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learningrep Âť Spring 2011

Meet the minister of silly talks

Terry Jones opens up about his Quick Read

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» Comment

Investing in the future

Tom Wilson Director, unionlearn

The Learning Rep spring 2011 Editor: James Asser Writers: Astrid Stubbs, Martin Moriarty Cover photo: Terry Jones by Jess Hurd Design: Print: Ancient House Printing Group Distribution: Cavalier mailing

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Contents: 3 8 9 10 12 16 19 20 22 24 25 30 31 32


News Adult Learners’ Week Learning At Work Day Skills: Recession and Recovery Apprenticeships Terry Jones World Book Day Learning Centres ULR Profile Mark Serwotka TUC Education Round-up Contacts Jay knows Resources

24 Photo: Jess Hurd/

We have recently been celebrating another National Apprenticeship Week, during which unionlearn held a very successful event at Congress House with the National Apprenticeship Service, which you can read more about on pp12–15. It was a great opportunity to celebrate the huge strides that have been made over the last few years not only on the numbers of apprentices but also on retention rates. We were therefore pleased to hear some recognition of apprenticeships in the Budget, with a commitment to a further increase in apprenticeship numbers. A recent report from BIS showed how valuable further education is to business, boosting the economy by £75 billion. Apprenticeships offer the best value to the economy in return for Government investment in spending on post-16 education and training. For every £1 of taxpayers’ money, the return is equivalent to £40, according to the BIS report. But employers need to do more to ensure that there are enough apprenticeships available, particularly for young people, who are finding getting jobs difficult in the present economic climate. Union learning reps can act as mentors for apprentices and negotiate quality training and decent pay with employers. Unionlearn will be continuing to highlight and campaign for this over the year. With Adult Learners’ Week approaching in May (see pp8–9 for more details), we have a chance to highlight why that BIS report on the value of learning at work is right.



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News «

Go back to your constituencies… …and prepare for more learning, Frances O’Grady urged MPs and peers at a unionlearn reception in Westminster.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

MPs from all parties filled a unionlearn reception at Westminster in February to hear how union learning is boosting business performance. “Last year alone, we helped more than 230,000 learners at all levels, from 32,000 completing Skills for Life courses to 4,000 taking degree qualifications,” explained TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “It’s not just the individual who

benefits: independent research from Leeds University shows that for employers it improves the qualifications of their staff and it has a positive effect on morale, productivity and health and safety in the workplace.” Lifelong Learning Minister John Hayes attended the event in the House of Commons Terrace Pavilion to pledge the Government’s “full and unabridged backing” for unionlearn’s work.

“Thank you for driving up skills; thank you for backing business; thank you for great difference you make to people's lives through the great gift of learning,” he said. Unionlearn has followed up the reception by sending a parliamentary pack about its work to all MPs, inviting them to visit a workplace learning centre in their own constituencies to see for themselves the positive impact of union learning.

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady encourages MPs to find out about union learning first hand at workplaces in their constituencies

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» News Photo: Jamie McPhilimey

Nathan boxes clever with maths message Light-heavyweight boxer and maths graduate Nathan ‘Clev’ Cleverly has climbed into the ring to fight for adult numeracy by becoming a unionlearn Maths Champion. The 24-year-old Welshman says education has always been vital to him. “The discipline I learned by studying has helped me be disciplined as a boxer,” he says. “The other boxers do find it hard to believe I have a maths degree, because it is seen as such an academic and geeky subject – I hope that I can change that image.” Unionlearn Development Manager Judith Swift is delighted that Nathan has agreed to be a unionlearn Maths Champion. “He is just the sort of role model to help us in our campaign to change the image of maths from a ‘geeky’ dull one into a subject that is meaningful and also fun,” she says. “Nathan’s new role also challenges the stereotype of boxers and really does show that maths is for everyone.” A one, a two, a three… Welsh boxer Nathan Cleverly is throwing his weight behind unionlearn’s Maths4Us campaign

>>The Maths4Us website contains

advice, free resources, maths puzzles and activities: visit There’s an introductory video at

Counting on a new way with figures The Government should adopt a new approach to adult numeracy that focuses on how people use numbers in their everyday lives, according to an independent inquiry led by adult learning organisation NIACE. Numeracy must be rooted in people’s everyday lives, argued NIACE Director of Operations Carol Taylor on the publication of the report of the year-long inquiry in February. “It’s essential that adults calculate their household budgets accurately, are sure about the risks they take with credit, the time they need on a journey and how they can manage their health,” Carol said.

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“Improved knowledge and skills will help people gain more control over their lives and give them the confidence to help their children and grandchildren with their numeracy learning – this is an issue the country cannot afford to ignore.” The inquiry’s seven recommendations were not just about spending more money but also about spending the current budget in a way that works better for adults, she explained. That would involve: ❚ changing the way we think about adult numeracy ❚ a new measure of how well adults use numeracy ❚ numeracy provision from a wider range of organisations ❚ numeracy champions

❚ priority for adults with the poorest skills ❚ a strategic forum to help deliver the inquiry’s vision ❚ more in-depth research into what works best for adult numeracy learners. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) welcomed the report. “We welcome the report from NIACE, and will draw on its findings to inform the Government’s review of literacy and numeracy, alongside the findings of Ofsted and the expertise of a range of stakeholders, practitioners and academics,” a spokesperson said.

>> Download the report from

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News «

Photo: John Harris/

Skills alliance backs apprentices

Unionlearn welcomes new growth fund Unions have a vital role in improving workplace training and skills, unionlearn Director Tom Wilson commented as the Government announced a new £50 million Growth and Innovation Fund. The new fund is designed to boost investment and training and to help businesses develop the skills they need to drive growth. “Unions have a vital role in improving workplace training and skills, which is crucial if the UK is to compete in the global economy,” Tom said. Some employers are already investing in workforce development: four out of ten have financially backed Union Learning Fund projects in their workplaces, making an average investment of £23,000. Many more have provided ‘inkind’ investment through equipment, office space and time

off for ULRs and employees: such contributions have amounted to as much as £80,000 a year in the case of Bombardier in the East Midlands. The Growth and Innovation Fund will be delivered by a partnership between the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). UKCES Chairman Charlie Mayfield said the fund would “provide an opportunity for employers and Government to invest jointly in creating the new skills solutions required for a modern and dynamic economy”. He will also chair the Growth and Innovation Fund Board that will oversee the investment fund.

>> Download the GIF

prospectus from the UKCES website

The Manufacturing Skills Alliance (MSA) launched a new employer guide to apprenticeships in February. “Continuous support is needed to help all manufacturing industries realise that they can improve skill levels in their workforce and plan for growth in the future through apprenticeships,” commented Terry Watts, chief executive of ProSkills, one of five Sector Skills Councils that make up the Alliance. Securing the Future of Manufacturing: An Employer Guide to Apprenticeships in England was developed in conjunction with unionlearn, GMB, Prospect and Unite, and aims to provide a valuable resource for promoting the benefits of raising skills across the whole sector. “We are delighted to be working with the unions and unionlearn to help raise awareness of this crucial issue,” Terry said. Unite Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke said the union wanted more young people and more people interested in re-training to take up skilled apprenticeships in the sector. “But we need the help of manufacturing employers to ensure they take on more apprentices to avoid a skill shortage for the future,” he said.

>> Download the Employer Guide from

Apprenticeship Week roundup: pp12–15

Half-price green skills courses on offer Unionlearn is encouraging employers across the process and manufacturing sector to train their staff in the low carbon agenda with the help of a Government scheme that will cover up to half their costs. The scheme offers around 3,500 learners the chance to complete Level 3 and 4 qualifications in a range of energy efficiency courses, covering sustainable energy,

leadership and management, business improvement techniques and logistics. Employers will be able to access up to 50 per cent of the cost of the qualifications, with a total of £3.47 million available towards £7.26 million worth of training – but must apply now as all training must be underway by the end of July. “Employers within the process and manufacturing sector should

take this opportunity, as this is one of the only funded training programme available and is so important to the future of the sector as it deals directly with sustainability issues,” commented unionlearn Director Tom Wilson.

>> For more information, call

01235 432030; email; or visit

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» News

Northern fund is on the Ball

Alex Jones of ERS Consulting discussed the headline findings from the firm’s independent report, which was based on feedback from learners, learning reps, employers and stakeholders. The fund had helped nearly 5,000 learners, including more than 2,700 Skills for Life learners, enrol on courses in the past three years, he said. Between them, the learners had completed more than 1,100 qualifications at Level 2, nearly 200 at Level 3 and 49 at Level 4, while more than 10,000 informal learning completions have been racked up. The fund had helped train 360-plus ULRs, with 77 progressing onto Level 3 Information, Advice and Guidance and 73 onto Level 4. “The achievements of the Learning for All Fund are definitely something to shout about,” commented unionlearn Union Development Co-ordinator Beth Farhat.

Maths guru Johnny Ball encouraged people to improve their numeracy on a visit to KP Foods in Billingham

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Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan’s presentation looked at how far the fund had come since its launch nine years ago, while ULR Barry Curran from housing company Gentoo spoke about the importance of planning for success and the ultimate aim of workplace lifelong learning – sustainability. Petrina Lynn, Head of Learner Services at the Skills Funding Agency, painted a picture of the new skills landscape and national skills priorities, highlighting the issues of apprenticeships, Skills for Life provision and adult and community learning. Beth said the region was looking forward to further achievements in the years ahead. “We hope to emulate our successes here into the new challenges and areas of work that lie ahead and make a lasting impression there, too,” she said.

Do you know a union learning rep in the process and manufacturing sector whose contribution to workforce development deserves wider recognition? If so, you’ve got until Tuesday 21 June to nominate them as ULR of the Year at the ProSkills Awards. ProSkills is the Sector Skills Council covering building products, coatings and paint, extractive and mineral processing, furniture, furnishings and interiors, glass and related industries, glazed ceramics, paper and board and printing.

Name your favourite ULR

Unionlearn’s Northern region revealed the positive results of the latest evaluation of the Learning for All Fund (LfAF) at a showcase event for 100 people in St James’s Park late last year.

visit >> To enter your ULR,appren ticeship/ enter/enter

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News «

Photo: Rod Leon

Keith Faulkner

Midlands college wins award Successful union partnerships and pioneering work with apprentices has won Midlands provider Stephenson College a coveted unionlearn Quality Award. The Leicestershire provider has helped local public sector organisations run apprenticeship programmes and pioneered new vocational courses for young people embedding Skills for Life and preparation for the world of work.

An apprentice trained at Stephenson College is aiming to take gold at WorldSkills London later this year after making it into the UK squad for the event. Nineteen-year-old bricklayer Luke Welstead, who studied at Stephenson College while apprenticed at William Davis, is showing good form already: he took the top place on the podium at the national SkillBuild competition last year.

Skills Minister John Hayes presents the Quality Award to Stephenson College

Cornish cream rises to the top The cream of the Cornish adult learning community came together to celebrate a decade of union-led learning in the county at a unionlearn event in Newquay in March. Over the past 10 years, thousands of learners have taken courses, hundreds of learning organisers and ULRs have joined the ever-expanding network of learning activists and the St Austell learning centre has chalked up several major successes. South West TUC regional secretary Nigel Costley presented employer awards to Paul Kneebone of A&P Docks, Falmouth, and Christine Horsley, of RAF St Mawgan at the event. In addition, Cornwall College won a unionlearn Quality Award for its Skills for Life programme and IT, as did Truro and Penwith College (for its information, advice and guidance training). “Learning and skills are the best protection and the best way to

develop the Cornish economy of the future,” Nigel said. “We face hard times and that is why it is vital that unions are protecting people who are being made redundant and are helping them develop the skills they need to face these changes.” The event was not simply about looking back: Christina Bunce, of Falmouth University, unveiled the new Never Too Late To Learn website that encourages more adults to take up higher education courses in Cornwall. Unionlearn Regional Manager Helen Cole closed the day with a tribute to Geoff Hale, who has retired as Regional Development Worker. “It was his vision, his energy and the incredibly hard work he put in that enabled him to achieve all that he did for learning in the county – we will miss him,” she said.


Keith Faulkner, the TUC’s outstanding organiser of major conferences, demonstrations, rallies and festivals, who helped put together many major unionlearn events, has died at the age of 62. Keith, who worked for the TUC for over 30 years, helped plan and prepare unionlearn’s launch in 2006 and every major event in its calendar since. “Keith was always on hand to help as well as advise about image and presentation,” says Mike Power, the former unionlearn communications manager, who worked closely with him and greatly valued his hands-on practical support. “He helped us with our logo and publications, and on the day of a big conference he would be working with us to put up the banners and decorate the hall.” About 200 of Keith’s friends, family and colleagues celebrated his life at a memorial gathering in Congress House on 13 February, the day he would have reached 63 years of age. The former colleagues and friends who told anecdotes and stories about Keith at the event included a fellow member of the ‘18:06 Club’ (that met on the train from London to Hastings every evening) and the organiser of the Hastings annual Seafood and Wine Festival. At the funeral in Hastings, also attended by around 200 people, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber paid fulsome tribute to Keith’s outstanding contribution to the TUC and other campaigning and charity organisations.

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» Feature » Adult Learners’ Week With reading skills at Level 1 or below, and no education since school, all the staff had negative memories of learning and were apprehensive about returning to a classroom.

Eight workers from Brighton and Hove City Council’s Parks and Gardens Department have blossomed into keen adult learners through a reading scheme.

But a programme run jointly by the council and the GMB gave them a new zest for learning. And it led to their City Parks Literacy Group winning the Booktrust: Power of Reading Award South East in last year’s Adult Learners’ Week Awards. Group member Nick Bourton says he’s noticed his children are more interested in reading and school in general since he’s been reading bedtime stories to them. Since winning the award, Nick has been promoted from workshop mechanic to supervisor, using his newfound literacy and confidence. “Things have changed a lot for me,” he says. And fellow group member John Durrant has used the confidence he has recently gained to become a senior ULR. The key to success is mutual support, he says. “We are improving by helping ourselves and each other.”

Seven days in M Adult Learners’ Week celebrates learning and learners in all their diversity, inspiring thousands of people each May to try something new. This year is the 20th Adult Learners’ Week which runs from 14 to 20 May. There are a variety of business benefits reported by employers who encourage staff to improve their skills. “The hard business benefits of workplace learning have included a massive reduction on sickness, improved form filling and customer service, and more staff applying for promotion,” reports Cityclean at Brighton and Hove City Council.

>> The Adult Learners’ Week

Workplace Event Pack includes the popular ‘Event in a Box’ (a complete starter kit to run activities for up to 50 people), and a Quick Reads

Brighton Parks and Gardens workers John Durant (in hat), Ian Carr (folded arms) and Leigh Mandalin have grown in confidence through their award-winning reading scheme

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Learning At Work Day « Feature «

n May Employer Pack (60 Quick Reads, a display stand and a range of resources to create a buzz about reading). Order your pack now for just £140 (a discount of £25) from

>> There is also a wide range

of customisable resources to help you engage colleagues, as well as a free Online Event Diary (used by the free helpline at 0800 100 900) to advertise your events. (You have the option to register closed events, which means NIACE can mention them in PR work without publicising them as open to the public.) For more information, and to order your Adult Learners’ Week resources, visit

>> Passion for learning: p28

Get ready for Learning At Work Day >> The free Age

Future Matters is the theme of this year’s Learning At Work (LAW) Day on Thursday 19 May. The event is an annual awareness campaign organised by the Campaign for Learning (CfL) as part of Adult Learners’ Week. LAW Day promotes and supports workplace learning events across the country and aims to draw attention to the importance of workplace learning and skills. It encourages people to offer learning to all employees, especially those who may not participate in current learning opportunities.

>> There’s lots ULRs can do to

encourage colleagues to participate in learning and the CfL has provided ULR action planning material at

>> Becoming a Better

Learner is a new guide that looks at a range of activities that can help you maintain motivation and develop strategies and tactics for successful learning. Download your copy from

It’s all about sharing

Matters! toolkit includes sessions on planning for the future, diversity, health and retirement. The toolkit is available from the Learning at Work Day website

>> Learning at

Work Day is working with the Reading Agency’s Six Book Challenge, which encourages less confident readers to get reading. Participating workplaces will have the opportunity to enter a draw to win a visit from a top author. Last year Tess Gerritsen visited winners at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

Members of the New Charter Housing Trust Group transformation team display their award for inclusive learning

New Charter Housing Trust Group has won a major award for its commitment to education in the workplace. The group’s organisational transformation team has won a Campaign for Learning Award for its innovative Skill Share scheme. The project, which encouraged employees to share their skills and hobbies with colleagues, unearthed a wealth of talent at New Charter. As part of the scheme, seamstresses, photographers, card makers and even Tai Chi masters lined up to share their passions with others.

The project is part of a wider programme at New Charter aimed at promoting inclusive learning among staff. “It’s a fantastic addition to the company's trophy cabinet,” says ULR Hannah Grantham, who is also Skills Share coordinator and an organisational development trainer. “It reflects not only the group’s commitment to personal development, but also the enthusiasm of staff for learning new skills and passing on their knowledge to others.” The Skill Share scheme was delivered with funding from unionlearn.

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» Feature » Skills: Recession and Recovery

Photo: Paul Carter

The power of three (from left): USDAW ULRs Simon Gardner and Steve Flack, with Unite ULR Mick Masterman


Co-operative approach The Skills: Recession and Recovery Project has helped logistics staff at Co-operative Food face change at work. By Astrid Stubbs Since Co-operative Food announced it was moving its Hampshire supply chain logistics operation from Fareham to Andover, learning reps have been helping staff face the change with the help of the Skils: Recession and Recovery (SRR) project. The closure plan left Fareham staff facing the difficult choice of taking redundancy or moving to the new premises 45 miles away. The SSR project attended an initial meeting with the ULRs and helped to set up a formal site steering group with management, learning providers and Jobcentre Plus. An on-site learning centre is being set up and USDAW learning coordinators Simon Gardner and Steve Flack each have half a day a week facility time to assist staff. They are working alongside Unite ULR Mick Masterman to encourage colleagues with Skills for Life learning and other vocational training.

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In addition, more than 50 places have been allocated on computer courses for staff who want to take up ICT learning opportunities. And USDAW and the company have reached an agreement providing staff with up to £200 for vocational training and matched time for Skills for Life learning. “Lifelong learning is integral to our values as a group and we welcome the assistance of the SRR project in establishing training for lifelong skills within our workforce, as a part of the closure of this workplace and the opening of our new distribution centre in Andover,” says Matt Simons, the company’s regional HR manager. USDAW Lifelong Learning Project Worker Martin Bamford says the SRR project has offered vital advice and information and also identified learning providers.

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Skills: Recession and Recovery « Feature «

Read all about it… Unionlearn set up the Skills: Recession and Recovery (SRR) project in 2009 to help unions and their members cope with the economic downturn. The aim was to raise awareness of how important it is to keep updating one’s skills in order to deal with change in the workplace and remain confident about current and future employment. “The SRR project has been busy assisting unions to think of ways to take measures to handle change at the workplace across England,” says National Coordinator Kirsi Kekki. “The resources gathered and networks built with various external stakeholders give a good ground for unionlearn to mainstream the SRR project work to everyday support to unions. “At the end of the day, the better skilled and prepared for the future that union members are, the better chances they have to progress at work and tolerate any turmoil that downturn might bring.” The SRR has achieved a great deal and a lot of vital lessons were learnt and help provided to companies. This work is now moving on to a different phase. Materials from the project will continue to be available.

Gearing Up For Change is a new booklet of case studies showing how unions and partners have made a huge difference to people’s lives. It includes details of the joint work between the SRR project and the Money Advice Service – an excellent lesson on how building partnerships can bring benefits to union members. /files/ publications/documents/202.pdf

Revenue staff get financial help With 2,500 people working at the Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office in Washington, it was only a matter of time before someone needed support with money issues. The SRR project has distributed the Moneymadeclear Redundancy Handbook and Your Guide to Retirement and organised workplace workshops and briefings for reps to help members gain the skills to manage their finances through difficult times. You can order the guides from publications/index.cfm. Unionlearn has produced a ULR checklist for redundancy situations based on experience and information gathered during the SRR project. It has also compiled a list of questions for reps to raise when the employer is thinking of engaging an outplacement company to deliver things like career advice, CV writing workshops and interview skills in the workplace where people are at risk. Both are available on the unionlearn website at Making informed choices: Supporting learners at 50+ is also in production. It aims to offer advice and information for those over 50 facing change at the workplace or who are thinking of a new direction in their working life or after it.

That was the thinking behind a decision by ULRs to get involved in an SRR project financial skills training day to support colleagues. “While our members are not affected by cuts, people have partners and families who might be and there is always the need for impartial advice on financial issues,” says Tracy Maddison, PCS ULR at HMRC and regional learning coordinator. As a result, the ULRs attended a financial capability day offered through the SRR project that helped them set up a series of ongoing workshops for members where independent financial advice was available along with help and information on money matters from the CAB. “People are sometimes worried about jargon and lack of impartiality around financial matters,” says Tracy. “Banks are not always the best place to go to for advice as they are tied to their own products: we wanted to give people information so they are better informed before they approach professionals,” she says. “For example, we wanted them to know what APR is so that if, for instance, they were quoted an APR of 49 per cent, they would know they would never pay it off!” As well as signposting members to websites that can provide more support, the workshops have also offered help for those unable to access a computer, for instance to find cheaper car insurance. “We are happy to do that for them – it’s about helping people go that one step further, it’s not just about them as individuals but about their home life,” says Tracy. Feedback from the sessions has been really good, with a waiting list set up for more. “We would like to make them available every six months: even if people don’t need help now, financial situations can change,” she says.

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» Feature » Apprenticeships

Photographs: Mark Pinder

Investing in the next generation Unions have a central role to play in the further development of quality apprenticeships: that was the verdict from a major unionlearn conference during National Apprenticeship Week. By Martin Moriarty Greater investment in apprenticeships will protect the UK from sliding down the international economic league table, National Apprenticeship Service Chief Executive Simon Waugh told a packed unionlearn conference in the middle of National Apprenticeship Week.

All photos: Rod Leon

“The next year or two will be extraordinarily difficult but if we don’t invest in apprenticeships we’ll fall further behind in terms of the global economy,” he forecast at the Congress Centre event in February. Completion rates were improving all the time, he said. In 1997, only 25 per cent of starters completed their apprenticeships, while last year that figure had been driven up three times to 74 per cent. Progression was fundamental to young people fulfilling their potential, he argued, and with diversity currently “very high” on the its agenda, NAS was launching a pilot programme to work on developing Black and minority ethnic (BME) representation. The TUC and unionlearn had been “extraordinary

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partners” ever since NAS was launched two years ago. “We’re in this together, we’re joined side by side. Thank you for everything you’re doing – there’s more to be done in the future,” he said. Apprenticeships were a key component of the Government’s plans for growth, Skills Minister John Hayes told the conference. “We need to broadcast that apprenticeships are going to be bigger, better, and more central to our ambitions for growth than they have ever been,” he said. He said his personal ambition as a minister was to help create more apprenticeships than there had ever been in this country. “The usual figure is 400,000, but I think we can go beyond that,” he said. He publicly acknowledged “the importance of unionlearn and unions to our skills landscape” and, with a nod to the title of unionlearn’s apprenticeship initiative, added: “The premise that apprenticeships are union business is something to which I wholly, fully, enthusiastically subscribe.”

Apprenticeships must be central to UK plans for growth, say Skills Minister John Hayes (left) and NAS Chief Executive Simon Waugh

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Apprenticeships « Feature «

Here come the new kids on the block Apprentices from across the country shared their experiences of learning and working at the conference. In an increasingly competitive jobs market, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council IT apprentice John Patterson, 19, believed he would have the edge over friends who had taken the university route. “I would like to think that if they had two job applications, one from someone with qualifications from university and one from me with qualifications and hands-on technical experience, plus working with the public and learning council procedures and protocols, then I would have a better chance,” the UNISON member said. Former Sussex University student Anna Barnes, 21, said she was the first apprentice to be taken on by general union GMB, training in business administration in the union’s Brighton office and aiming to become a union education officer. “The qualification will be good for the CV, but what is most important is getting work experience, and being paid for it: some of my friends from uni are finding it hard enough to get unpaid internships,” she said. City of Lincoln Council apprentice Scott Walker, 23, revealed he had become a UCATT youth rep and was training to be a shop steward to repay the support from the union first when he was getting bullied and then when he needed extra time to achieve higher qualifications. “It is a great experience learning how to negotiate with management – it has given me lots of confidence: it’s also important that there are young people coming up through the union,” he said. GMB member Ben Sharpe was learning fabrication and shipwrighting at Babcock Marine, after deciding university wasn’t the route for him. “Apprenticeships give you a great opportunity – and you’re always going to have work afterwards,” he said. Apprentice electrician Lynne Dickinson, 28, was attracted to train at North-East housing company Gentoo because of the chance to get on. “Progression in the company was the big draw for me,” she said.

In brief ❚ Trade unions help protect and build the reputation of the apprenticeship brand by working for quality training and decent pay, said TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “Let’s be clear: unions can claim a share of the glory because we’re the ones who ensure the reputation of the brand remains high,” she told learning reps and other stakeholders at the event. ❚ ProSkills Chief Executive Office Terry Watts launched an employers’ guide to apprenticeships produced by the Manufacturing Skills Alliance, the Sector Skills Council training organisation run by Cogent, Improve, Proskills, Semta and Skillset. It was crucial to reach out to more employers, he argued. “Our job is to make apprenticeships more accessible to employers. Employer engagement is key – we need to make sure they see apprenticeships are for them.” ❚ Encouraging more young women into the engineering sector was vital, according to Semta Apprenticeship Executive Stephen Lilley. The Sector Skills Council for Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies had supported 650 women at 25 employers with the help of the Women in Work Sector Pathways Initiative, which helps employers develop their female staff. ❚ WorldSkills London 2011 would raise the aspirations of young people, change people’s perceptions of vocational skills and help drive up standards, predicted Participation Manager Michael Osbaldeston. Apprentices made up half the UK squad for the event, which would be whittled down to the team to represent the country in June, he said.

Apprentice voices (from top): Ben, Anna, John, Lynne, Scott

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» Feature » Apprenticeships

Let’s make a million British business should boost its prospects by recruiting one million new apprentices, says vocational education organisation City & Guilds Vocational education organisation City & Guilds launched a new campaign during National Apprenticeship Week in February to help ensure one million people start an apprenticeship over the next two years. “Apprentices are key to the future of the country,” commented seminar host Karren Brady, the vice-chair of West Ham United who has become a familiar face to many beyond the football world from her appearances alongside Sir Alan Sugar on BBC TV’s The Apprentice. “It’s crucial that apprenticeships bridge the gap between what companies need in order to grow and provide young and older people with hands-on experience, guidance and qualifications which develop and recognise real skills in a career they want.” The seminar also marked the publication of a new City & Guilds report, Building Business Through Apprenticeships, based on the responses of over 500 employers from across the UK. The report revealed that nine out of ten (89 per cent) employers surveyed saw apprentices as key to the future success of their business over the next two years, and more than half (52 per cent) of companies who already recruited apprentices believed they offered greater value than university graduates. Less happily, however, eight out of ten (80 per cent) employers had experienced barriers to hiring apprentices; a quarter (25 per cent) considered the process too bureaucratic; and more than a quarter (26 per cent) felt there weren’t relevant apprentice schemes for their business.

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“Many businesses, large or small, know that apprenticeships can transform their organisation, but unless the barriers preventing more employers, particularly SMEs, from hiring an apprentice are addressed, there will continue to be a gap between supply and demand,” commented City & Guilds CEO and Director General Chris Jones. “It is not enough for the Government to simply supply funding – as welcome as that may be. We know there are many constraints on businesses currently and barriers around hiring apprentices, and that is why we are launching Million Extra. It’s ambitious, but we are committed to providing tools, support and inspiration, and only by bringing people together can we find the right solutions to make this happen.”

>> To find out more

and download a copy of the report, visit

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Apprenticeships « Feature « Making a big difference

Photo: Jess Hurd/

Nearly 150 union leaning reps and other stakeholders from the Northern region attended Promoting Apprenticeships: A Role for Trade Unions, a major unionlearn event at St James’s Park for the start of National Apprenticeship Week.

FAST FACTS More than 30 per cent of Rolls-Royce apprentices have progressed to senior management roles within the company. BAe Systems has more former apprentices than graduates on its Board of Directors. More people applied for apprenticeships with BT last year than applied to study at Oxford University.

Supporting apprentices

>> Watch the film at initiatives/learn-3705f0.cfm?regional=5

Photo: National Apprenticeship Scheme

Photo: National Apprenticeship Service

The keynote speech came from Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, who is sponsoring a Small Change, Big Difference Bill in the House of Commons to ensure public procurement contracts include apprenticeship provisions. “Trade unions have an incredibly important role in promoting the status of apprenticeships and in working with employers and employees alike to encourage their uptake,” she said. National Apprenticeship Service Employer Services Director Alan Wallace said employers, learners and ultimately the region’s economy would benefit from more apprenticeships. “Union learning reps can play a significant role in providing support to potential learners and employers across the North-East, allowing more people and employers to benefit from apprenticeships,” he said. Phil Handley, Managing Director of Peterlee-based truck manufacturer Caterpillar, presented a case study showing how investing in apprenticeships had benefited the business.

More than 50 ULRs and other union reps signed pledges to promote apprenticeships to their branches and employers and support apprentices in the workplace at a unionlearn North-West event in Liverpool to mark National Apprenticeship Week. Laura Robertson-Collins, the regional unionlearn apprenticeships lead, emphasised how apprentices should be supported as learners in the workplace, with ULR and mentor support and the chance to join a union. Bob Kelly from the Merseyside TU Education Unit took participants through the three-day apprenticeships awareness course the unit runs every term – the next course runs 9–11 May (contact the unit on 0151 237 2751 to book a place). The event also included a showing of the unionlearn North-West film Apprenticeships Are Union Business, which shows two Merseyside case studies where ULRs have worked in partnership with their employer to recruit and support apprentices – at Aintree University Hospital Trust and Liverpool City Council.

Building the union role Unionlearn SERTUC organised a seminar in Congress House at the beginning of National Apprenticeship Week to help strengthen the union role in delivering high-quality, wellpaid on-the-job training for younger and older workers. Participation and completion rates were improving since the creation of the National Apprenticeship Service, said Employer Services Manager David Jackson: in 2001, 76 per cent of starters didn’t complete, but by 2009 74 per cent did. More big employers needed to invest in apprenticeships in the UK, since large organisations on average were training only three apprentices per 1,000 employees, argued unionlearn Director Tom Wilson. “Too many big employers are not pulling their weight,” he said. Kath Moore, who manages the Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA’s) Women into Construction Project, detailed its major successes in providing employment support and training for women interested in the industry.

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» Interview » Terry Jones

...and now for something

Perhaps so many canines pop up in his work because Terry himself owns a Jack Russell terrier, called Nancy.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

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Terry Jones « Interview «

completely different! He’s written sketches for Monty Python, award-winning children’s stories, grown-up history books and even the libretto for a new opera, but comedian Terry Jones says that doesn’t mean his new Quick Read was a stroll in the park.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

“It seemed like a rather jolly challenge – firstly to write something quite quickly and also to write something under the Quick Reads rules,” he laughs. While his own educational achievements include a degree from Oxford University, Terry can identify with the struggles of emergent adult readers since his son Bill was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of nine. “I also think if I had been taught the ‘look and say’ way I would be dyslexic,” says Terry, pointing out that Bill, now 44, runs a production company that won two Emmys (the ‘Oscars’ of the American TV industry) for a documentary about Monty Python. Trouble on the Heath, Terry’s laugh-out-loud tale of a dog-owning history professor taking on Russian gangsters as well as his local residents’ committee over a planning application, is actually rooted in events where he lives.

“It’s loosely based on what’s happening in my road in North London, although it’s totally exaggerated – we haven’t had any drive-by shootings!” he says. The book tells the story of Martin Thomas, who is so unhappy that the view he loves is about to be blocked by an ugly building that he decides to organise a protest. Along the way he gets mixed up with depressed town planners, violent gangsters, and a kidnapped concert pianist. But when he finds himself upside down with a gun in his mouth, Martin starts to wonder if objecting to the building was such a good idea. Terry’s Quick Read is only one part of his prodigious output this year. March saw the publication of his latest book for children, The Fantastic World of Terry Jones: Animal Tales, which features a dog who doesn’t understand why he can’t practise medicine, a fox who runs a circus of trained chickens, and a flea who thinks he manages a chain of mega-stores. In April, he directed The Doctor’s Tale at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (he also wrote the libretto), in which a doctor is thrown into the dog pound on account of being a dog.

Photo: © BBC

From the delightfully ridiculous Monty Python to his ludicrously sublime new opera, Terry Jones has put all sorts of entertaining words on the page. But he’d never written adult fiction by himself until he got down to work for Quick Reads. By Astrid Stubbs

(Perhaps so many canines pop up in his work because Terry himself owns a Jack Russell terrier, called Nancy.) The Doctor’s Tale is not his first operatic outing: in 2008 he wrote the libretto for Evil Machines, an opera presented in Lisbon – and the stories behind it may well appear in print later this year, alongside some of his earlier children’s books. Terry hopes that Trouble on the Heath will encourage people back to reading. “It was a fun thing to do and a challenge, but I do think it is a very good project to try and pull people back into reading: it is exactly the kind of thing I wish had been around when I was younger: I’m proud to be a part of the effort.” Writing the book has also given him a taste for further books for adults. “I’d love to do more,” he says.

He’s a very naughty boy! Terry’s film and TV roles include: Sir Bedevere the Wise in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Mandy (mother of Brian) and Simon the Holy Man in Life of Brian; many screechyvoiced women, including the waitress in the Spam sketch, in Monty Python’s Flying Circus

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» Interview » Terry Jones Photo: Jess Hurd/

Life of Terry ❚ Terry Jones was born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, and was a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. ❚ Best known for his work with the comedy group Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Terry was one of the directors of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail and also wrote, directed and starred in Life of Brian and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. ❚ As well as additional film credits including Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows, Terry has also made many television programmes, including Crusades, Medieval Lives, Barbarians and The Great Map Mystery.

, o

❚ Terry wrote the screenplay for Jim Henson's film Labyrinth, wrote Starship Titanic with Douglas Adams, and the academic works Chaucer’s Knight and Who Murdered Chaucer?. ❚ Terry is the author of many children’s books, including Fairy Tales, Fantastic Stories and The Saga of Erik the Viking. Trouble on the Heath is his first solo book of fiction for adults.

What Terry’s reading Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland by Susan Richards

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A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

Him Off The Viz by Simon Donald

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World Book Day « Feature «

Swap shop

Swapsies (from left): Michelle Gilmore, Rachel McKeown and Daniel Storr

Union members, ULRs, project workers and staff from neighbouring offices came along to donate a book that they no longer wanted and to pick up another in return at a swap organised by unionlearn Yorkshire and the Humber. Free copies of Union Writes 2010, an anthology of stories and poems written by trade unionists from the area, were also available – and everyone who attended was invited to have a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake and ponder a brain-teasing World Book Day Quiz. “The initiative is well established in schools but we want to support more adults to celebrate World Book Day as encouraging reading and

developing literacy can be the first step on the path to transforming lives,” said regional Union Development Coordinator Sharon Burke. ❚ Staff at Liverpool City Council held a one-hour book-giving event on Friday 4 March. ULR Vicky Nowak already works closely with Liverpool Libraries on the Six Book Challenge, and this was a chance to promote the initiative and get more people reading for pleasure. “I just want to encourage people to read: we had Quick Reads, and also books like The Spy Who Came In From Cold and The Reluctant Fundamentalist to give away,” said Vicky.

Caution… Mike at work

“I went up to her and said, ‘I wrote that book’ and pointed to my picture,” he told Royal Mail staff when he visited Mount Pleasant sorting office in London on World Book Day. “She then told me all about her life and that she had just split up with her boyfriend,” he revealed. Mike also used the visit to the learning centre to talk about his new Quick Read Men At Work and encourage postal workers to sign up to the Six Book Challenge, of which he is a patron.

Now the author of nine books, Mike started his career as a journalist, and once even worked for a short time as an agony uncle on teen magazine Bliss. There’s still time to take part in this year’s Six Book Challenge, which invites less confident readers to read six books and record their responses in order to receive incentives, a certificate and the chance to enter a national prize draw – a weekend in London for the winner and a guest.

Photo: Rod Leon

Author Mike Gayle was transfixed when he spotted a young woman reading one of his novels on a packed train. Across the crowded carriage he saw her finish the final page, close the book and burst into tears.

>> Visit for more information

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» Feature » Learning centres A unique partnership between Mersey Care NHS Trust and the Prison Officers Association (POA) is creating a huge range of learning opportunities for employees, their families, service users and carers and the wider community. The Union Learning Zone, based at Mersey Care’s e-café, on the Maghull Site, is a regional centre for POA Learning and the only centre of its kind based within an NHS Trust. It supports staff learning within both Mersey Care NHS Trust and the Prison Service – more than 300 learners currently use the centre on a regular basis. “We have an exciting creative vision for learning in Mersey Care that is inclusive and participatory,” explains Union Learning Zone Manager Lorraine Lewis. “We recognise that in today’s world things are constantly moving and that, in order to flourish, we too must continually adapt, reflect and ‘learn as we go’.” In exploring how best to support people on their learning adventure, the team has studied contemporary ideas and research from learning theory, organisational psychology/effectiveness and action science. “We have been transforming ourselves and our understanding, which helps us see learning as involving the whole person (body, mind, emotions and spirit) and the whole organisation (culture, behaviour, stories, symbols, policy, practices and systems),” Lorraine says. “In addition to learning a skill or gaining the knowledge necessary for our jobs, and learning how to be effective together as a team or an organisation, it is also important to our health and wellbeing that we are continually learning.” The Union Learning Zone is a UK online centre and part of a national network of POA learning centres committed to improving the quality of lives for people by giving them the skills, training and confidence to learn online. This approach has been successful in engaging local people, who come into the Zone to learn basic IT skills, such as using mobile phones, email and Skype. Some use their new-found skills to stay in contact with family and friends abroad, while for others the programmes are a much valued opportunity to engage

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with others. One local man, a supporter of Everton Football Club, now enjoys a post-match conversation with a fellow fan in Australia, while a Scrabble enthusiast has been linked up with a dentist in South Africa. “UK Online has always been about improving the quality of life through IT and new technology,” says Lorraine. “We use tools such as the myguide online resources that are aimed at getting people started on the internet. They have an email account and can sign up for free bite-sized computer courses, from basic keyboard and mouse skills and email and internet safety, through to online shopping, banking, job hunting and even digital photography and music. These are lifelong skills that enhance the quality of life for individuals.” The Union Learning Zone and Link Centres are open evenings and weekends (depending on demand) and operate drop-in sessions during lunch hours. An ICT suite boasts more than 20 computers, all with broadband provision. The centres offer information and advice, along with free or subsidised training courses, including: ❚ Skills for Life ❚ literacy, numeracy and Information, Communication and Technology ❚ NVQs in Business Administration, Customer Services, ITQ which are portfolio-based, set on the level of ability, job role and desired progression ❚ languages ❚ deaf awareness ❚ remote learning packages ❚ learndirect and other IT courses. Personal Assistant Christine Frawley had not taken an examination for 35 years. “I was very hesitant about going back to learning but at the Zone I found the most helpful and supportive people,” she says. “I felt fairly confident in English but struggled with maths,” says one of the prison officers. “Completing my Level 1 seemed to take for ever and I went into

Level 2 knowing the maths was going to get harder: knowing I had the support of the staff at the learning centre made the difference.” The Zone also acts as a base for Mersey Care and Prison Service union learning representatives (ULRs), who are based across a wide geographical area in the North-West. Thirty ULRs, from both the Trust and the Prison Service, are involved in the partnership. By working together as a team, they benefit from mutual support and encouragement. Union members who are interested in becoming ULRs can take advantage of TUC Education accredited training. ULRs also provide assistance to staff around interview skills, job searching, CV writing and online form filling. Learning support for staff is available to those on long-term sick leave, to help with planned, phased returns to work or to ‘brush up’ skills for redeployment for those at risk. “IT skills help empower the mature learner, supporting a long term connection with learning, reinforcing the idea that there is no age restriction on up-skilling,” says Lorraine. “This can also help people to bridge the generation gap and support their family members with their new-found skills.” The ULR team also provides leisure activities such as craft classes, promoting the idea of learning as fun, and actively supports both the Trust and the Prison Service health and well-being initiatives. “We introduce people from older age groups to young people, building bridges and breaking down barriers between the generations,” Lorraine says. Janet Hussein-Ali, Head of Learning and Development at Mersey Care NHS Trust, says: “We recognise that our workforce is the key to our success, so we are committed to investing in their learning and development. Our successful partnership with unionlearn has helped us fulfil that commitment.”

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Learning centres « Feature «

In the


“In addition to learning a skill or gaining the knowledge necessary for our jobs, it is also important to our health and well-being that we are continually learning.”

The trust is committed to investing in staff learning and development

How it works skilled workforce, recruitment and retention or improving the work/life balance for staff. The Union Learning Zone’s main objectives are to: ❚ support staff to achieve their full potential in both their personal and professional goals ❚ embed support systems for the training and development of a

network of union learning reps ❚ encourage staff from the Trust and Prison Service to participate in lifelong learning ❚ work in partnership with organisations like unionlearn, local colleges and providers to ensure that the partnership is a success.

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All photos: Colin McPherson

Hospital staff, local people and the Mersery Care NHS Trust all benefit from the Union Learning Zone

The Union Learning Zone partnership is match funded between POA Learning, Mersey Care NHS Trust, unionlearn’s ULF fund and Ufi/learndirect. There is a clear understanding that the partnership should benefit both Mersey Care NHS Trust and POA Learning, whether that is by investing in a more

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» ULR Profile » Helen King USDAW mobile ULR Helen King loves seeing the way learning transforms her members’ lives.

The look on their faces says it all Making people feel better about themselves was what drew me to become a union learning rep: it’s about encouraging people to do something different, gain self-esteem and raise their morale. They may have had a bad experience like being bullied at school, or they may have had a learning disability that wasn’t recognised, and being a ULR you can give them a second chance. I’ve been working for Tesco since 1994 and I became a shop steward in 2004, then a health and safety rep and then a ULR for my store in Martlesham, near Ipswich, in 2007. I was identified as a potential mobile ULR when we ran a Check Out Learning campaign there, and I’ve been out on secondment since then and never looked back! I’ve taken a number of courses since then but the one I’ve found the most rewarding so far was the ULR Stage 1 course through TUC Education, where we were grouped with learning reps from other sectors like the Fire Service and HMRC. Getting experience from sectors other than retail was great and it just opened our minds up to different ways of learning and different ways of encouraging people to learn. In a typical week, I can attend shop stewards’ meetings to talk about how to move learning forward in the workplace; talk to people in stores about what I’m doing and run learning surveys to see what courses people want; source providers in the area; find out where there are libraries or learning centres we can work with; arrange courses from providers for different stores; and talk to people about running Check Out Learning campaigns (we run six or seven in USDAW’s Eastern Region every year). Running Check Out Learning campaigns in stores raises morale, raises the profile of USDAW and show that we’re diversifying: we recruit new members, new activists, new learning reps, and we can work with them after the Check Out Learning campaign is finished to try and organise their workplace in a more efficient and effective way.

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Members can tend to see USDAW as just grievances and disciplinaries but learning gives them something else from the union – and they absolutely love being given the opportunity to do different things. It’s different with management as well – you get a lot more buy-in – because as a mobile ULR, I’m going in to stores to do learning, which is something positive, something that benefits their staff and benefits the store: I don’t get problems from any managers, they’re fully onboard, and that’s what makes the difference. I also work with the wider community: for World Book Night in March, I handed over 48 free copies of All Quiet On The Western Front to 4rce Training in Ipswich, which offers young adults the chance to develop on a personal and an academic level. They were really delighted that they got the books, so I’m looking forward to the next one now! The difficult thing at the moment is that because of the cutbacks, there’s obviously not very much funding out there to provide courses, and in the workplace I’m finding that people’s workload is three times as much, so when they do have spare time, they obviously don’t want to come back into a learning situation because all they want to do is go home and put their feet up. The best thing is that when I’ve organised a course, I like to go there at the very beginning of it and come back a few weeks later at the end to see how they’ve all got on and the difference in the expressions on their faces says it all. There was one woman who had been bullied at school, never really got on, and left with no qualifications – and she was nearly in tears when she passed her Numeracy Level 1. She told me, ‘If you’d ever had said before that I would have passed my numeracy exams at the age of 40, I’d never have believed you.’ And that is priceless – that’s what keeps me going.

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Helen King « ULR Profile «

Helen King is a mobile union learning rep for USDAW, and covers supermarkets in Essex and Suffolk.

Photos: Jess Hurd/

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» Interview » unionlearn Board


is what it’s all about

There’s nothing fluffy about learning, says PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka Union learning isn’t a ‘fluffy add-on’ – it sits at the heart of union work, says the General Secretary of the PCS union Mark Serwotka.

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“Learning is the door that gets people involved: they develop themselves, see the union has played a part in that and want improve the lot of their workforce” Photo: Jess Hurd/

Mark recalls an activist once asking him why the union was bothering with ‘this fluffy, nicey-nice stuff’ when it should be concerning itself with pay and conditions. “My answer was that if a union is for anything, it is for the empowerment and self-development of members. While pay and conditions are always of the utmost importance, this is an exciting area of work and we are right to get involved with it.” That’s why he is willing to praise the Government for continuing to invest in the Union Learning Fund. “It’s to the credit of the coalition that it is prepared to continue with funding. I hope the success of our efforts will persuade those in government that this is something that should be continued on a long-term basis,” he says. “We should never lose sight of the fact that union learning is of massive benefit to employers because a skilled and developed and motivated workforce can only be in the interests of companies large and small and public sector organisations large and small. The enthusiasm an individual can have when they see themselves developing and how that positivity can manifest itself in a variety of ways is a real benefit to employers.”

Mark says he never fails to be amazed at the way members seize the opportunity of learning to change themselves for the better. “It’s clear that public services are full of people who are absolutely committed and who really believe in providing first class public services and are really a pool of untapped talent,” he says. “I’m constantly inspired by the work that ULRs are doing and the many reps who came into activity through union learning. I have met ordinary members who took the

learning opportunity and are now active in the union in a wider sphere. Learning is the door that gets people involved; they develop themselves, see the union has played a part in that and want to be helping improve the lot of their workforce, whether in learning or on other issues.” Leaving school at 16 with just enough qualifications to get him into the Civil Service, Mark may yet follow his members into further learning; he’d love to take up study at degree level of his great passions – history and politics.

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

Women link hands across the globe

Trade unionists in the South West marked the centenary of International Women’s Day with a globe-trotting one-day event in March. Organised by South West TUC and sponsored by UNISON, Unite and the GMB, the free event celebrated the success of women from different cultures both at home and abroad. Marissa Begonia told participants how she left three young children in the Philippines when she came to Britain as a domestic worker 16 years ago. She is now head of Justice 4 Domestic Workers, a campaigning organisation run by and for migrant workers. Pemba Lama, Deputy General Secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), explained how the federation had to operate underground since all unions were banned when GEFONT was formed in 1989.

Agnieszka Szpinda spoke about the Devon Migrant Impact Fund Project; GMB Project Worker Joanna Lucyszyn talked about International Women’s Day in Poland; while other speakers included Eleanor Smith, UNISON member of the TUC General Council, and Sally Brett, senior policy officer at the TUC. The day closed with a performance of the one-act play Close to the Edge, which looks at the issues of diminishing resources and strategies for survival.

Global partners (clockwise, from left): Pemba Lama, Deputy General Secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions; Sheva Viv in Close to the Edge; and UNISON member Chiu Chan(left)

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» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn Safety partnership to benefit staff Photos: Rod Leon

Tackling barriers to progress Unionlearn in the Midlands has run a highly successful one-day workshop for black and minority ethnic (BME) workers facing redundancy. With the threat of redundancy daunting on many levels, the workshop took a practical approach, helping people deal with stress, learn to upskill and maintain confidence. The course included: recognising potential barriers to development and progression; identifying and acquiring transferable skills; and encouraging people to work with colleagues to plan, organise and get support when at risk of redundancy. The event followed the successful one-day Black Workers into Management Workshop unionlearn ran by in the region last year, pictured above. Designed as a starting base for BME workers interested in looking at their potential to become first line managers or supervisors, the workshop proved very popular from the

moment unionlearn began to circulate the details. Within two weeks of it being advertised, more than 100 BME workers requested places, and workshops ran across the region. More than 30 years on from the Race Relations Act 1976, many barriers preventing BME workers from securing well paid jobs and promotion have yet to be dismantled. In addition, the ethnic pay gap still stands as high as 26 per cent for some groups of BME workers relative to their white, male counterparts. “Unionlearn has been tackling disadvantage in the workplace by offering this course to women, disabled and BME workers, all of whom face barriers to promotion in the workplace,” says Regional Manager Mary Alys. “Although the regional project funding is no longer available to support these courses, they can still be provided if local or workplace funding is available.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) teamed up with the Yorkshire and the Humber Region of the TUC to promote the benefits of engaging with the workforce and to share best practice. The event included case studies from BAM Construct UK and Kier Asset Partnership Services, with details of their programmes to involve employees in health and safety decisions and the positive impact they’ve had on employee engagement. Workshops encouraged participants to think about how they could involve all employees and improve their company’s health, safety and welfare. The forum was held at Sheffield College’s Trade Union Studies Centre, which was saved from closure by a recent campaign. The college offers TUC union reps and health and safety reps courses as well as diploma courses. Short and bespoke courses are also available.

Pete and Paul pair up Paul Hafren (left) and Pete Holland sign the partnership agreement between Warrington Collegiate and TUC Education

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Warrington Collegiate and TUC Education have celebrated their long standing relationship with a new partnership agreement signed by college Principal Paul Hafren and TUC Regional Education Officer Pete Holland. Through its work with TUC Education, Warrington Collegiate has received several awards since 2008, including the unionlearn Quality

Award, Good Practices in Working with Trade Unions and Good Practices in Teaching and Learning. “The college’s trade union education programme is one of the best in the country,” says Paul. “It is developed in partnership with TUC Education and provides accredited courses for union representatives and members throughout Cheshire and Merseyside. “This long-term strategic partnership is benefiting both Warrington Collegiate and TUC Education with the plan to increase provision within the college.”

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

Raking over the ashes of Cinderloo Shopshire’s dramatic industrial past, including the Battle of Cinderloo, will be studied by a new Shropshire Trade Union History Group formed of students and staff from Shrewsbury College TUC Education Centre. “We are exploring several significant events in local trade union history, such as the confrontation between miners and local yeomanry at Dawley in 1821,” explains TUC tutor Steve Bradfield, who is organising the group.

During the confrontation, the Dawley strikers defended themselves by throwing hot cinders at the yeomanry, possibly fearing the same levels of hostility witnessed at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester two years earlier. While the Manchester event became infamous as the Peterloo Massacre, the Shropshire clash is known locally as the Battle of Cinderloo and is to this day commemorated on the banner of Shropshire and Telford Trades Union Council.

The Battle of Cinderloo in Shropshire is commemorated on the local trades council banner: now the event is to be studied by the new history group

Vilnius warms the heart When it’s minus 20 outside, there’s nothing like a trade union course to warm the cockles of your heart. That’s what 14 trainers from 12 different countries found when they came together on a course for Eurotrainers in Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius. The event was led by Alex Dias of The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the education and training arm of the European Trade Union Congress (ETUC), alongside Concha da Sena of Spain’s biggest union CCOO and Pete Try, Midlands unionlearn regional education officer. Danute Slionskiene of LPSK, the largest Lithuanian trade union centre, represented the host organisation. ETUI offers a range of seminars, courses and

conferences on the key issues facing European trade unions, playing a leading role in promoting social dialogue between government, employers and unions. Courses take place in a range of locations across Europe. ETUI policy is to include tutors and trainers from ETUC-affiliated national unions in its course teams. Eurotrainers is the demanding two-stage preparation programme for those who want to become involved. “Although ETUI courses are challenging, they are enormously rewarding,” says Pete Try. “Tutors get to work with colleagues from other trade union and national cultures across the EU, develop pedagogical skills, get involved in a different aspect of trade union education and make friends too.”

European co-operation (from left): course participants Willy Essandore from Finland, Lorena Castro Martinez from Spain, Isabelle Ourny from Austria and Paola Vinciguerra from Italy

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» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn A passion for learning wins top award for Vitalis Vitalis Ndeda found work as a cleaner when he arrived in the UK from the former Soviet Union but involvement with union learning offered him the path to a new life. Now Vitalis has been honoured with an Adult Learners’ Week (ALW) award, marking his fantastic learning journey. “Men never shed tears in my culture because they are supposed to be brave – I have and I know why: this news did it! I feel complete, am truly thrilled,” he said. Vitalis came into contact with the RMT union after starting work at London Underground, where he was an agency labourer. His interest in health and safety saw him embark on a number of TUC Health and Safety Reps courses at Lewisham College Trade Union Studies Centre. After being made redundant, he was employed as a protection master in the same industry and became a ULR for his union. Vitalis went on to become a Health and Safety Adviser with the construction group Bryen and Langley and is now also a trained NVQ Health and Safety Levels 1–4 assessor with a Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety. He’s now studying for his Diploma in Employment Law and wants to work for his union one day. “It’s done so much for me. I’d never have known such opportunities existed if it hadn’t been for the union. Now I want to pass on my knowledge and help other people,” he says. Trade Union Studies Centre Head Rossina Harris, who proposed Vitalis for his ALW award, says his learning has benefited from the start he had with his trade union as a union rep. “Other union members are now benefiting from what he has learned and he has introduced training programmes into his workplace and has become a trainer himself,” she says. “He has been attending TUC courses at Lewisham College for 10 years, and we have now taken him on as an NVQ assessor in health and safety. He is passionate about giving back something to the people who helped him on his journey and to his members.” Vitalis Ndeda (left) collects his health and safety certificate from unionlearn Regional Education Officer Rob Hancock

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Full steam ahead for Northern rail staff

RMT learners and learning reps from Northern Rail and East Coast Trains enjoyed a celebration of learning at the Northern Rail Training Centre in Leeds. The occasion represented a significant achievement for the ULRs, who faced considerable difficulty getting learning off the ground because of working patterns on the railway. ULRs Mohammed Ilyas, Trish Morgan and Geoff Hutchinson conducted learning needs surveys that showed their colleagues were keen on literacy, numeracy and ICT courses. With flexibility the key requirement, they persuaded Leeds City College to provide a tutor to suit their hours. The RMT provided laptops for learners and East Coast Trains provided a learning room. Northern Rail guard Daren Roden says his English skills were poor before he started learning and the only thing he know how to do with a computer was switch it on. “Now I’ve completed the course, my literacy has improved 100 per cent, my spelling has improved and I am now much more confident using a computer,” he says. “I’m keen to get on another course.”

Learners and learning reps from Northern Rail and East Coast Trains celebrate their achievements

“I am more confident about my writing skills now and sending emails at work”

Learning rep Trish, who participated in a weekly course herself, said the literacy component was very useful. “I am more confident about my writing skills now and sending emails at work: I would like to continue and attend a Level 2 literacy course and eventually write my own short stories,” she says. “Short courses like this are excellent because they open your mind to what you can achieve.”

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

Learning proves key ingredient in baker’s rise to the top BFAWU President Ian Hodson says union learning is behind all the success he has had in his journey from shop steward to the top of the union.

Blackpool and The Fylde College TUC Course Coordinator Dave Barnes (left) congratulates BFAWU President Dave Barnes

“I left school without any qualifications and everything I have achieved is down to the opportunities provided by TUC Education and BFAWU courses,” says Ian. As a new shop steward at Lyons Biscuits, Blackpool, Ian attended his first course at Blackpool and The Fylde College in 1990.

That was TUC Stage 1, and he quickly progressed to Stage 2, undertook Health and Safety 1 and 2 and ITC courses, and later successfully completed an HND in Employee Relations. After getting more active in his union, Ian became branch secretary and helped establish the Horizon Learning Centre at the Devonshire Road factory. He then took on the role of Region 4 Organising Regional Secretary before finally becoming National President.

Lechyd da (Cheers!) to green jobs Learning first-hand how a union-driven project at the INBEV Brewery in Magor has reduced the company’s carbon footprint by 50 per cent gave union learners a good excuse to raise a glass on the ETUI Green Jobs course in Cardiff. Hosted by Wales TUC, the course enabled union learners from all over the European Union to share their experiences and identify best practice to adapt in their own countries. Topics included green jobs and the skills needed to fulfil them; greening existing jobs and workplaces; the national situation between member states; and the strategies already existing or planned by trade unions across Europe.

Guest speakers included Deputy First Minister Ieun Wyn Jones and Jane Davidson, minister for the environment, sustainability and housing. The first Welsh Green Award was presented to Tony Bates of INBEV, the driving force behind the ETUI Green Jobs Course. Participant John James from Wales says he enjoyed having the opportunity to exchange views, ideas and information with different unions from all over the EU. “As a result, UK participants have been invited to speak at a green reps’ conference in Germany; Belgium is already looking to incorporate unionlearn materials into its union green reps courses; and, most importantly, we are in the process of setting up an EU green rep network where the information being shared has already been put to use,” he says.

Roll out the barrels: European trade unionists visit the INBEV Brewery during the ETUI Green Jobs course

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» Contacts

unionlearn contacts All TUC email addresses are first initial followed by

» Unionlearn Tel: 020 7079 6920 Fax: 020 7079 6921 Director Tom Wilson Tel: 020 7079 6922

» National unionlearn managers Standards and Quality Ian Borkett Tel: 020 7079 6940 Research and Strategy Bert Clough Tel: 020 7079 6925 Communications James Asser Tel: 020 7079 6942 Trade Union Education Liz Rees Tel: 020 7079 6923 Union Development Judith Swift Tel: 0151 243 2568 Business, Finance and ULF Catherine McClennan Tel: 07795 606 982 Informal Adult Learning Joe Fearnehough Tel: 0151 236 7678

» U-Net centres Helen Gagliasso Tel: 0191 227 5567

» Website Jay Sreedharan Tel: 020 7079 6943

30 » spring 2011

» Southern and Eastern Tel: 020 7467 1251 Regional Manager Barry Francis Union Development Coordinator Jon Tennison Regional Education Officers Rob Hancock Theresa Daly

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

» Northern Regional Manager Kevin Rowan Tel: 0191 227 5565 Union Development Coordinator Beth Farhat Tel: 0191 227 5576 Regional Education Officer Ian West Tel: 0191 227 5572

» North West 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

» South West

» Union contacts

Regional Manager Helen Cole Tel: 0117 947 0521 Union Development Coordinator Ros Etheridge Regional Development Workers Bristol Alan Shearn Tel: 0117 947 0521 Regional Education Officer Marie Hughes Tel: 0117 933 4443

Aslef Shirley Handsley Tel: 07739 473 174 Aspect Nelly Tackla-Wright Tel: 01226 383 428 ATL Kate Quigley Tel: 020 7782 1558 BECTU Brian Kelly Tel: 020 7346 0900 BFAWU John Vickers Tel: 01132 565 925 BSU Vikki Botham Tel: 07717 805 521 Community Tom Davis Tel: 01562 749 170 CSP Penny Bromley Tel: 020 7306 6666 CWU Paul Dovey Tel: 020 8971 7212 Equity Louise Grainger Tel: 020 7670 0214 FBU Trevor Shanahan Tel: 07917 759 473 FDA Neil Rider Tel: 020 7401 5575 NAPO Jonathan Ledger Tel: 020 7223 4887 NASUWT Stephen Smith Tel: 0121 453 6150 NUJ Linda King Tel: 020 7843 3717 NUM Chris Skidmore Tel: 01226 215 555 NUT Andrew Parry Williams Tel: 020 7380 4800/4780 PCS David McEvoy Tel: 020 7801 2727 ext 2360

» 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

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Resources «

Jay knows PFA Alan Irwin Tel: 07717 467 718 POA Phil Kelly Tel: 020 8803 1761 Prospect Rachel Bennett Tel: 020 7902 6687 RCM Denise Linay Tel: 020 7312 3422 RCN Linda McBride Tel: 020 7647 3855 RMT Teresa Williams Tel: 07881 812 244 SCP Liz Salem Tel: 01625 829 396 TSSA Sal Morawetz Tel: 020 7529 8049 UCATT Jeff Hopewell Tel: 01302 360 725 UFS Patricia Mayo Tel: 01242 253 259 UNISON Joanna Cain Tel: 020 7551 1700 Unite Tom Beattie Tel: 020 8462 7755 Unite Jim Telford Tel: 07980 874 662 Unity Gerald Crookes Tel: 01782 280 588 URTU Graham Cooper Tel: 07795 562 874 USDAW Ann Murphy Tel: 0161 224 2804

Jay Sreedharan, unionlearn’s website officer, answers some recent questions raised by site visitors Q What does digital inclusion mean and is it something I need to consider in my role as a ULR? A In a Google world of buzzing Blackberries, non-stop Tweeting and social networking sites, it is difficult to imagine life without the ‘Send’ button. But for 9 million people, cyber-space is still a distant galaxy and we want these people to be included in this digital age and enjoy the personal and social benefits of being online. Digital inclusion means different things to different people. Whether it is giving people the basic ICT skills to participate or making technology and electronic services more accessible, we can all help bridge the digital divide at work and in our communities. Unions have a wide reach to over 6 million members, but our positive influence extends much wider to members' friends, families and local communities. Here are four simple things you can do to use your positive influence to reach the people who are both digitally and socially excluded. ❚ Get them interested: help them find something that interests them on the internet i.e. gardening tips, checking sports scores or connecting with relatives, and so on. ❚ Find a computer: once you've got someone interested, you can get them started – it could be at home or at a learning centre, but start somewhere where both of you feel comfortable. ❚ Get started with the basics: Myguide Online basics package of courses is a great way for anyone to learn the basics of using computers and the internet. The courses are easy to complete and you can register together for free. The courses will teach them the basics, including using a mouse and keyboard, emailing, searching and using the internet safely. ❚ Go ON – get more out of life online: this campaign has produced a fantastic toolkit to get you started; you'll find everything you need to run your activity from 'how to' guides to posters, PR templates to session plans component/content/article/9-gettingonline/3769-toolkit-downloads.html

Q My union officer suggested I should introduce Learning at Work Day to my workplace. But what is it? A Your union officer has made a useful suggestion! National Learning at Work (LAW) Day has become the biggest celebration of learning and development in and through the workplace and it’s a great way for ULRs across the country to get involved. It will take place on Thursday 19 May and this year’s theme is Future Matters. The theme highlights the importance of learning and development for individuals and organisations when facing change, reaching goals, planning for the future and developing new ways of working and living. Find out more about the theme at WorkplaceLearning/lawday/themes/ index.asp LAW Day is the perfect platform for you to promote and stimulate workplace learning and skills. Most people find that the workplace is an ideal place to learn as it often gets people excited about their own development. Last year, thousands of organisations took part including large corporations, SMEs, public sector organisations and government departments – so this is your chance to get your organisation involved. If you are interested in taking part, make sure you register online with the Campaign for Learning and tick ‘workplace learning’ as an interest. You will then receive the latest updates and special offers through regular enewsletters. To help you get started, try exploring the Learning at Work Day website, where you can access online planning guides, downloadable activities, resources to order and information on making your case to senior management: lawday. Join the thousands of organisations that take part each year and make a public commitment to learning and skills by putting on special events and activities. Good luck!

>> Help get someone online today: for more information please visit

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Resources « Roundup «


Order now from And postage and packing is also free new

Training for Trade Union Workplace Reps This guide is for employers who receive requests from trade union representatives for time off work to take part in union training. It outlines the responsibilities of employers and unions over training for representatives, and gives practical advice about how the benefits can be shared.


Union Professional Development Programme 2011 Now in its seventh year, the union professional development programme has been updated by TUC tutors for 2011. And there are new courses in the core and bespoke programme available to support the professional development of union staff.

Gearing up for Change This booklet of easy to read, short case studies highlights the variety of ways the Skills: Recession and Recovery project has made an impact. Gearing up for Change tells eight stories from around England with different views on how the unionlearn's Skills: Recession and Recovery project has engaged with trade unions and other stakeholders.

Unions and Skills Utilisation This authoritative paper sets out the need for greater policy focus on the utilisation of skills and how it is linked with High Involvement Work Practices (HIWPs). The report makes recommendations on how unions can get more involved in skills utilisation strategies and negotiate new organisational practices and fair shares of productive gains.

Making Learning Affordable – Setting Up Collective Learning Funds This toolkit is a resource for union reps and ULRs to help them establish collective learning funds in their workplace. It includes a booklet that explains what CLFs are and their benefits to unions and learners, a booklet containing six case studies, and factsheets that provide practical help on how to establish a CLF.

Online Learning with TUC Education Over the past five years, thousands of trade union representatives have taken part in and benefited from TUC Education's online learning programme. This guide gives the details of our comprehensive range of courses and offers a convenient and effective solution to reps looking to develop their knowledge and skills.

Unions and Sector Skills Councils A series of case studies of social partnership good practice. This booklet details just some of the ways in which unions and SSCs already work together and is a follow-up to the highly successful seminar on the subject earlier in the year.

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 and anyone interested in union learning.

Scan this code to go straight to the link for The Learning Rep mailing list or to order additional copies.


The Learning Rep magazine - Spring 2011  
The Learning Rep magazine - Spring 2011  

In this issue: In this issue: Adult Learners' Week; Learning At Work Day; Skills: Recession and Recovery; Apprenticeships; Interview with Te...