, Globalisation and Poverty Reduction course. Women make up an evergrowing majority of the world’s poor. The course explored the unequal impact of globalisation and the challenges it presents for international development, together with some of the campaigning tools and activities that can help union members organise around the issues. The course at South Thames College was aimed at union reps and members. It explored how women’s health, wealth and wellbeing worldwide are affected by

globalisation and considered the extent to which key international policies such as the UN Millennium Development Goals and the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda provide us with the tools for combating this trend. Adwoa Sakyi, of the General Agricultural Workers Union of GTUC, and Didem Ozdemir, Playfair campaign, both addressed the

course, offering a lot of inspiration to plan different union strategies. In addition, the course offered the chance to reflect on delegates’ own sectors and to consider organising projects around the issues appropriate to their union/workplace situation. Celebrations at the end of the course included women from the NUS, UNISON, UCU and GMB. Women from a wide range of professions took part in the latest Gender, Globalisation and Poverty Reducation course

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» Contacts

unionlearn contacts All TUC email addresses are first initial followed by surname@tuc.org.uk

» Unionlearn

» Southern and Eastern

Tel: 020 7079 6920 Fax: 020 7079 6921 unionlearn@tuc.org.uk www.unionlearn.org.uk Director Tom Wilson Tel: 020 7079 6922 twilson@tuc.org.uk

Tel: 020 7467 1251 Regional manager Barry Francis Union Development Coordinator Jon Tennison Regional Education Officers Rob Hancock Angela Perry

» National unionlearn managers

» Midlands

Standards and Quality Ian Borkett Tel: 020 7079 6940 iborkett@tuc.org.uk Research and Strategy Bert Clough Tel: 020 7079 6925 bcloug@tuc.org.uk Business and Finance Matthew Fernandez-Graham Tel: 020 7079 6936 mfernandes-graham@tuc.org.uk Communications Mike Power Tel: 020 7079 6942 mpower@tuc.org.uk Trade Union Education Liz Rees Tel: 020 7079 6923 lrees@tuc.org.uk Union Development Judith Swift Tel: 0151 243 2568 jswift@tuc.org.uk Development Officer (ULF) Catherine McClennan Tel: 07795 606 982 cmcclennan@tuc.org.uk

Tel: 0121 236 4454 Regional manager Mary Alys Union Development Coordinator Gary O’Donnell Regional Education Officer Pete Try

» Northern Regional manager Barney McGill Tel: 0191 227 5552 Union Development Coordinator Elizabeth Killoran Tel: 0191 227 5557 Regional Education Officer Ian West Tel: 0191 227 5572

» North West

Helen Gagliasso Tel: 0191 227 5567 hgagliasso@tuc.org.uk

Regional Manager Dave Eva Tel: 0151 236 2321 Union Development Coordinator Tony Saunders Liverpool office Tel: 0151 236 2321 Manchester office Tel: 0161 445 0077 Regional Education Officer Peter Holland Tel: 0151 243 2564

» Website

» South West

Jay Sreedharan Tel: 020 7079 6943 jsreedharan@tuc.org.uk

Regional Manager Tel: 0117 947 0521 Helen Cole Union Development Coordinator Ros Etheridge

» U-Net centres

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Regional Development Workers: Bristol Alan Shearn Tel: 0117 947 0521 Cornwall Geoff Hale Tel: 01209 611 604 Regional Education Officer Marie Hughes Tel: 0117 933 4443

» Yorkshire and the Humber Tel: 0113 245 4909 Regional Manager Alan Roe Union Development Coordinator Sharon Burke, Regional Education Officer Trevor Sargison Tel: 0113 200 1071

» Union contacts Aspect Judith Hibbert Tel: 07968 322 969 judith.hibbert@ntlworld.com ATL Mark Holding Tel: 020 7782 1596 mholding@atl.org.uk BECTU Brian Kelly Tel: 020 7346 0900 bkelly@bectu.org.uk BFAWU Dorban Ippoma Tel: 020 8801 0980 dorban58@yahoo BSU Vikki Botham Tel: 07717 805 521 vikki.powell@britannia.co.uk Connect Kirsi Kekki Tel: 020 8971 6052 kirsi.kekki@connectuk.org CWU Trish Lavelle Tel: 020 8971 7340 tlavelle@cwu.org Equity Louise Grainger Tel: 020 7670 0214 lgrainger@equity.org.uk FBU Trevor Shanahan Tel: 07917 75 9473 trevor.shanahan@fbu.org.uk FDA Martin Furlong Tel: 020 7401 5555 martin@fda.org.uk


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resources «

Jay knows MU Pauline Dalby Tel: 020 7840 5516 pd1@musiciansunion.org.uk NAPO Ranjit Singh Tel: 07943 827 353 rsingh@napo.org.uk NASUWT Jennifer Moses, Stephen Smith Tel: 0121 453 6150 lifelong.learning@mail.nasuwt.org.uk NUJ Linda King Tel: 020 7843 3717 lindak@nuj.org.uk NUT Andrew Parry Williams Tel: 020 7380 4800/4780 learning.reps@nut.org.uk PCS David McEvoy Tel: 020 7801 2727 ext 2360 david.mcevoy@pcs.org.uk PFA Alan Irwin Tel: 07717 467 718 ieteuk@yahoo.co.uk POA Andy Rowett Tel: 07917 699 210 poaulf@yahoo.co.uk Prospect Rachel Bennett Tel: 020 7902 6687 Rachel.Bennett@prospect.org.uk RCN Linda McBride Tel: 020 7647 3855 linda.mcbride@rcn.org.uk UCATT Jeff Hopewell Tel: 01302 360 725 jhopewell@ucatt.org.uk Unison Pam Johnson Tel: 020 7551 1267 pam.johnson@unison.co.uk Unite – the union Tom Beattie Tel: 020 8462 7755 tom.beattie@unitetheunion.org Jim Mowatt Tel: 020 7611 2628 jmowatt@unitetheunion.org Unity Gerald Crookes Tel: 01782 280 588 geraldcrookes@unitytheunion.org.uk URTU Graham Cooper Tel: 07795 562 874 grahamcurtu@yahoo.co.uk USDAW Ann Murphy Tel: 0161 224 2804 ann.murphy@usdaw.org.uk

Jay Sreedharan, unionlearn’s website officer, answers some recent questions raised by site visitors Q I’ve recently become our workplace Green Rep. How can I get things started in the workplace? A Climate change is happening and it is affecting us all and Environmental Reps in the workplace can make a big difference. Our workplaces burn energy, use resources and generate waste and travel, so they are important places to take action on environmental issues – so becoming a Green Rep is the first step to champion environmental issues in the workplace. You don’t have to have ground breaking ideas to get things started in the workplace. Small steps make big changes, such as: discourage unnecessary printing, make sure printers and copiers are set to print on both sides; re-use scrap paper for notes; get unwanted junk mail returned to sender; encourage people to use re-usable cups and crockery rather than disposable; get a recycling system set up for paper/ plastic/glass. The TUC’s Go green at work handbook provides lots of information and guidance on organising action on environmental issues in the workplace. www.tuc.org.uk/extras/gogreenatwork.pdf To better equip yourself as a rep, take the TUC Trade Unions and the Environment course. This will broaden your knowledge and skills and give you tools to carry out your role more effectively. Contact your regional education officer for more information at www.unionlearn.org.uk/ education/index.cfm?mins=19 For more information on greening the workplace please visit www.sustainableworkplace.co.uk

To find out more about improving recycling schemes, visit wasteonline.org.uk, recyclenow.org.uk and envirowise.gov.uk Q I’m bored with my job and I want a change. What shall I do? A When doing a particular job for a long period of time, familiarity can definitely breed contempt, and it’s easy to become bored with your job and unhappy at work. It is usually at this point where a little voice in your head tells you to get a new job. But don’t make any hasty decisions. A quick fix might not be the best way forward. You need to consider all your options carefully to insure you make the best and most informed decision. You may not get a job straight away, so use your time constructively. If you’re not working you could do voluntary work to get experience in a new line of work. You could also do a course to learn new skills. Improving your skills for work can open up new opportunities. There’s a huge range of courses available. Some are free, and you may qualify for financial help. There’s also plenty of free advice to help you decide what’s right for you. If you’re looking for impartial career advice, try calling the unionlearn freephone advice line on 08000 92 91 90 where our advisers can advise you on courses, careers, childcare and funding. Lines are open 8am to 10pm seven days a week. Whether you’re looking for a new job, wanting a change in career or your facing redundancy, don’t make a rushed decision. Weigh up all your options carefully before moving forward.

Ask questions, share information and create an online community Whatever problems you have, the chances are that there’s a ULR out there who has been there and solved it. The unionreps discussion forum has over 13,000 members registered at present. This is the perfect place for you to swap ideas, and get help and support from other reps. Join now at www.unionreps.org.uk

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Fmrateerieals Leaders in learning This is a must-read for all ULRs, employers, union officers and politicians. It’s packed with solid case study evidence of how employers and unions working in partnership can benefit both the organisation and the workforce.

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Order now from www.unionlearn.org.uk/freebooks And postage and packing is also free new new

Getting reading to work The Reading Agency has joined forces with unionlearn in Yorkshire and the Humber to promote reading in a range of different workplace. Here you can read case studies from: Royal Mail, Fox’s Biscuits, HMP Moorland, Corus Steelworks, Fletchers Bakeries, and Tesco, and get ideas on how ULRs have got reading to work.

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Year three: moving learning on... Unionlearn’s annual report packed with information, detail and images of the organisation’s most successful year. Everything you need to know from “meeting our targets” to “funding” are in these high production value 32 pages. Full conference coverage: pp14-17

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Supporting learners – guides for union reps This updated pack is a must for ULRs. It contains an excellent guide for union reps, as well as guides on: Why and how union reps should support learners; Sources of help for union reps; Role and skills of the union rep; and Useful extras for union reps.

Linking the climbing frame and the Matrix standard for information, advice and guidance services No previous knowledge is assumed in this accessible publication for ULRs and everyone interested in learning at work. This publication is an introduction to unionlearn’s Climbing Frame and the Matrix Standard. It shows how they complement each other and contribute to the development of high quality support to learners.

Unions opening up learning for all How will you tackle discrimination in learning and skills training? This new publication provides examples of unions dealing with equality in learning for retired members, migrant workers, people with mental health problems, disabled workers, women, black and Asian workers, apprentices, people needing Skills for Life courses, parttime workers, and LGBT people. See article on page 30 and 31

Spread the word about the work of ULRs and learning project workers by ordering more copies of the Learning Rep. Give them to colleagues at work, learners the learning rep and anyone interested in union learning. » Summer 09

Exclusive

“Union Learning Reps help people change their lives for the better” Union learning is something to smile about for Peter Mandelson

www.unionlearn .org.uk

The Learning Rep magazine - Summer 2009  

In this summer 2009 issue: Goodbye Liz, hello Tom, Careers Advice relaunch, Jo Brand’s learning story, unionlearn conference roundup, Barri...

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