Page 1 | Summer 2014

• Six Book Challenge • Quick Reads • Traineeships charter • New TUC Education website • Adult Learners’ Week

Meet Quick Reads author Lindsey Davis


Here at unionlearn, we know that higher skills should mean higher pay. Our annual conference on Monday 23 June is on the theme ‘Britain needs a skills rise.’ We know the extent of the problem. Almost half of all employers don’t train so almost half of all employees don’t receive any training, according to the recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). A great many of the 1.5 million workers on zero-hours contracts are stuck in low-paid jobs because they get little or no chance to improve their skills. Union learning is an escape route “Britain from low pay.

needs a better skills system to build fair pay and a strong economy.”

Of course, there are good employers that do invest in their staff. They work with unions and unionlearn to close the gap between the training haves and have-nots and remove the barriers that can exclude people from learning opportunities.

The latest figures show that unions delivered over 250,000 learners last year. That is an important achievement. Campaigning for a fairer system is no less important. Britain needs a better skills system to build fair pay and a strong economy. Union delivery and union campaigning go hand in hand. 

Tom Wilson is Director of unionlearn

Funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the European Social Fund. Learning Rep magazine is published three times a year by unionlearn, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. Written and edited by Astrid Stubbs and Martin Moriarty | Designed by TUC | © unionlearn, 2014 Cover photo by Mark Harrison/Hodder & Stoughton Publishers

© Jess Hurd/

‘BRITAIN NEEDS A PAY RISE’ was the theme of the TUC’s highly successful Fair Pay Fortnight. It will be the banner behind which we all march at the TUC’s national demonstration on Saturday 18 October. As the economy begins to show signs of recovery, the spotlight is turning to skills.

Hospital staff reap benefits of new learning agreement

UNISON Branch Secretary Dino Williams and Guy’s and St Thomas’s Trust chairman Sir Hugh Taylor signed a learning agreement in front of 300 staff and stakeholders at a special lunchtime event in February. Underlining the significance of an agreement that was two years in the making, local MP Kate Hoey also spoke at the launch, congratulating management and unions for creating learning opportunities through the agreement and later tweeting her congratulations to Dino for his role in pulling it together. “We invited Kate to the launch to help alert the constituents she represents that this is a project about social mobility,” Dino says. Signing the learning agreement, and training a new team of union learning reps from a wide range of departments, will enable the branch to offer even more – with the explicit endorsement of senior management, who have been supportive throughout. “The agreement spells out how management are committed to promoting learning in the workplace and to supporting staff who want to enrol on courses that might be outside their mandatory training but can

be seen to be part of their personal and professional development,” explains UNISON branch education officer Jane Collier. The Trust has also invested in a wide-ranging apprenticeship programme to develop new and existing staff, and three of its recent apprentices outlined their experiences of the programme at the learning agreement launch. “I started as an apprentice in September 2012 because I knew I didn’t want to go to university,” explained Joseph Banton, who recently completed his Hotel Services Apprenticeship. “Now with the support of everyone here, I’m a supervisor in the Rapid Response Team – and my mum is so proud of me!”

Lighthouse centre guides prison staff

More than 50 people packed into the new Lighthouse Learning Centre at Portland Young Offenders Institute to celebrate its official opening in March. “Prison staff can feel cut off when working behind the walls: a learning centre like this offers a great opportunity for people to work together outside work and try out a

course or learn a new skill,” said local MP Richard Drax. The centre is already proving very popular with prison service staff and their families, many of whom have signed up for courses ranging from IT, literacy and mental health awareness to bicycle maintenance. “We have signed up staff for over 170 online courses already and we have more ideas for training in the pipeline,” explains Prison Officers Association (POA) learning rep Roger Davies.

Green award pays off for railworkers Fresh thinking by members of rail union RMT at a southwest London train station has enabled 11 new Green Champions to be trained at no cost to rail firm South West Trains (SWT). When the staff at Surbiton Railway Station won a Green Station Award last June (for coming up with a plan that reduced their electricity bill by 28 per cent), they decided to invest the cash prize in environmental awareness training. Mark Manwaring, RMT lead learning rep for SWT, got together with RMT Development Worker Karen Skelly and station manager Sarah Hall (also an SWT Green Champion) to examine the possible options. “We finally found an online course that would meet the needs of the staff and use the money that had been won to pay for the course, and the learners completed and passed their environmental awareness course in February this year,” Mark explains.

“This has resulted in 11 new Green Champions for SWT who have been trained at no cost to the company, due to the innovative way the staff decided to use the cash award which they won.”

Taking the equality message on the road The Education and Training Foundation and a group of national sector-led equalities groups and providers took to the road in April to talk to education and training providers about embedding equality and diversity in workforce development. The Equalities Consultation Pop-up Tour drove up and down the country in a pair of camper vans for 10 days in April talking to learners and staff in colleges, meeting apprentices at NUS conference, and staging debates in Gateshead and London that were watched by hundreds of people online in addition to the participants in the venues. “With the visits, the debates and the online audiences, the Pop-up Tour really has succeeded in reaching far more people than if we had arranged a couple of traditional events,” explains NIACE Programme Manager Catina Barrett. “We also raised people’s awareness of the Education and Training Foundation and left everyone with a positive impression of the organisation, which is also part of

what we set out to do.” Many requests for visits came from staff in colleges who wanted to discuss how to extend work on equality and diversity from learners to include staff as well. “That’s a very important message for trade unions, because it would be very significant if you could begin to have more conversations like that with more providers,” Catina says. • Click here to watch the Gateshead debate on YouTube • Click here to watch the London debate on Vimeo • Click here to find out more about the Equalities Toolkit

New national drive to boost numeracy Unionlearn, unions, employers, training providers, education and community organisations have joined together in a major drive to boost levels of adult numeracy in the UK. Led by the National Numeracy charity, the National Numeracy Challenge aims to raise at least one million people out of poor numeracy over the next five years. The campaign is encouraging everyone to check their own levels of numeracy, using a web-based self-assessment tool, the Challenge Online, and lead those who need it towards a programme of personal learning. • Click here to check your numeracy levels

REPTECH Smart surfing Building on the runaway success of its apprenticeships app, Prospect has just launched a new responsive website designed to fill the gap in careers information and advice for young professionals. “We conducted a survey of 30,000 young professionals, which indicated that they were looking for information and advice about a huge range of issues including career progression, types of employment and pensions,” explains ULF Project Manager Rachel Bennett. The volume of information sought by the target audience (people aged 25 to 45) meant that a responsive website (where pages automatically reformat for smartphones and tablets) would be the most effective delivery platform. Careersmart offers impartial information across a broad range of subjects that will help users progress their careers, and enables people to download any of Prospect’s 30-plus career development podcasts. • Click here to access the new website



SOUTH WEST TACKLES SAFETY AGENDA Extreme floods and storms might have been battering the south-west in the middle of February, but they didn’t deter the 100-plus union activists who made it to Exeter for the South West Region TUC health and safety conference. Participants were rewarded with fascinating speeches from keynote speakers and a series of rewarding workshops on crucial aspects of the health and safety agenda. Blacklist Support Group member Dave Smith, who was sacked just 48 hours after being elected health safety rep on a London building site, explained how many construction employers – including some of the biggest names in the industry – targeted safety activists. Hazards Campaign Coordinator Hilda Palmer (above) argued for greater regulation at work. “We need to let businesses know health and safety is good for them and it’s good for their business: if they don’t, people die and it’s a huge cost for them.” Feedback on the day was enormously positive. A CWU area safety rep called the event “an absolute eye-opener” and added “I can’t wait to use my new-found skills in the workplace”; while a PCS safety rep commented: “I could not fault the day: it was informative, well organised and a pleasure to attend.”

Supporting learning across all ages

Health boost for North East firms

More than 110 union learning reps (ULRs) and activists took part in the North-West unionlearn annual conference, which was held for the first time at the People’s History Museum in Manchester in February. With the conference theme of learning across the ages, Vivienne Gee from the North West Age Action Alliance spoke about learning and older people, while North West TUC Young People’s Officer Jay McKenna highlighted some of the key issues for younger people. The workshops examined the development of dementia champions in the workplace; maths champions; green skills; community reporting; and the Mid-Life Career Review, which has been successfully piloted in the region. “There were people at the workshop who had been involved in the pilot who were looking at how to take it further and people who hadn’t been involved who were interested in engaging older workers,” explains unionlearn Regional Support Officer Tony Saunders. The conference also presented five projects with unionlearn Quality Awards: USDAW and Unite at Sainsbury’s Haydock distribution centre; PCS and HMRC at Bootle; PCS at Salford HMRC and Mercia Partnership; Mantra Learning; and Blackpool and The Fylde College.

Over 100 employers across the north-east who are committed to improving the physical and mental health of their staff collected certificates from the North East Better Health At Work Award (BHAWA) at five separate ceremonies across the region in March. A partnership between the Northern TUC, the NHS and the region’s 12 local authorities, the BHAWA is free, open to all employers and has four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Continuing Excellence.

The Award activity is driven by staff consultation and focused on the results of a Health Needs Analysis survey that all organisations have to run when they begin their Award journey. Once employees identify what they want to focus on, Health Advocates then run appropriate health improvement campaigns in their workplace. More than 150 employers across the region, representing nearly 130,000 employees (more than 10 per cent of the working age population), took part in the Better Health At Work Award in 2013. • Click here to find out more about this year’s Better Health At Work Awards

Helping older staff to aim higher Encouraging more mid-life and older workers to take up higher learning (HE) opportunities could be the best way to help them develop their careers, Lesley Haughton told the unionlearn SERTUC Pathways to Progression conference in March. “It is very important for mid-life and older workers in particular to update their skills and knowledge so they can stay in work, as the statistics show that if you drop out of the labour market in your 50s, it is very hard to get back in,” she explained. “Any strategies that we can all adopt to make sure that people work as long as they can and as long as they want to are really going to help.” The Mid-Life Career Review project had proved very popular with the ULRs who took part in the unionlearn regions where it had been piloted, she said. “We are hoping that offering mid-life development reviews to colleagues is going to become a key activity for ULRs in the future,” she explained. Since higher learning opportunities could prove crucial to career development for mid-life and older workers, unionlearn was developing a multi-stranded approach to help learning reps support those workers, she said. The key components are: • supporting the Part-Time Matters campaign • developing the Higher Learning At Work website and bringing it into the main unionlearn website • promoting the role of ULRs in carrying out mid-life

• •

development reviews maintaining existing and developing new Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with HE institutions supporting Continuous Professional Development (e.g. Technicians project) developing a new eNote on HE at work updating existing and creating new resources for the Climbing Frame.

• Click here to find out more about the Part-Time Matters campaign • Click here to find out more about higher learning at work

Opening doors to younger workers Managing Future Talent is a new booklet by unionlearn, the CIPD and Acas that outlines best practice for organisations working with young people, using tips and advice from managers across a range of sectors and in different-sized organisations. As the workplace can be daunting for young people starting work, the guide sets out how managers need to provide practical support and guidance to ensure young employees get the start they need. The guide has been produced as part of Learning to Work, an action-focused programme led by the CIPD to promote the role of employers in reducing youth unemployment. • Click here to find out more and download your own copy of Managing Future Talent

LGBT learners cross the digital divide Older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people in Birmingham with few IT skills have crossed the digital divide, thanks to the partnership between Midlands unionlearn and a pioneering new project for older LGBT people in the city. Hosted by the Birmingham LGBT Centre at the end of last year, the four-week course enabled participants from their mid-50s to their early 80s to grasp the basics of word processing, emailing and Skype and showed them how to access the free online resource Learn My Way to practise their new skills. “Informal Adult Community Learning (IACL) like this is allowing us to take trade union learning from workplaces, where we have been honing our skills for the last decade, and deliver it directly into communities where it is needed most,” explains Midlands unionlearn Union Support Officer Alan Cook, who taught the sessions. Alan’s approach was welcomed by Paddy Broughton from The Older Peoples’ A to Z (TOPAZ), which offers learning and training opportunities as well as befriending and peer mentoring services. “Alan is such a knowledgeable and patient tutor that even the most technophobic of the learners was

encouraged sufficiently to be able to create a personal email address and now says that he regularly sends and receives emails,” she said. • Click here to email Paddy Broughton about TOPAZ or call 0121 643 0821

BFAWU learning rep wins STUC award BFAWU learning rep Willie Brennan (left) has won the Scottish TUC’s Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning, which is sponsored by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Partnership. Willie’s dedication has opened up more progression routes where he works at Dawnfresh Seafoods in Uddingston, and helped increase union density at the company to nearly 90 per cent. It was Willie’s initiative to convince Dawnfresh to set up a steering group to enable the management, union and Scottish Union Learning to drive staff development onsite. And when the branch organised a diversity course earlier this year, all of the firm’s 260 employees were given paid release to take part. “The work of Willie Brennan as a union learning rep in upskilling members to provide a better opportunity of career and financial progression is particularly impressive,” commented STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith.


Crime writer rewards Revenue readers Six Book Challenge participants at HMRC Southend won a visit from bestselling author Sharon Bolton.


t’s not every reading group that wins their very own crime writer but that’s what happened to PCS union members taking part in the Six Book Challenge at their HMRC workplace in Southend. Every year there is a prize draw for completers and organisations running the scheme and the HMRC workplace won a visit from bestselling crime writer Sharon Bolton (left). ULR Bhavna Kankali (pictured above with PCS learning organiser Darrell Binding) organised the Challenge. “When I heard that HMRC had

won the workplace prize, all the ULRs were keen to learn who that would be. We were not disappointed!” she says. “Sharon Bolton’s visit was very exciting. She gave a presentation that was engaging with plenty of drama. She read short, gripping paragraphs from her books and incorporated the use of short video clips into the presentation. The readers wanted more but alas the time disappeared so quickly. “Sharon was extremely accommodating and signed each and every book.”


Bhavna explains how she set up the Challenge at her workplace. “Throughout the Challenge, I have been arranging monthly meetings for readers. The majority of people have been enthusiastic and have shared their reading experiences with the group. I kept the meetings to an hour during lunchtime.” Bhavna says ULRs contacted local writers and authors to ask if they would give presentations. “But we were working on a nil budget so could offer no payment to them! I was unsure how to run the event but then a few of the local writers responded with agreement to come to our meeting for free,” she says. “The guest speakers have all been different in their approach and influential in their own way. Each was able to encourage readers to experience varied genres of reading, from Harry Houdini’s escapism, to local history, to the Laurel and Hardy fan club, to fictional sagas, to creative writing and word games. Each was equally interesting and stimulating.” Bhavna, who is now hoping to build on the Challenge with more reading at work, says a further benefit has been learners crediting their personal development to taking part. One reader used her free Quick Reads book as a basis for an English lesson for a teenager. “Others have told me how they had forgotten about reading, returned to it after a very long spell and have embraced it again with gusto!” she says. “Reading brings many benefits including pleasure, relaxation, escapism and invisible learning at the same time. Who knew I would learn so much? Who knew so much could be achieved from such simple ideas? Who knew so many can benefit from a simple action such as reading?” • Marie Campbell who took part in the HMRC challenge was so impressed by her experience that she has gone on to start her own book club with members of her church congregation. PCS member Marie, who works as a policy adviser, says: “We have lunch with friends and read a book. Before the Challenge I had never been in a book group before – I never seemed to find the time to read – now we are looking at books we haven’t looked at before. “By talking to others about books you get another view and that enhances your enjoyment and understanding.” 

“Reading brings many benefits including pleasure, relaxation, escapism and invisible learning at the same time. Who knew so many can benefit from a simple action such as reading?”

UNISON ULR at Leicester County Council Transport Depot Mayank Pundit has seen double the number of employees he expected take up the offer of joining the Challenge at his workplace. “I thought I’d only get 20 or so but now I’ve got over 40,” says a delighted Mayank. And Mayank is in good company. Many Tesco stores are running the Challenge via their USDAW learning reps. USDAW has always championed the Challenge and now given out hundreds of SBC certificates to learners. In Liverpool, Merseytravel and Merseyelectric have also run the Challenge successfully year after year. In Wales, UNISON ULR Phil Tamlyn works with adults with learning difficulties. “I want to run the Challenge with the staff here at Community Lives, but I’d also really like to get the service users involved,” he says. The Challenge is also running in many hospitals and Royal Mail depots. “This Challenge was a really good idea because it’s something we’re all doing at work together. This makes it more interesting and also much fun!” says Shama Dagia, who participated at De Montfort University. • Click here to visit the Six Book Challenge’s new website • Click here to order your Six Book Challenge materials • Click here for information about running the Challenge in your workplace

• Click here to enter your workplace for this year’s Six Book Challenge (30 June deadline)


© Chris Astles

Waking the dead Historical novelist Lindsey Davis has been giving voice to victims of torture during the English Civil War in her Quick Reads book.

✒ Astrid Stubbs


he pleasure you get from fiction takes you out of yourself and you can forget the modern world. But there is also informative reading as well – it can be useful to you in so many ways and people who can’t read are seriously disadvantaged by that,” says Lindsey Davis, who has a stack of historical, museum and archaeological magazines at home, which she uses as research for her historical novels. Her Quick Reads novella A Cruel Fate is indebted to her painstaking research – in this case of a very grim variety. The book takes a real period in the English Civil War, but unlike her vast Rebels and Traitors, which follows a diverse cast of characters through the Civil War and Commonwealth periods, the Quick Read takes a concentrated look at the horrific treatment of prisoners in Oxford Castle. “It’s just one tiny glimpse of the Civil War but it is quite important and has resonances with modern times, for instance at Abu Ghraib, where a jailer is put in charge of enemies and, unsupervised, is allowed to do what they want and complete brutality comes out and people are stopped being treated as human beings. It is very grim, but the details are authentic – I used descriptions of what the prisoners wrote,” Lindsey explains. Lindsey was delighted to be asked to pen a novel for Quick Reads as struggling with words is a subject close to her heart. “I was very fortunate and could always read from when I was taught my alphabet. I loved it and it came very naturally to me but I know it is not the same for everybody. My own brother was probably dyslexic though not diagnosed as such so I watched him struggling and can appreciate how very

“I was very fortunate and could always read from when I was taught my alphabet. It came very naturally to me but I know it is not the same for everybody.” different it is for other people,” she says. “I know what pleasure and usefulness you can get from reading if you are able to do it and wanted, if possible, to make that available to people who may be frightened of not being able to read or who have struggled with it. And it is particularly difficult for adults. Children are expected not to read but adults have that stigma if they have reached adulthood and still struggle.”

NOT JUST ABOUT THE FUN The overwhelming view of union learning reps is that reading for pleasure is proving a useful tool in supporting staff to develop confidence, self-esteem and communication.

other books and this may also include work-related texts. As one ULR commented: “People are more likely to read written information from unions and management about changes in the workplace.”

A new online survey carried out by NIACE for Quick Reads shows that ULRs recognise the benefits of reading and continue to support the campaign. Ninety-eight per cent of respondents said that using Quick Reads has helped to raise confidence in reading and 89 per cent said that, after using Quick Reads for the first time, at least half of their learners go on to read

The survey shows that Quick Reads books continue to break down barriers to reading, making books accessible to more and more adults. This positive response shows the books are still being used year-on-year and there is evidence of reaching new audiences. One respondent stated: “People appreciate the work of the ULR in getting them

As well as promoting her Quick Read Lindsey is on tour this year, promoting her new book Enemies at Home, featuring Flavia Albia, the daughter of the famous Roman investigator Falco, who has featured in 20 novels. Her new novel also features grim subject matter, dwelling on the issue of domestic slavery. So it’s no doubt a joy for Lindsey to take time off from historical research by delving into a pile of gardening magazines. “I’ve just moved house with the biggest garden I’ve ever had so I’m in heaven!” she laughs. 

something that lasts a while and enables them to have something on hand during their breaks.” Others spoke of a resurgence in reading and the appreciation among colleagues of bringing books into the workplace. The survey also showed the role of Quick Reads and reading in improving attitudes towards learning, with 93 per cent stating they felt it had improved attitudes to reading generally, including one ULR who said: “Encouraging reading within the workplace has had a knock-on effect on lifelong learning.”

“I know what pleasure and usefulness you can get from reading if you are able to do it and wanted, if possible, to make that available to people who may be frightened of not being able to read or who have struggled with it.”

• Click here to hear Lindsey and fellow 2014 Quick Reads authors read sections of their works • Click here to access a host of resources for use with Quick Reads in your workplace


© Colin McPherson/

Opening doors to the world of work After a work placement with Merseytravel helped Matt Chamberlain escape unemployment, he’s now supporting long-term jobless people himself.

✒ Martin Moriarty


ive years ago wasn’t the easiest time to be looking for work in Liverpool. Matt Chamberlain should know: he spent eight tough months on the jobs trail before he finally secured a work placement at Merseytravel, the public body that co-ordinates public transport right across Merseyside. “I spent the 12-week placement in various teams, taking bits of knowledge from what each arm of the organisation does and learning how they all worked together to help public transport run on Merseyside,” he recalls. “Throughout that time, I had fantastic support from the Merseylearn team, the union learning arm of the organisation, who helped me with all sort of opportunities and provided a friendly shoulder for me to lean on.” Towards the end of his work placement, a nine-month job opportunity arose in one of the policy teams he had been working with and he jumped at the chance to apply. “The learning team helped me prepare for the interview, which was really beneficial – to calm my nerves if nothing else, and help me think about how to answer the sorts of questions that might come up,” he says.

Their support helped him land the job and, when that contract finished, he successfully applied for another policy post, this time with a two-year contract. From there, he moved on to the job he holds today, working as part of the employment and skills team that helped him find his feet at the beginning of his traineeship. “For the past year and a bit, I’ve been working with unemployed people, helping them get back into work through transport-based opportunities, so the whole thing has gone full circle and I’m helping people who were in the same situation I was four and a half years ago,” he explains. He thinks his own experience helps him do a good job. “I think it’s quite valuable because information or advice can have more weight behind it when you have actually lived through that situation yourself,” he says. “Everyone’s situation is different: I’d been out of university for 18 months when I started my work placement and the people we are helping today are usually long-term unemployed, but everyone needs the same kind of assistance when they are looking for work.”

“My traineeship allowed me to get out of that cycle, get into work, meet new people, and learn more about the world of work.”

PROTECTING YOUNG PEOPLE FROM EXPLOITATION With nearly a million young people currently out of work, unionlearn is promoting the TUC Traineeships Charter to help them get their careers back on track. “Traineeships can provide a vital bridge between education and work or an Apprenticeship – but only if they are of sufficiently high quality,” argues unionlearn Director Tom Wilson. “Bad schemes can exploit trainees and displace existing workers from paid employment without doing anything to help young people into work; good schemes should offer fair pay when work of value is done, proper careers guidance and a guaranteed job interview at the end.” While the TUC Model Traineeships Charter is primarily designed for union reps to negotiate better schemes with employers, it should also prove useful for training providers and young people wanting to know what to expect from a good-quality work placement. According to the Charter:

Good traineeships or work experience placements should include the opportunity to develop, Matt reckons. “There has to be a designated outcome from the traineeship – for me, specifically, it was to get some work experience that would then help me when I applied for other jobs,” he says. “That means there needs to be some kind of structure so you can see some kind of development over the time that the traineeship lasts, and the output that the person is doing in their job.” Matt recognises that being out of work for a long time can make life difficult even for people with the sunniest of dispositions. “You can’t do lots of things because you have no money, you have to scrimp and save every penny, and it can become difficult to escape from that depressing cycle if you don’t have a great deal of determination,” Matt says. “My traineeship allowed me to get out of that cycle, get into work, meet new people, and learn more about the world of work: it opened that door for me and from there I have been able to do all sorts of things and get my life back on track.” 

Employers should pay trainees who do work of value (this will help prevent trainees displacing existing workers).

Placements should give young people the skills relevant to their aims and the needs of the local labour market to raise their chances of future employment.

Trainees should be offered careers guidance and advice on other work-related issues such as health and safety and employment rights.

Qualifications received on a traineeship should count towards an apprenticeship framework.

Recent research funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation for NIACE suggests many employers have still not heard about the government’s Traineeship programme. While the 14 Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) employers who took part in the survey were positive about the pathway into STEM job roles that Traineeships could provide for young people, none of them had come across the programme before the pre-interview briefing. • Click here to download your copy of the TUC Model Traineeships Charter • Click here to find out more about the NIACE Traineeships survey


Celebrating successful ceramics apprenticeships

Apprenticeships fan and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has helped Unity honour a group of its young members from seven ceramics firms in the Potteries.


UC General Secretary Frances O’Grady presented 22 apprentices from seven North Staffordshire pottery companies with certificates marking their achievements from ceramics union Unity ahead of National Apprenticeships Week. “I’m a big fan of apprenticeships, not just because of all the things we know about vocational training, but because for me they say something very important about the values we hold as a country,” Frances said. The ceremony at Unity’s Hanley headquarters honoured young people from Johnson Tiles, Wedgwood, Royal Stafford, Dudson, Portmeirion, Roy Kirkham and Steelite International, which Frances had visited earlier in the day. “It was fantastic to see a company that is creating jobs, taking on apprentices and making a real difference to this area,” Frances said. “There are some real examples in this region of unions and employers

working together because they want to see their industry grow and be successful: Steelite is a company that’s growing and contributing to our exports but crucially it is a company that’s working with the union.” Unity member David Barker (pictured below with Frances) had had a number of short-term jobs and spent some time on the dole before he joined Wedgwood’s apprenticeship scheme at the age of 21. David says he has never looked back since joining the company three years ago, and is now a qualified and highly skilled hand thrower at Wedgwood’s visitor centre at Barlaston. • Employers pledged to create more than 20,000 new Apprenticeships as part of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, while the Prime Minister promised to create two million apprenticeships over the lifetime of the current parliament.

While corporates such as Lloyds Banking Group and brewing giants Whitbread and Greene King accounted for 9,000 of the pledged new opportunities, 47 per cent of the employers creating new apprenticeships were small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). 

OPENING TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES TO EVERYONE Young men are twice as likely to be encouraged to take an apprenticeship as young women, according to new research from the City & Guilds Group that echoes recent TUC findings about gender segregation in on-thejob training. According to the survey, 33 per cent of male pupils are encouraged to take an apprenticeship in school, compared to just

17 per cent of their female counterparts, which suggests young women continue to be held back by out-dated perceptions. A similar gender divide occurs among 18- to 24-year-olds, where only 23 per cent of young women have been advised about apprenticeships, compared to 32 per cent of their male counteparts.

The research also revealed that men and women were advised to pursue stereotypically different occupations. While men were more likely to be encouraged to consider IT and engineering as a career path, women were directed towards nursing, care and teaching. The findings also revealed that, while schools continued to

encourage the university route, with 42 per cent of young men and 46 of young women advised to get a degree, over half (54 per cent) of the young professionals surveyed said that they would choose a different career path if they were leaving school now.

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Becci New Institute ton and Joy William for Emplo yment Stu s, dies

Research Decemberpaper 19 2013



What are Open Badges?

A Open Badges are digital awards that recognise individuals’ achievements, skills and competencies. Think of an Open Badge as a certificate that looks like a badge but can be displayed on the web.

What’s the difference between Open Badges and a traditional certificate? Q

New face for TUC Education


he TUC Education website at has had a major revamp, offering a one-stop shop for all resources. The new site links to TUC campaign resources, information and publications; delivers online and blended learning; and provides up-to-date briefings via TUC’s popular eNotes. The redesigned site contains a host of new features to make the site more user-friendly, with improved navigation and functionality. The website includes individual learner records, learning plans and a place to store your Open Badges (see sidebar, right). Register on the site to keep a record of your learning; include courses completed with TUC Education as well as your own union and other providers.

“The new site is great, love the layout: it’s bright and easy to navigate. I’m going to find this really helpful in my role as a union rep.”

Learners can also keep a record of educational events and conferences attended. This is a great way for individuals to build a complete picture of their professional development and completed courses can be added to the learner record. Alongside courses that relate to their role as a union rep, learners can record other relevant courses and previous experience and qualifications gained at school, at college, in the workplace or as part of a personal interest study. The site provides registered users with their own individual learning plan. Reps can discuss their specific learning needs with union education officers, their union and with trade union education tutors. The advice and guidance they receive can be used to create an individual learning pathway, track progress and meet their educational goals. Later this year more features will be introduced, including a dedicated TUC Education course directory listing all UK TUC Education classroom and online courses. It will be fully searchable and learners will be able to apply for courses instantly online.  • Click here to check out the new TUC Education Facebook page

A The amount of information that can be displayed on a traditional certificate is fairly limited. They don’t really explain what the person did to earn the certificate. A digital badge explains exactly why it was issued and what was achieved. A digital badge can be displayed all over your favourite websites.

What will TUC Education be issuing Open Badges for? Q

A Initially, we will be giving badges to learners completing eNotes. We also intend to issue badges for online union rep courses and eventually to reps completing classroom versions of courses. Badges can also be issued to people attending briefings, as special awards to recognise outstanding achievement, and for skills development. Q

Will anyone else be issuing badges?

A Yes: unions, schools, colleges, universities, community and social groups and some employers are already recognising the value of badges for recognised qualifications and for demonstrating valuable skills, such as speaking at a large event.

Which websites can I use to display the badges I earn? Q

A Among other places you can display the badges you’ve gained on Facebook, on Twitter and on your LinkedIn page, as well as on your individual profile on your TUC Education web page.



The A to Z of learning F rom ancestry to Zumba there is something for everyone during The Festival of Learning, a two-month long series of events and activities during May and June, culminating in Adult Learners’ Week from 14 to 20 June. The festival will see thousands of events, with organisations demonstrating the learning opportunities they provide, attracting new learners and inspiring adults to discover how learning can transform lives. It brings together a range of activities organised by various organisations, including Museums at Night, Inspired by, Learning at Work Week and VQ Day on 4 June, which celebrates vocational achievement. Holding an event is your chance to have fun and be creative, while spreading the message that learning is good for health, selfesteem and employability. It’s also a great way to showcase the opportunities that you provide, encourage new audiences to take the first steps into learning and highlight the benefits it can bring.

What you can do at work •

Add your event to the ALW online diary to gain free publicity, attract new audiences and boost participation: add-event

Construction worker and UCATT member Karen King (above) won a prestigious Adult Learners Week award for all the learning she has completed. Now a UCATT learning organiser, she has been praised for her pioneering work on health and safety and getting women recognised in the industry. • Click here to follow her learning journey •

Include information about Adult Learners’ Week on your website, intranet and communications to employees, partners and stakeholders. Encourage your employer to host an event for workers to celebrate their successes and the benefits their learning has brought to the organisation. Download Adult Learners’ Week publicity materials, including logos, posters and web buttons, plus a toolkit with helpful tips on Festival of Learning and Adult Learners’ Week events and ways in which you can get involved.

Register your interest at www. and you will receive an email as soon as they are ready to download. Harness the power of social media to keep up with everything that’s going on. Follow ALW on Twitter @NIACEhq and promote your events using the hashtag #ALW14. And don’t forget to follow Learning at Work Week on Twitter @LAWWeekWire and promote events with the hashtag #NLAWWeek.

CONNECT TO LEARNING Learning at Work Week is an annual awareness campaign organised by the Campaign for Learning. It aims to put the spotlight on the importance and benefits of learning and development.

Learning at Work Week takes place from 19 to 25 May and this year’s theme is Learning Connections, which reflects the changing nature of learning and development and how workplaces

can take advantage of new approaches, attitudes and tools that support learning in the workplace. The week highlights learning through connecting people and places, bringing

together knowledge and ideas, learning through personal journeys and learning in the digital world. • Click here to access resources and tips on planning and running an event


Unionlearn is developing a range of new resources to help ULRs deliver mid-life development reviews.


ith the successful conclusion of the Mid-Life Career Review pilot, unionlearn is preparing to roll out the project through all the regions as part of its Supporting Learners agenda. “For us, the pilot was very successful, as we engaged more than 770 people from 15 different unions in career review activity,” explains Learning Support Officer Jane Warwick. “We also developed a number of resources to help ULRs in the workplace, such as our pre-review and post-review questionnaires, and have more in the pipeline.” Unionlearn has produced a short video that features ULRs from PCS, UNISON and other unions talking about how they delivered activities, used resources and engaged To help ULRs conduct what are now colleagues about developing their called Mid-Life Development Reviews, careers during the pilot. the team is developing: • a new eNote to help guide ULRs “The Mid-Life Career Reviews make V A L U you look at yourself: what you know, the process E Mthrough Y SKILL S • a new Supporting Mid-Life what you would like to know and what you do know but you don’t realise you Development learning theme to the know – it changes your perception,” unionlearn Climbing Frame • packs of cards called Value My Skills says PCS ULR John Hamshere, who works at HMRC in Blackburn. (left), which help learners identify THINGS the transferable skills they might PPEEOPLLE never have known they had. E AS

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Look out for a full evaluation of the Mid-Life Career Review pilot in the next edition of Learning Rep.  • Click here to watch the unionlearn video • Click here to email Jane Warwick about Mid-Life Career Development or call her on 020 7079 6936

FREE ACCESS MODULES FROM THE OU Access modules are an ideal starting point when you need to develop your study skills and boost your confidence. You can choose from three with The Open University (OU): •

arts and languages (Y031)

people, work and society (Y032)

science, technology and maths (Y033).

The OU’s Access modules start in October and February each year. You study over a period of 30 weeks and spend around nine hours per week on your studies. You have your own personal tutor to provide regular one-to-one telephone tutorials and written feedback on the work you submit. The OU also has a dedicated Access support team to help with any general queries. And the OU online forums mean you can interact with other students on your module. You can register for an Access module for free so long as you: •

are resident in the UK (or have a British Forces Posted Overseas address)

register as an additional preparatory stage towards an OU qualification

have a household income of under £25,000 (or are in receipt of qualifying benefits)

have no previous experience of study with the OU

have not completed a higher education qualification at NQF Level 4 or above.

If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria, the fee for an Access module in England is £660. You may be eligible for loans to cover tuition fees: there is nothing to pay for up to four years; after that, repayments are made only if the student is earning more than £21,000. • Click here for more Access information or call the OU Student Registration & Enquiry Service on 01908 659253


© Brian Davis

Taking union learning into the community

Unite is helping members of the minority ethnic communities in Tower Hamlets develop their English and computer skills at its Cable Street centre, which is celebrating a successful first 12 months in operation.


he mural on the flank wall of St George’s Town Hall in London’s East End depicts a host of working class organisations uniting to defend Cable Street’s Jewish community from fascist attack nearly 80 years ago. The ethnic make-up of the area may have changed in the intervening years, with many more Asian people living in the vicinity these days, but Cable Street is once again at the heart of a campaign to support disadvantaged minority communities. This time last year, Unite opened a community learning centre in the basement of the town hall in partnership with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Barclays Bank (which funded the learning suite). It’s open five days a week, and currently offers basic IT classes and courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The centre is also developing into a well-used local resource, with Tower Hamlets councillors running surgeries in the space, and community groups booking slots to help jobless people and tenants

from the private rented sector. With unemployment running at the second highest rate anywhere in the capital, Tower Hamlets residents have seized the opportunity to boost their chances of finding work by taking the free courses. There are basic eight-week IT courses that are open to all members of the local community (Bengali and Somali women make up the majority of the classes at the moment) and are free to people claiming any form of benefit and to retired people. “We have had people come in who have never used a computer in their life before and now they’re doing intermediate PowerPoint classes,” says Unite Union Learning Organiser Willie Howard. The centre also runs both beginner and intermediate ESOL classes twice a week, using Unite’s trained volunteer-led model developed by the United Migrant Workers’ Education Project (UMWEP). “The classes are completely free, somewhere you can improve your spoken and written English with a qualified tutor, in a place

“The classes are completely free, somewhere you can improve your spoken and written English.” where you can come with your kids, which is a popular approach for people who have work and family commitments,” Willie says. Ayesha has been attending for three months, often bringing her youngest son Usman with her, who happily occupies himself with toys or computer games while she works through the modules. “Improving my English here has really helped me when I talk to my oldest son’s teacher at school, or when I talk to my GP in the doctor’s surgery,” she explains. Hasina is very glad she found out about the courses through a friend six weeks ago. “I enjoy these classes very much and the tutors are very good,” she says.  • Click here to order a PDF of Learn With Unite Edition 2, which includes a longer version of this case study



Learning Rep Spring 2014