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Marchmont Observatory

Lessons for the Future

Extracts from Evaluation Reports September and December 2011

Project 1: Skills for the Future South West Project 2: CRUNCH Project Cornwall Jo Pye Senior Researcher, Marchmont Observatory College of Social Sciences & International Studies University of Exeter

Contents Introduction 3

Project 1: Skills for the Future Fund, South West


Background to the project


Conclusions and recommendations


Case study 1


Case study 2


Case study 3


Project 2: Countering Recession through Union Networking Co-operation and Help (CRUNCH) Project Cornwall


Introduction 19 2.2 ‘Soft’ outcomes


Case study A


Case study B


Case study C


Case study D


Case study E


Conclusions and recommendations


Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West



Introduction We hope that this booklet will inspire you to further develop work on learning in your workplace. It is a distillation of two independent evaluations completed by Marchmont Observatory, Exeter University at the end of 2011. It sets out the achievements of unionlearn’s Skills for the Future and Countering Recession through Union Networking Co-operation and Help (CRUNCH) Funds in the South West over the last 3 years, together with a selection of good practice case studies showcasing the work of unions and union learning reps. You will be able to see how many learners have benefitted from their unions’ support and to see the wide range of sectors and workplaces involved. There is no doubt that unions and employers working together on learning and skills contributes positively to workplace communications and quality of work. The union movement has now developed a real expertise in this area and uses learning creatively in order to reach out to more learners. There is also evidence of learning and skills being jointly sustained in some workplaces, without the need for additional funding. The aim, as always, is to help more people develop skills, reach their potential and improve their lives. Through the success of the funds, unionlearn is now intending to support unions in their work on collective learning funds, involving employers and other partners. The aim is to increase the number of South West workplaces where unions and employers work together on learning and skills and where this work is sustained and forms part of the culture and conditions of the workplace. All this takes hard work, time and effort on the part of the unions and their representatives and this commitment is much appreciated by the unionlearn team.

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Project 1

Skills for the Future Fund, South West


Background to the project Skills for the Future Fund, South West The TUC unionlearn Skills for the Future project was launched in September 2009. It was intended to act in the South West as a successor initiative to Learning Works for All (LWfA), which had channelled South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) support to union-led learning development projects from 2003 to 2009.

to encourage the development of a ‘whole organisation’ approach to identifying, managing and delivering learning and skills solutions that allowed for the innovation of unions and their partners. (Sustainability Strand) The respective target groups, activity periods and budget contributions covered by the distinctive funds were as follows:

▸▸ SWRDA: £450,000 – April 2009 to March 2012 The project had been devised during the closing months of 2008 as a specific response to the worsening economic climate. With its target group of workers at risk of redundancy, Skills for the Future supported retraining for workers at risk in recession, early enough to ensure the most positive outcomes in current or alternative employment. The project represented an important milestone in TUC efforts to pilot innovative support for learning in the workplace. Ultimately it identified and made use of three distinctive sources of funding which were brought together to support complementary aims for the project. The SWRDA funding was coupled with European Social Fund (ESF) to provide ‘at risk’ support and the national ‘Union Learning Fund’ provided support for the project’s ‘Sustainability strand. Used together they opened access to a broader range of activities than would have been possible individually. The TUC unionlearn Skills for the Future (SftF) project fund was set up; to support trade unions to provide learning and skill development opportunities for workers and workers’ representatives in the South West of England, excluding Cornwall where Convergence European Social Fund support was available. to support a partnership response to the economic downturn. It aimed to provide skills and employability support that increased individual employability and that retained skills in the region during a period of economic flux. (At Risk Strand)

(later amended to December 2011)

▴▴ Activities: focused on At Risk of Redundancy and Redundancy (At Risk Strand)

▸▸ ESF: £300,000 – Sept 2009 to July 2011 (initially March 2011 for union fund)

▴▴ Activities: focused on At Risk of Redundancy, Redundancy and ‘at risk of exclusion from learning’ (At Risk Strand)

▸▸ ULF: £500,000 – May 2009 to March 2011

▴▴ Activities: focused on union learning,

including development of the union learning infrastructure (Sustainability Strand)

Skills for the Future performance Skills for the Future has been very successful, reaching all major outputs and drawing down 98.7% of the potential budget. The project has supported 2,200 people in the region, including 1,000 who were at risk of redundancy or of being excluded from learning opportunities. Individuals have gained access to redundancy support, including job search skills development, as well as support for generic and vocational skills training from Level 1 to Level 5. The project also helped new workplace learning committees and 6 new learning centres establish in the region and it provided training for 285 ULRs and officers to enable them to deliver this support. Twenty one unions have been involved in the project; 10 have held SftF contracts ranging in Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


value from £2,000 to £81,168 within a total fund of £573,855 (BFAWU, BSU, FBU, GMB, Equity, PCS, POA, UCATT, UNITE, USDAW); others have worked in partnership with contract holders or their members have accessed support through unionlearn training events. Project support reached a wide range of sectors including; Construction and Building Services, the Creative Industries, Education, Health and Social Care, Distribution, Finance, General Services, Manufacturing (Engineering, Marine, Food & Drink and other manufacturing), Printing, Retail, Telecommunications, Transport, Utilities and the Public Sector. 50 private sector employers were involved and 24 employers were represented within the public sector; 14 agencies, 5 government departments, 3 local authorities and 2 Emergency Service providers. 3 ‘not for profit’ organisations are also found within the employer profile. 121 beneficiaries were self employed. This group are found primarily within the construction and performing arts sectors and were supported when they faced reduced work or the end of a contract with no further work ahead. The unions have worked with many partner organisations to deliver services, including employers; learning providers; sector skills councils; business support agencies and information, advice and support organisations. This partnership approach was reflected in the SftF Steering Group, which assisted unionlearn to manage the fund. This group included representatives from unions, employer organisations, funders and a wide range of skills and support agencies. Events and training sessions for union representatives and officers also involved a wide range of partner agencies and this assisted unions to provide up to date and comprehensive information, support and opportunity to South West workers and their employers. Union learning centres already established under the Learning Works for All fund were considered key to improving support available to cope with recession. Targeted funding for further learning centre development in the South West has ensured that they have remained a visible emblem of employers and unions working in partnership. They are a key legacy of the Skills for the Future project and contribute substantially to the project’s longer term impact, offering many useful lessons for project case studies. 6

During adverse economic conditions when employers have been reluctant to release staff for training, continuing investment in learning centre facilities is considered beneficial for future staff development. Partnership protocols were also established at an early stage of Skills for the Future with a range of government agencies with a remit for redundancy support. The project’s Steering Group included representation from funding bodies SWRDA, the national Union Learning Fund and the Skills Funding Agency (originally as the Learning and Skills Council ‘Skills for Life Unit’) and JobCentre Plus as well as Business Link (later Peninsula Enterprise), Nextstep, Citizens Advice, ACAS, the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), SEMTA representing Sector Skills Councils, the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, as well as TUC unionlearn and affiliate unions. The ULF Sustainability strand closed in March 2011 having successfully delivered its outcomes, with new opportunities for learners, impressive learning centre partnerships with employers, Quality Awards, higher level learning and continuing professional development all identified as ‘wins’ for this strand of the project. The ESF element of the ‘At Risk’ strand closed in July 2011 and the SWRDA element at the end of 2011. Across all strands non-accredited course provision has been a huge success, offering short learning opportunities to prepare people to move into alternative employment. The training and support of 285 officers and representatives in learning and redundancy support has contributed significantly to the long term impact of the project in the region. Future directions for mainstreaming results from Skills for the Future include ongoing union-led work with ESF Response to Redundancy contractors, building links across almost all the South West region. The project could also build on the legacy of the TUC Green Workplaces project – funded by SWRDA from April 2008 to March 2011 – continuing to promote green skills initiatives, bringing together sustainable and economic development agendas across the ‘three pillars of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental’. Areas of interest for possible future work in this area include: exploring ‘green skills’ apprenticeships; innovative embedded basic skills; community initiatives for ‘green skills’

Figure A Learner outcomes under the Sustainability strand Funders Profile

250 979

Contracts Profile 1184

U1 – Entrant


90 737 1169

U2 – Referral

940 946 880

U3 – U9 Enrolments

350 272 371

U10 – FE Programmes

50 37 87

U11 – HE Programmes

and learning; and working with non-unionised businesses to demonstrate the benefits of worker-led energy saving.

Sustainability strand performance At the outset, the central team were mindful that the economic downturn was likely to affect engagement with formal learning outputs, and deliberately enhanced Sustainability Strand targets for union partners covering ULR-delivered advice and guidance (U1) and learner support referrals (U2). They were well aware that these ‘softer’ initial engagement outcomes played to the strengths of unions and were likely to be met more comfortably. As final numbers attest, this strategy did indeed work out as intended, as will be seen in Figure A. Even though targets had been increased for unions, they were still able to

achieve nearly 500% of the overall contract target for advice and guidance and 121% of the union target. Referrals were even more successful, reaching an impressive 1302% of contract target and 159% of union target. Enrolments on to formal courses at a range of qualifications levels (U3-U9) were not quite as high, but still achieved a total of 92% of funders’ targets and 85% of unions’ targets. As the project was active at the same time as Train to Gain funding support covering Level 2 qualifications was being withdrawn, it is a credit to the project that recruitment onto training at this level was able to continue. Under these targets were also included prospective ULRs undergoing their initial accredited training at Level 2 or 3. Sustainability strand results for further education by individuals

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


(U10) also well exceeded both funders’ and unions’ own projections, at 107% of contract target and 138% of unions’ targets. Individuals enrolled in higher education did better still and achieved 174% of contract targets and 235% of union targets. Higher education enrolments (U11) were a significant (and somewhat unexpected) outcome for the Skills for the Future project, which may partly reflect a lack of higher level enrolment (rather than progression) targets under the At Risk strand, as well as increased opportunities for learning. Achievement of the remaining union-orientated targets in the Sustainability strand (Figure B) was however more problematic. Release of staff for training – whether as ULRs or for other formal qualifications – was badly affected by the recession, as employers were neither able to give time off for training nor assign additional staff to ‘backfill’ those training. This trend negatively affected TUC unionlearn projects throughout the UK during this period. The project team highlighted in their final report to the Union Learning Fund that the economic downturn had had a negative impact with engagement (U12) and training (U13) of union learning representatives (ULRs) as well as employer participation. The national TUC unionlearn over the lifetime of the project withdrew existing ‘follow on’ level 2 CPD modules for trained ULRs following changes in the FE funding system, which hindered progression opportunities for new ULRs. The replacement ULR Stage 2 course only became available in the last months of the project term. The project team responded by offering other follow-on training, which tended to be unaccredited continuing professional development and was sufficiently popular to bring in good results. Engagement of ULRs finalised at 32% of contract target and 58% of union targets, whilst ULR training (both Skills for Life and other training) came in at 71% of contract target and 134% of union targets respectively. Initial estimates of levels of employer signup to the then-recently established Skills Pledge (U18) eventually proved to be so low as to be unrealistic, whilst the willingness of employers to enter into new Learning Agreements (U14) with unions was very limited at 12.5% of contract target and 25% of 8

union targets. Despite this, unions still did well to build on existing relationships with employers, particularly those who were prepared to set up workplace learning centres (U15) for their staff: 175% of contract target and 88% of union targets. Fresh provider engagement was confirmed with referral for union Quality Awards (U16) at 71% of contract target although only 50% of union targets, and Partnership Agreements (U17) at 40% of contract target, the latter of which exceeded expectations from unions. Partnership with external agencies and related organisations was a key outcome of the project Steering Group, which was able to set in motion specific activities in collaboration to mitigate the effects of redundancy. The Sustainability strand covered the activities of nine unions plus direct delivery by unionlearn. The latter included continuing professional education for learners and ULRs, as well as 22 networking events that were initially unprofiled – and well supported by members. Partner unions established six new learning centres under this strand and upgraded an existing one. Unfortunately there is not scope within this evaluation report to analyse their achievements in detail, but it is significant that the more patchy performance under this strand can be linked to challenging external circumstances, rather than unions’ own efforts. Project management feedback indicates however that unions had been slow in submitting final returns under this strand.

At Risk strand performance The At Risk strand incorporates two complementary funding streams, both of which cover provision of training for individuals. At risk target groups eligible for ESF E support include not only those affected by economic downturn but also those in groups recognised as excluded from learning opportunities. Opportunities on offer cover information, advice and guidance to individuals including ULRs, and accredited and unaccredited learning starts and completions of Skills for Life courses and Levels 1, 2 and 3 national qualifications (including part achievement). Progressions into further and higher education are also covered. RDA R funding explicitly

Figure B Union outcomes under the Sustainability strand Funders Profile

60 33

Contracts Profile


U12 – New ULRs


30 25

U13 – ULR Follow-on (Skills for Life)

0 70 28 71

U13 – ULR Follow-on (Other)

24 12 3

U14 – Learning Agreements Signed

4 8 7

U15 – Learning Centre

7 10 5

U16 – Quality Award Referral

10 0 4

U17 – Partnership Agreements

6 4 1

U18 – Skills Pledge

targets workers both ‘at risk’ and ‘under formal notice’ of redundancy and outcomes are broader, including ‘assisting’ individuals to find alternative work (including self-employment), develop their skills, or train towards Skills for Life and Level 2 qualifications. Both funding components target development of ULRs to support workers at risk. ESF E funding covers specific training events provided by unionlearn to upgrade ULR skills and update resources, and is

designed to strengthen partnership approaches to delivery. RDA R funding is also targeted at training of ULRs and officers to support ‘at risk’ groups as well as more general learning development, which is provided by unionlearn as well as unions themselves as part of their RDA sponsored work. As mentioned above, the ESF component of this strand presented challenges to both the unions and the project team. Its high level administrative

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


requirements were set as a benchmark standard for returns to be submitted across all strands of the project, to ensure consistency in quality and expectations. Union partners were concerned however that the complexity of ESF paperwork represented a considerable additional responsibility for ULRs, which would take time away from delivery and could discourage them from recruiting individuals for support. National frameworks to channel ESF funding have also undergone a substantial shift since the Competitiveness and Convergence Programmes began in 2007. ESF projects which commenced under Learning and Skills Council funding regulations prior to 2010 have undergone a series of shifting requirements during the transition of the LSC to the Skills Funding Agency in spring 2010. Amendments and clarifications to procedures and data management have continued since the Coalition government took office immediately afterwards. Differing interpretations of eligibility have arisen at late stages of project delivery, which have retrospectively affected project support for the self-employed and evidence clarification from providers. The gradual withdrawal of Train to Gain funding should also be noted over this period, which has altered dynamics of relationships with providers and their mainstream support available for Level 2 workplace funding. It will be noticed in the ESF E breakdown in Figure C that contract target numbers and those of union partners tend to be more closely aligned than in the Sustainability strand. The project management figures confirm that numbers of people supported with information, advice and guidance (E1) overachieved on contract targets at 105%. Starts on unaccredited courses (E3) performed well and were delivered through short course modules, which are popular with union learners. However, starts on accredited qualifications (E2, E4, E5), unfortunately, have fared worse, leading to an overall achievement figure of 66%. Skills for Life starts reached only 33% of revised contract target, and starts on other accredited learning (E4) and Level 3 qualifications (E5) have not been at all successful; there are few Level 1 outputs, and Level 2 qualifications reached about 50% of contract target. Targets for completed courses under ESF are closer to target levels. Aggregated figures indicate that completion of Skills for Life (E6), unaccredited 10

outcomes (E7), and Level 1 and Level 2 (both under E9) qualifications are relatively high, at 82% of contract targets. Other ESF E outputs cover progressions to further learning, both within further education (E10) and beyond (E11) in higher education settings. Good success has been achieved with the latter, with figures overachieving on national targets at 108%. Within higher education targets however only two have progressed to further learning. Finally, targeted support for ULRs (E12) overachieved on the national target at 106%. Returns on the SWRDA funded R outputs Figure D, have been very positive, with all targets met or exceeded except the signing of skills pledges (R6). For people under notice of redundancy (R1) and given support to find alternative work, returns reached 100% of national targets. This is a pleasing result for this core target group of the project. For those at risk of redundancy and accessing skills development (R2), levels reached 115% of the national target. Skills for Life enrolments (R3) for those at risk or under notice were also exceeded at 107% of national and 117% of union targets respectively. The target achievement for unions supporting those at risk to start their first Level 2 qualification (R4) achieved 100% of national targets. Again, results for ULRs and union learning officers receiving training in learning support (R5) are high and have exceeded expectations: 229% of national targets and 255% of union targets. Skills Pledges have not been achieved at all.

Figure C Learner outcomes under the At Risk ESF E strand Funders Profile

260 260

Contracts Profile


E1 (Entrants)


260 260 172

E2–E5 (Starts) 208 208


E6–E9 (Achievements) 203 200 220

E10 (Progression FE)

2 8 5

E11 (Progression HE)

Figure D. Learner outcomes under the At Risk RDA R strand Funders Profile

289 283

Contracts Profile


R1 – Formal Notice Support


384 380 445

R2 – At Risk Support (min. 6hrs)

94 86 101

R3 – Skills for Life

48 48 48

R4 – 1st Level 2

48 43 110

R5 – Reps Supported

9 5 0

R6 – Skills Pledge Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Conclusions and recommendations An independent evaluation of the Skills for the Future (SftF) project was undertaken by the University of Exeter during 2011. The subsequent report highlighted the following conclusions and recommendations; Union capacity building Shifting priorities have made unions think and adapt to changes in demand – but they have also remained true to their core mission: improvements in education and training to working-class people and communities. Unions work very differently at regional level with few opportunities to meet or share practice, other than at unionlearn meetings and events. SftF enhanced the union experience by setting up the Joint Operations Group (JOG) for contracted unions to come together separately from Steering Group to review progress and achievement and exchange and disseminate good practice and information. JOG has helped overcome isolation and provided like-minded networking opportunities. Employers agree that the TUC unionlearn is a positive force; the project has bridged a gap and can channel TUC unionlearn support to benefit workplaces through their unions. SftF has been very effective in improving communications between unions and expanded their view from the traditional focus on recruitment and retention of members. Unions have more confidence now, and can take strategic decisions to assess the potential for different pots of money on a case by case basis. Unions have improved their services to members through the project. Skills for the Future has enabled organisations to engage and has had a significant impact in supporting unions’ work on learning. Unions have taken ownership of SftF and worked very hard to support the project.


Generally, the role of unions in learning has taken forward work-based learning and demonstrated the key role of ULRs in the workplace. The work unions have done on learning has pushed the cause forward, and has changed the image of unions in a positive way. Project management has been very successful and provided helpful and flexible support. Key lessons have been opportunities to share good practice under the JOG and meetings should be continued after the close of the project. SftF has provided excellent value for money and is well focused on the quality of delivery and the union experience. It has had very good penetration into South West workplaces and been a really positive experience for participating unions, who have made a lot of progress nationally and locally.

Developing models of good practice SftF has provided support for workplace learning centres and employers have responded positively, building on a high-trust relationship and empowerment. Learning agendas have enabled development of a completely different way of working, giving real life experience of partnership with shared aims. Learning models have become a way of working and practice, and how to demonstrate change within power structures. Nationally, TUC unionlearn has learned a lot from regional projects in how to manage funds and support unions involved. Even regionally, the South West has learned from Cornwall, and is good at looking for and spreading best practice. In exchange, regions have highlighted national good practice. Learning centres are a workplace model of good practice and could be commissioned for innovation. It is an important milestone for employers to consider the spreading of innovation by opening centres to external users.

SftF set up a robust management information collection system which is also spreading as good practice, improving data collection, techniques, and enhancing unions’ capacity to help unions bid competently within any funding programme.

Overall redundancy support has worked particularly well and is fit for purpose. It gives unions concrete objectives and outcomes in exchange for paperwork, which frees them to support members in a manner appropriate to the specific situation.


Training and progression

The entire SW TUC approach over time since LWfA has built a very strong profile for responsive work, listening well and being creative, sourcing funding. This project works well with everyone despite administrative complications. The hallmark of this is the importance of building very strong relationships with partners and stakeholders.

There are suggestions that unions ‘prioritised’ ULF funded Sustainability strand outcomes, as this was the funding framework they had experienced and involved less paperwork. The central team has been very careful to monitor outcomes across the respective project strands, and made adjustments to ensure all strands are taken up by unions.

The Joint Operations Group model worked well (as in the Cornwall CRUNCH project) as a good forum for sharing by unions, and also provided training and support for union-led projects. The Steering Group has been very important, enabling partnerships that may not otherwise have happened. Good practice centres round project applications, steering experiences, sharing expertise from their own organisational perspectives.

Progress across training targets has been uneven. Although progressions have done quite well, Skills for Life and Level 1 and 2 targets have suffered from poor uptake. Central changes to Train to Gain and further education funding during the course of the project have undermined achievements across these outputs. ULR progressions have also suffered through withdrawal and revamping of qualifications during much of the project.

Developing and strengthening partnerships has been very important for unionlearn and is assessed in project funding applications. SftF introduced these between unions, employers and public sector agencies – Business Link, Citizens’ Advice, National Apprenticeship Service and Nextstep have not all come to the table before. The project has both built on and initiated relationships, which has been a huge shift nationally and regionally.

ESF cross-cutting themes

Skills for the Future has expanded active membership in unions who could not previously have worked so closely with mainstream agencies. It has identified contacts and helped to build relations with stakeholders.

Equal access to learning and development has been much improved in the South West. Equality and diversity is central to union work but cannot be taken for granted. Innovation and sustainability through union learning centres offer a continuing legacy of infrastructure. It involves a strengthening a track record, proper delivery against contracting, and providing financial security. Sustainability should be built in from the beginning.

Supporting redundancy Through work with Response to Redundancy unionlearn has developed a remit to promote learning opportunities in the workplace, and outcomes have come from that. There is a definite widening of the union perspective from a single focus on fighting for the last job to one that also supports members’ employability, with a greater concentration on retaining skills and making them more relevant to the modern workplace. Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Case study


The South West RDA Legacy: The Marine Company Chain Reaction – A&P, J&S and Babcock A&P Falmouth, Learning Works for All

J&S Barnstaple, Learning Works for All

A&P Falmouth is a very large ship repair yard, one of the last dry docks in the UK, which services both MoD and commercial vessels. Three major unions are represented on site: UNITE, GMB and UCATT. In 2007, Unite in partnership with A&P successfully bid for Learning Works for All funding from TUC unionlearn to establish the Marine Skills Project at A&P. The project was open to casual as well as permanent staff and aimed to transform existing training activities at the dockyard through: identifying training needs; improving employees’ skills, literacy and numeracy; and safeguarding jobs through enhanced workforce competitiveness and efficiency.

The success of Learning Works for All funding with the Marine Skills Project in Cornwall was soon to be replicated in North Devon, and again led by UNITE. J&S in Barnstaple provides engineering solutions, production and support services and products to the defence, oil and gas and marine renewable energy sectors. Between September 2007 and October 2008, J&S set up an on-site learning centre which delivers high level technical and specialist training, basic ICT training and personal development opportunities. The initiative provides support and training for J&S supply chain and the wider sector, and draws in participation by the SEMTA Sector Skills Council, Marine South West and the Marine Skills Centre in Plymouth.

The GMB union took over the lead role in the project in early 2009 and – through the combined efforts of an active new ULR and a supportive provider – overcame initial scepticism to revitalise the training programme, attracting renewed support from all unions on site and securing a match paid time release agreement with the company on a 50/50 basis. In the four years since 2007, with GMB and Unite as ‘training organisers’ and with support from other unions, Learning Works for All and successor funding has transformed the learning culture in the company and involved staff at all levels in learning. Future activities will build on the new available space to expand and develop daytime training. The approach taken in this project was recently shared with member states at the European Social Partnership Forum in Hanover in May 2011, where it was commended as a European model of best practice.


J&S considered one of the overall benefits of their involvement with the Learning Works for All project to be the increased flexibility of staff and their willingness to develop new skills and services. The new strategic direction with a bespoke engineering focus has enabled a greater investment in the team. As the business is going through change, the training facility has allowed them to bring on peoples’ skills in parallel and expand access to ICT hardware and software. The workforce are now much better skilled across a broader skills base and earn higher wages as a result.

The GMB union learning representative says:

The Union has supported the “transformation of our business

I can’t stress enough how good the relationship is between A&P, GMB and our provider. We have to keep track of the hours given up for the employer, but as long as the directors are keen and can see improvements we can really streamline IT operations – and A&P gains through the job being done more efficiently.

The J&S engineering director

recognising the importance of change and responding positively. Their support for the Learning Centre was an outstanding example of the cooperative approach.

Since Learning Works for All J&S has taken union-led learning forward and has worked both with A&P in Falmouth and Babcock Marine. The quality of collaboration with unions is better and they have provided extra value through their presence on site.

Babcock International – The Business Case, Skills for the Future Babcock Marine is located at the Appledore shipyard in North Devon. TUC unionlearn‘s first contact with the shipyard at Appledore was to provide Learning Works for All fund support for workers facing redundancy following the closure of the yard in 2003. Several years later, following purchase by Babcock and the company taking on a large MoD contract, the site underwent restructuring. The company signed a Skills Pledge and learning agreement with GMB and UNITE unions and undertook a skills audit with support from a second Learning Works for All project. Management agreed to support learning with 50/50 time off and release ULRs to interview potential learners and support practical delivery.

The training budget within the “company is increasing year on year to

keep up with the demand stimulated by the project. I can go to the MD and tell him his workforce is better skilled, working more productively, because of learning – and he is right behind it. People here have really grasped learning; it’s not only made their lives better, but helped them feel better about their lives.

The Babcock training manager

The Skills for the Future project up to March 2011 resourced enhancement of the on-site learning centre as part of a long-term, company-wide strategy to support lifelong learning and skills development. New partnerships have formed, notably with the local college which works closely with the ULRs. Courses have been contextualised to company requirements by ULRs and delivered in house. Staff once trained have been promoted to team leader posts. Babcock are now starting to work with individual trades and occupational groups to develop more specific tailored learning. Future plans for the centre include providing courses in engineering and shipbuilding to apprentices and staff from other local companies and careers promotion with schools.

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Case study


The Unique Role of the ULR and Steering Group in Successful Partnership Delivery: Glatfelter Glatfelter is based in the Forest of Dean and is a premium supplier of technical and speciality papers, especially for tea and coffee: it attracts two-thirds of the global market for teabag paper. The mill started in 1965 and was taken over in 2006 by a long-established US firm which also has a site in Germany; beyond these locations, there are other mills in France and the Philippines. The team works very closely with overseas colleagues but most of Glatfelter’s workforce is local. Prior to union involvement there had been some training of core competencies for supervisors, but there was a general recognition that teams and individuals should be developed more. Glatfelter is fully unionised under a single union: UNITE. There is only one ULR on site who has got learning initiatives underway at the company, setting up and coordinating company learning. He came to the management and introduced learning and skills meetings every few weeks, bringing together the human relations manager, the mill manager, another senior manager, a union learning officer for the South West as well as himself, and college providers. The ULR also began to survey the learning needs of individual staff in September 2009, which identified a major requirement for ICT skills in light of new company computer systems. The survey also revealed that the majority of employees preferred to come into work on their rest days and do their learning in a learning centre on site, due to the prevailing shift pattern at the mill. To meet current and future skills needs, UNITE and the company in partnership applied for funding through the Skills for the Future project to set up and kit out a company training/union learning centre 16

on the Glatfelter site. The new learning centre has been running since April 2010. Information, referral, advice and guidance has been managed by the ULR, supported by the site union representatives and the human resources department. Skills for Life learning needs are identified through the one to one discussions with the ULR, and employees are also offered a Skills for Life assessment as part of their chosen package of learning. Courses include literacy, numeracy and IT and language skills, company vocational training, continuous improvement projects, Business Improvement Technique (BIT) NVQ 2 and 3 courses, and apprenticeship programmes in engineering and papermaking. Since its participation in the project, Glatfelter has noticed that staff skills and motivation have improved, and staff have taken on more responsibilities in their existing jobs. Profits, costs and productivity have increased, along with investment in ICT, new training plans, and earmarked funds for future staff training. The company looks ahead to exploring new markets with a more positive outlook and stronger position. For the future, the steering committee is currently exploring the possibility of setting up a collective learning fund to bring together financial support for the learning centre from various sources. In the longer term there is potential for the centre to be used for mill visitors, careers promotion, and providing training sessions for employees from other paper mills and local companies. Sustainability of the centre will depend on efforts by the union and company to fund or subsidise future activity and keep in touch with current government funding initiatives.

Contextualised training needs to “happen. It has been a step change:

training for appraisal to understand the needs of the business. The Glatfelter mill manager



Case study

Journey through Redundancy: The Individual (W, BSU) W had been working for Britannia for four years when he was made redundant in November 2010. He had been a member of the Britannia Staff Union (BSU) for the previous two years since gaining a permanent job as an accounts specialist in the Direct Savings department, and had been expecting a longterm future with the company.

Following a company wide property review, in 2010 Britannia decided to close the entire department and end its lease on the building it occupied in Bristol. Staff were given six months’ notice of the impending closure. Working with the BSU under its ‘At Risk’ ESF strand, the Skills for the Future project was able to coordinate a wide range of redundancy support for all staff in the department, not only union members. Retraining opportunities were made available through BSU via both trade union courses and

external college providers in Bristol, including statutory courses such as First Aid. Job support packages W was able to access included one-toone meetings with his line manager as well as group sessions involving the entire department. BSU provided employability training, help with CVs and interview guidance. JobCentre Plus advisors visited the workplace and organised workshops and jobseekers preparation for staff. W was impressed with all the support provided through the union. W took up the challenge to find another job. After four months, he got a new post through an agency for an industrial law firm, as a project coordinator looking after a database system. He currently works for the accounts department and is steadily gaining knowledge of a fresh area of work. With a chosen career in finance, W can now build up the experience he needs to develop his skills. His new post offers opportunities to reskill and he is hoping to take courses in accountancy. W eventually wants to move into management information analysis.

Britannia union got good deals “forThe us – I was really happy with the

package of support. Everyone was able to have the benefit.

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Project 2

Countering Recession through Union Networking Co-operation and Help (CRUNCH) Project Cornwall

Introduction The Countering Recession through Union Networking Co-operation and Help (CRUNCH) project initially began in June 2009, and as such was one of the later projects to be supported under the first round of the Convergence European Social Fund (ESF) in Cornwall. It was also the fourth project which TUC unionlearn had been commissioned to deliver under Convergence, although its first as the main accountable body, contracting directly with the (then)-Learning and Skills Council (LSC), whose responsibilities were transferred to the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) during the lifetime of CRUNCH. Earlier projects commissioned by the LSC in 2008 with TUC involvement were: the Workforce Led project (accountable body: Cornwall College), and Skills for Work and Capacity Building Works (accountable body: Cornwall Learning Partnership). CRUNCH represented a significant departure and a major challenge for TUC unionlearn in Cornwall as the main accountable body for the project, a role which confirmed its growing influence in workforce learning within Cornwall since its contributions to the predecessor Objective One ESF Programme. The timing of the CRUNCH project was important, as it reflected increasing national concerns arising from the UK ‘credit crunch’ and ensuing financial instability following the Northern Rock collapse in September 2008. Once the fuller implications of likely effects on the national economy were understood, it was widely anticipated that there would be longer term negative repercussions on the labour market. With employers in the public and private sectors expecting to have to cut jobs in order to survive, CRUNCH was a timely reminder that union activities have traditionally sought to shield their members from the worst effects of redundancy.

Marchmont Observatory

The CRUNCH project aimed to improve the quality and quantity of support from union representatives for working people affected by the threat and risks associated with redundancy in Cornwall. CRUNCH was itself one of a suite of projects funded by the LSC/SFA to help people in Cornwall combat the economic downturn. Mainstream providers of training and employment advice were also awarded ESF projects at that time under the national Response to Redundancy initiative in order to help:

▸▸ Individuals under notice of redundancy and their employer organisations;

▸▸ Individuals who were newly redundant; ▸▸ Individuals who were unemployed but would be

ready for employment after receiving a package of skills development support.

There were several key differences between CRUNCH and the mainstream Response to Redundancy programme, however. One was that it did not explicitly target those workers already under notice of redundancy nor newly made redundant. Instead it was able to act as an ‘early warning system’ to support workers who had not yet received notice, but whose employers were already beginning to implement measures such as short time working or enforced layoffs. CRUNCH was also a Convergence Priority 5 project – a counterpart strand to Competitiveness Priority 2 projects elsewhere in the UK – which meant that its activities were targeted to those already in work rather than unemployed individuals seeking to enter the labour market. Another important development for CRUNCH and its trade union constituency was that it explicitly endorsed the role of union learning officers (ULOs) and union learning representatives (ULRs) in providing much needed support for worker training in unionised workplaces. The Union Learning

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Fund (ULF) which commenced in 1998 enabled unions to start running learning projects, including recruitment and development of specialist union learning representatives to support this work. The ULR network set up since that time has accumulated a substantial body of evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness in workplaces large and small around the UK. Recognising this, the objectives of the CRUNCH project were specifically tuned to develop the ULR network in Cornwall and support ULRs’ training needs at all levels. The CRUNCH project’s original objectives were to:

▸▸ Recruit and train and support an additional 40 new ULRs

▸▸ Improve the skills of a further 210 union

representatives to help support those affected by redundancy

▸▸ Encourage at least an additional 130 union

members or potential members to undertake learning to improve their employment prospects

▸▸ Work with partners such as Next Steps, Train to

Gain, providers, industry sectors and geographic clusters of businesses to improve the quality and quantity of information and advice available to workers facing redundancy

▸▸ Develop the U-Net Trade Union Learning Centre at St Austell as a drop-in and training centre

▸▸ Promote progression, professional development and higher level skills

▸▸ Set up a Skills Fund to support workers with their learning at a time when people will be facing financial pressures

Looking at these with the benefit of hindsight, it will be immediately apparent that the national policy landscape for workplace learning has undergone a considerable shift since 2009. The advent of the Skills Funding Agency and the Coalition Government in 2010 introduced a raft of new measures to cope with an economy in recession, including phasing out the Train to Gain initiative which was a flagship programme for the LSC under New Labour. As Train to Gain had been one of the more successful workplace learning programmes in recent years, there are now fewer incentives available in the UK for employers to set up training in their businesses.


Union-led initiatives like CRUNCH in Cornwall – and its sister project Skills for the Future in the rest of the South West region – have had an important contribution to make in validating the role of union learning staff in bringing employers into training. The CRUNCH project, and the European Social Fund more widely, have offered a major opportunity for the UK to plug the funding gap for workplace training left behind by the withdrawal of Train to Gain. The CRUNCH project has progressed well over time to achieve its target outputs as envisaged. It has taken measures wherever necessary both to encourage and support its trade union partners, who themselves have reported significant uptake in both union membership in Cornwall as well as bringing workers into learning. By the end of the project in December 2011 (Table 2.2), CRUNCH had met or comfortably exceeded almost all of its original target outputs. Their achievement represents sterling work by the individual unions as well as strong dedicated support by TUC unionlearn project staff. It also reflects a close and flexible working relationship with SFA project officers over time, which ensured that the trickier projected deliverables could be reallocated where possible to respond to actual learner demand. Trends in project progress have been reviewed during the course of the project, with outputs sampled in detail in March 2011, again in September 2011, and reviewed prior to project close in December 2011 (final outputs are awaiting validation by the SFA). Figure 2.1 (overleaf) illustrates the project position as of March 2011. Figure 2.2 (overleaf) illustrates the excellent performance of CRUNCH over the nine-month period since March 2011, during which achievements almost doubled in key outputs: project ‘starts’ or PAPS (Participant Assessment Planning and Support) and

Table 2.2 CRUNCH target outputs and final deliverables achieved, December 2011 Achieved by Dec 11

Total Project target



Starts Skills 4 Life



Starts non accred



Starts other accred



Starts L1



Starts L2



Starts L3



Comp Skills 4 Life



Complete non accred



Comp other accred



Complete L1



Complete L2



Complete L3



Progression to FE



Progression to HE



Part achv L1



Part achv L2



Part achv L3




non-accredited learning starts and completions. Progression to further education, which had developed slowly during the first half of the project, was particularly impressive over the closing months. Many ESF projects struggle to recruit participants consistently and experience a lessening of demand for places as they approach the end of their funding period. By contrast, CRUNCH trade union partners have done very well to attract a steady flow of individuals into learning over the lifetime of the project. Project ‘starts’ had seen monthly improvements since CRUNCH’s inception: the March 2011 ‘snapshot’ of progress (Figure 2.1) showed achievement of nearly 86% of their final target

numbers. Between March 2011 and the end of the project in December 2011, however, recruitment increased sharply as earlier figures astoundingly almost doubled – reaching a total of almost 900 across all the areas of project delivery. Reviewing the progress of CRUNCH across outputs, it is clear that there are a number of areas in which targets reflect the ‘core’ union learning offer. One of the most impressive achievements for the project’s union partners has been in the consistent uptake of non-accredited learning opportunities on a monthby-month basis. Non-accredited learning plays to the strengths of union-led learning, enabling a range of informal activities for union members such as ‘training days’, awareness raising workshops and networking events. These ‘taster sessions’ were recognised by the Skills Funding Agency as key to attracting union members at risk towards the full set of more formal learning opportunities provided through the CRUNCH project. In response to CRUNCH’s significant achievement of its total of non-accredited outputs long before project close, the SFA awarded an additional £139k in summer 2010 to drive further progression activity into accredited qualifications. Again, Figure 2.2 shows how well CRUNCH partners had used the additional funding by December 2011, also nearly doubling non-accredited learning starts and completions recorded in March 2011. Progressions into higher education (HE) have provided innovative development opportunities for the project, which in early 2011 ran a series of ‘bite sized’ HE modules at the St Austell Learning Centre which were well attended by learners. These acted as a showcase for two partner further education providers and also distance education through the Open University. By end March 2011 nearly half the target numbers were recorded as achieved by CRUNCH, with more anticipated to have enrolled direct with colleges. These had almost been entirely met by December 2011. A detailed breakdown of each of the partner unions’ own progress with quantitative targets under CRUNCH has not been possible for this evaluation. ‘Softer’ outcomes for union learning officers and learning representatives for selected unions are included in the next section 2.2, and case studies (section 4) are drawn from the most active unions in CRUNCH. It is important to acknowledge that all participating unions Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Figure 2.1 CRUNCH position at 31 March 2011 (selected outputs) Target

20 11

Start on Skils 4 Life


20 8

Complete Skils 4 Life 60 56

Start on L1 (e.g. ECDL)

55 15

Complete L1 70


Start on L2 49


Complete L2 70 58

Start on L3

49 5

Complete L3 200 225

Any Reps completing a non-accred course

49 25

are very different in their size, member coverage, industry sectors, operating models and presence within Cornwall. Nevertheless, CRUNCH has been able to bring together on a regular basis twelve unions for its bi-monthly Joint Operations Group meetings, which have been endorsed by all as a highly effective vehicle for union sharing of good practice, participation, awareness and collaboration. As one would expect from the aim of the project, comparable activity of unions within CRUNCH has centred round those whose workers are most at risk of redundancy during the course of the project. Sampling the allocation of learners between unions in August 2010, it was noticeable that the GMB and 22

Start on accred learning

Unison had had most success in both starts and achieving outputs, followed by PCS and Unite. With the advent of long-awaited public sector cuts by mid-2011, these differential trends in participation that reflect the activities of large public sector unions continued to the end of the project. However, the visibility of volumes of learners in these unions should not mask the good work of the smaller unions who have ‘punched above their weight’ in terms of recruiting learners to CRUNCH. Two of them (FBU and CWU) have benefited from the excellent efforts of especially committed ULRs, whose case studies are included in section 4.

Figure 2.2 CRUNCH targets vs outputs achieved, March-December 2011 577 538 8


Achieved by Sept 2011


Start Skils 4 Life 501



1 1 1 0

Total Project Target

Start non accred

Start other accred 86 87 87 60

Start L1

63 88 88 70

Start L2

100 101 101 70

Start L3


20 20 20

Complete Skils 4 Life 342 171

1 1 1 0


Achieved by Mar 2011

Achieved by Dec 2011

21 21 20 350





Complete non-accred

Complete other accred 23 27 27 41

Complete L1

23 40 37

Complete L2

19 19 37

Complete L3


59 74 85 88


299 304

Prog to FE

Prog to HE

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


2.2 ‘Soft’ outcomes ‘Soft’ learning outcomes from the CRUNCH project were evaluated in early 2011 using survey questionnaires, which were aimed at various groups involved in delivery of the CRUNCH project. Surveys were implemented through a range of formats both paper-based and online. Although the sample of respondents was small in each case, there was good general agreement between them about the effectiveness of CRUNCH in addressing the needs of workers at risk. Respondents were also able to reflect on how the CRUNCH project had helped them personally to achieve their learning goals.

2.2.1 Union learning representatives The ULRs who responded to the Survey Monkey link were drawn from a range of larger organisations, comprising roughly a 50/50 split between public and private employers including two unions. Just under one-third were female and the majority (almost 60%) were aged between 51 and 60, as will be seen from Figure 2.3. Next ULRs were asked which union they belonged to (Figure 2.4). There was a diverse spread of membership, which shows how widely benefits from CRUNCH have been enjoyed by unions. As with the

Figure 2.3 Ages of ULR respondents 0

20 or under


21 – 30


31 – 40 5

41 –50 15



51 –60 Over 60

union breakdown of learners in August 2010, PCS and UNITE members made up a significant proportion. In order to get a sense of how experienced ULR respondents were – and whether they had themselves taken on the union learning representative role during the CRUNCH project – ULRs were asked how long they had been ULRs in their workplaces. As will be seen below (Figure 2.5), this was a seasoned group of ULRs that were well placed to assess the additional impact of CRUNCH in their respective organisations. A majority of ULRs (72%) had had the role for over two years (72%) – and hence had mainly already commenced as ULRs prior to the CRUNCH project. About one-quarter (26%) had begun training as ULRs since June 2009 and project inception. Only two ULRs had been in this role for under a year. ULRs were then asked how they had come to hear of CRUNCH (Figure 2.6), and were asked to tick all relevant choices. Amongst the range of options given, most had heard of the project through TUC unionlearn or from their union or fellow members. Some had encountered the project whilst working on other union-led initiatives. One respondent had come across CRUNCH whilst training as a ULR.

Figure 2.4 ULR union membership across respondents (%) ATL





Figure 2.5 How long have you been a Union Learning Rep? 3–6 months


6–12 months



12–18 months



18-24 months 4 8


Over 2 years




8 4




PCS Prospect

Figure 2.6 How did you hear about CRUNCH? 10

From my union and union colleagues 15


From TUC unionlearn From work colleagues

5 1

Respondents were polled as to their views of how union-led learning helped their membership (Figure 2.7 overleaf), and could tick multiple options. There was wide support for all of the activities specified, of which overcoming barriers to learning was considered the most important (70%). Locally run training days were next often cited by two-thirds of respondents, and trades union education courses for reps were – not surprisingly – also popular (61%). Interestingly, redundancy support for members was not thought the most important benefit (50%), and progression opportunities and job support were

From activity in other projects Other (please specify)

considered the least important – although they were still each mentioned by nearly 50% of respondents. Asked how effective CRUNCH had been so far in helping ULRs support workers in Cornwall, just over 50% reported that it had been either ‘very’ or ‘moderately’ effective (Figure 2.8 overleaf). Just over a quarter felt that the project needed more development in order to improve its effectiveness. Two ULRs made comments under ‘other’, for open feedback. One reported lack of interest in workplace learning by their employer. The other, with a wide geographical remit, noted that: Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Figure 2.7 How does union learning help your union membership? Locally run Rep Training Days to help Reps stay up-to-date with skills


Trades union education courses for Reps – better able to support members

15 13

Redundancy support for members


Progression opportunities for members 19



Job Support: access to FREE professional careers advice and guidance Other (please specify)

I have no members in Cornwall that have benefitted from this, although the information provided has still been invaluable in supporting members outside of Cornwall.

or language skills, informal learning, or information, advice and guidance (40%) provision. Just under onethird had helped workmates start NVQs, whilst short accredited courses had also been popular.

It is very pleasing to see that – as well as the effectiveness of CRUNCH in bringing unions together – it has also served to open the opportunities for information and good practice gained by unions within CRUNCH to be cascaded beyond Cornwall.

Finally, when asked whether they were presently studying for formal qualifications, five of the ULRs noted that they were pursuing these in the workplace, whilst three were studying at college or university. Five were involved in non-formal learning.

ULRs were asked how many workers they had personally been able to support with the help of CRUNCH (Figure 2.9 opposite). The results were somewhat surprising: about half of respondents had supported ten or under, and four ULRs eleven to twenty workers. The remaining ULRs had been extremely busy: two had supported between 21 and 40 workers, and another two could be very proud of having helped over 60 workers each. This is impressive testimony to the impact of CRUNCH in Cornish workplaces. The experiences of the two outstanding ULRs are included in CRUNCH case studies in section 4. ULRs were asked about the type of training that they had been able to access for workplace colleagues (Table 2.3 overleaf). One-half had sourced IT courses for colleagues, closely followed by literacy, numeracy 26

Help overcome barriers to learning (e.g. course fees paid etc)

Additional responses ULRs made in the survey were as follows:

very difficult task, as workers “areAvery shy coming forward for

assistance. Fear of victimisation etc from their employer, if and when redundancy [occurs]

More money needed – and more flexibility to offer what members really need rather than what funders think they ought to need

Figure 2.8 How effective has CRUNCH been to date in helping you support workers at risk in Cornwall?

Very effective Moderately effective  eeds more N development Not at all effective Other

Table 2.3 What types of training for workers have you been able to access? Types of training

Number of responses

IT courses


Literacy, numeracy or language skills


Informal learning






Short accredited courses


Professional/technical certificates


Figure 2.9 Number of workers supported under CRUNCH 9 3

6–10 4

2 0

5 or under

11–20 21–40 41–60


Over 60

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Case study


GMB Project Worker A is a ‘peripatetic’ project worker for the GMB Union who has been employed by the union for two years. She has been a member of GMB for four years, having arrived in the UK from Poland in 2005 as a recent student. She was not involved in the trade union movement before coming to the UK but her mother had been a shop steward. Most of A’s time is dedicated to the CRUNCH Project helping other project workers. She feels that the CRUNCH project has helped to develop relationships between unions and that its twin focus on nonaccredited as well as accredited training has been very helpful. The flexibility of CRUNCH enables it to deliver more courses. A appreciates the support she receives from the U-Net Learning Centre staff as it frees her to do more to look after people. She provides support under CRUNCH for learning and redundancy. A became a project worker to help a colleague who couldn’t cover all her activities for GMB, and needed advice

with translations for migrant workers. She enjoys developing language and interpretation skills in workplaces. A’s role is to promote education, source funding and identify people willing to do training. Thanks to A’s efforts, migrant workers now are able to benefit from regular ‘surgeries’ for support. English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and more general work-related communications are important development areas for migrant workers, particularly with funding for workplace ESOL courses gradually being withdrawn. In many cases they build confidence for workers to find their own solutions for difficulties they encounter, particularly when migrants work in more dispersed rural communities where access to specialist services is patchy. A is an enthusiastic learner herself and is currently undertaking three courses. A has gained important skills in customer services, counselling and tutoring – some funded by the CRUNCH project – and is hoping to go on to further or higher education. She strongly endorses the CRUNCH ‘bite-size’ approach to making higher education modules accessible to adult learners.

has been brilliant from “GMBSupport and the unionlearn CRUNCH

project; without it I wouldn’t have got so far. GMB has been great with its commitment and allowed me time to do assignments. A – Project Worker


Case study


UNISON Union Learning Representative C is a local government officer who has worked for the local authority for about six years. He joined UNISON four years ago and has been a ULR for nearly a year. He received his ULR training through the CRUNCH project. With local authorities undergoing widespread budget cuts and staff restructuring, there has been increased trade union activity by C and other union officers to help staff cope with the impacts of ongoing change. Prior to CRUNCH, C had had no experience of job support, although there were more opportunities to attend training days as part of the employer’s preparations for staff redundancy. Chances to progress on the job were very limited and little or no formal pre-retirement support was available. Much was in limbo in swiftly changing circumstances.

and is keen to show another more positive side. Rather than being only about terms and conditions, education and training through unions needs to be better known.

The best thing is that there is “support to tap into, and awareness

of the potential to learn more – opening up to possibilities. If I had been aware that the opportunities for learning were there I would have started a lot earlier. C – ULR

UNISON has now been able to offer training and fill the gap. Once the CRUNCH project was underway, training days, ULR training and access to courses opened up. C attended union-led events which led on to contact with ULRs who pointed him in the right direction. He has completed a Level 1 ULR course giving foundation level training in types of learning, providing support for students and workplace practice. He is now able to advise others on learning opportunities, signpost information on union courses to others, provide learning support, and generally keep staff aware of what is available. C has also been able to access a ten-credit Open University taster course. He is looking beyond the current unsettled conditions to a newly restructured organisation and to being able to consolidate what he has learned. To C, awareness-raising for unionled learning in the workplace is all-important – to maintain the profile of trades unions, keep the momentum for progress going and continue to build relationships with management. He feels that in the past unions have been seen as a negative influence

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Case study


UNITE Union Learning Representative M is a skilled mason who for over 35 years apprenticed and then worked in different capacities in the clay industry, from clay production to building. He has been a union member and officer since 1977, originally with UCATT and then TGWU before it became UNITE.

M has seen union support for learning grow: from TGWU’s first efforts for its members to the advent of the TUC which broadened the remit and spectrum of provision, drawing in different unions, companies and industries. He has watched the U-Net Centre in St Austell develop from company training premises and attract wide community support. He has trained under CRUNCH and organised events in conjunction with the TUC team.

M was in one of the first ULR pilot groups to train in Cornwall nearly ten years ago when union learning representatives were initially being introduced into unionised workplaces. He successfully applied for a grant from TGWU to set up and deliver ULR training courses. With the funding, M acquired computers and conducted assessments on a laptop at various work premises around the St Austell area, inviting people to have a go at different levels of courses. He eventually managed to get up to fifty learners through Levels 1 and 2 in literacy and numeracy, having won support by the local college who released tutors into workplaces for limited periods of time. M campaigned hard and convinced his employers to support introduction of ULRs into the business, which coincided with expansion of vocational training as well as literacy and numeracy provision. M sees Skills for Life as important to build workers’ confidence, overcoming negative memories from school as well as working through coping strategies to disguise illiteracy.

M has finished a Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) course and holds Level 3 qualifications in information, advice and guidance. He has trained to Level 3 in literacy/numeracy support but has not been able to find a job within a college. M is currently looking for work.

In his capacity as a union officer, M has provided job support and redundancy support. The latter included organisation of a redundancy day, getting people into job clubs and giving them the opportunity to ask questions. Staff were presented with the opportunity to retrain when their posts were under notice. M has helped to organise training days in conjunction with colleges and JobCentre Plus, to offer advice for those under threat of redundancy and access to trade union courses. He also did voluntary work with Link Into Learning (the Cornwall Adult Education Service) as a ‘union companion’, supporting ESOL students, and worked with the Citizens Advice Bureau to help people resolve disputes in the workplace. 30

Learning has boosted my “confidence and people skills and I

don’t regret going back to learning. Education is one thing – but how do you support people back into work, when people with degrees are not working? Where’s the certificate for experience? You can’t study for that one! M – ULR

Case study


FBU Union Learning Representative A is a fire safety consultant and risk assessor and has been self-employed since 2009. A Fire Brigades Union member for over thirty years, he acted for eight years as national Chair of the Officers’ Committee, working for FBU both regionally and nationally. He became involved in CRUNCH when he was asked to support learners in Cornwall who were undertaking ITQ courses. A began working as a ULR for the FBU in Cornwall in September 2009, just after the start of the CRUNCH project. Since then he has encouraged many people to take up learning and referred them on to the U-Net Centre for funding support under CRUNCH. A estimates that to date he has helped about seventy learners: a major achievement for one individual ULR. A was also supporting on-the-job training for full-time fire officers at fire stations, for whom it was difficult to release staff for learning when coverage was needed on site. He also wanted to extend the benefits of flexible learning to part-time ‘on call’ firefighters who were mainly based elsewhere, providing courses that could be done at home with tutor support through the FBU learning centre. A was able to use CRUNCH funding to pay for an NCFE NVQ Level 2 distance learning course in Health & Safety, purchasing workbooks through the national Fire Brigade Training Centre in Northumbria. Following the model of a Health & Safety distance learning course run from Wales, A asked the FBU for it to be piloted in Cornwall and supported by CRUNCH. The Level 2 Health & Safety course has recently finished, with A as course tutor and regional project support officer. Eighteen were able to sign up for a distance learning course at the Centre and access more flexible learning opportunities than had previously been available. The first cohort to use CRUNCH funding has now nearly completed four modules, with the TUC firmly embedded in local union models of successful training delivery. The eventual aim is for the course to become sustainable and self-funding.

A hopes that enhanced flexible training programmes under the FBU will serve to open up the union to the majority of 600 firefighters in Cornwall who are not site-based, offering them the additional union benefits of learning. As a provider of redundancy support, A is acutely aware that many part-time workers may be under greater risk of redundancy than those who are full-time. Once trained up, they might have to consider leaving the area for continuing employment – which would be a substantial loss to the Cornwall Fire Service. A enjoys learning himself and under CRUNCH completed an Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) Level 2 qualification in 2010, with induction at the U-Net Centre and workplace-based support. He now hopes to go on to do an IAG Level 3 qualification and will continue to tutor distance learning students. A would also like to offer a wider range of courses should further funding become available.

A good thing about CRUNCH “compared to internal Fire Service

training is that it’s given the chance to work with others outside the Service. It’s nice to do something and be pushed a bit, made to think about things – and be able to add in your own issues. A – ULR

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Case study


CWU Union Learning Representative G has been working for the commercial arm of a major telecommunications company for over twenty years. He was redeployed into his current job seven years ago following a restructuring which centralised operations. He has been a union member since his first day of work in his teens, and joined the CWU when his current job started. He became a union learning representative in 2008, just before the start of CRUNCH. G provides job support for colleagues at risk of redundancy. The company has been reducing its size but operates a policy of redeployment and voluntary redundancy, although there is a potential risk of mandatory redundancy. As a ULR, G has helped to generate internal projects and drive them forward, which has helped to redeploy staff and conserve spend. Since the start of CRUNCH staffing levels at the company have been maintained. Before CRUNCH, G was involved in training days supported by earlier European Union funded projects. Training days have since become a feature of CRUNCH and provided an excellent opportunity to network with peers across the South West, which G finds invaluable. The CRUNCH project has also brought together disparate unions who were previously acting more independently, creating synergies and mutual inspiration. CWU has been able to draw down sufficient funding to operate a ‘learning pot’ covering ongoing engagement with learning providers, and CRUNCH has been part of that trend. Motivated by the then-head of TUC unionlearn in Cornwall, G undertook a first and second stage ULR course. Since 2009 under CRUNCH he has qualified to Level 3 in Information, Advice and Guidance, and also taken a qualification in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS). The CWU union have been one of the first unions to set up learning centres in Cornwall and have their centre at 32

the telecoms company’s premises in Truro. Following discussions with local providers, CRUNCH has been able to support on-site course delivery with the benefit of weekly assessment and tutor ‘drop-in’ sessions by one provider. Training has been organised around 24/7 shift patterns and includes ITQs, Skills for Life and more recreational courses. The weekly visits help to encourage informal and flexible learning. There is not a dedicated training room but the company readily responds to requests for meeting accommodation, both internally and externally. Once a week at one of the company’s off-sites, G oversees an ITQ evening class in ECDL at Levels 2 and 3. At the main site, to fit in with round-the-clock shift patterns and tutor availability, an innovative model of blended distance learning is delivered including tutor support which is linked to individuals’ performance targets. Training is contextualised to the hardware and software systems of the company, which has seen large benefits. CRUNCH funding has also supported software packages for home use by staff including agency workers. The CRUNCH project has enabled CWU to subsidise company training costs, gain in recruitment and sustain membership. G had not trained for thirty years before his ULR training and has since acquired a taste for learning. He underwent Skills for Life training with his coworkers and quantifies to managers the savings in course fees achieved by union-based learning. CRUNCH has helped to support learner attendance at CWU training courses outside Cornwall as well as delivery of courses at the U-Net Centre. For his coworkers on site, G has arranged with the local library for a regular van delivery as well as maintaining a satellite reading library. Since becoming a ULR, G has secured funding to provide work related training opportunities at two of the company’s sites for an incredible 133 students – an outstanding achievement. Courses have been delivered by local college tutors and on completion provide the students with transferable nationally recognised qualifications. Through European Union

funding for union initiatives in Cornwall, courses have been offered at no cost to the company or its employees. G estimates that course provision has represented a cost saving to the company of over £35k to date. Involvement with CWU training under CRUNCH has had benefits for G. In a short time, he has become lead ULR for his branch, Chair of the CWU Education and Training Committee for the South West & Thames Valley Branch, and vice chair of the CWU South West regional learning committee. He sees future teacher training as a key strand of his personal development in order to cascade benefits to local people: according to G, the essence of union learning. G would also like to go on to ‘bite sized’ higher education, for which CRUNCH has also been successful in attracting learners.

has changed my life – “it’sLearning been an amazing journey. It

has helped me become more confident and improve as a person, encouraging me to network with people. Formal training delivery is great and gives its own benefit, but I get even more from talking to people in the evenings when attending courses and at Training Days. G – ULR

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


Conclusions and recommendations Union capacity building

▸▸ The CRUNCH project benefited solidly through the

activities and support of a wide range of individual unions, and committed union learning organisers and representatives. Complementarity has been key to success: unions are ideally placed to identify workplaces at risk and attract members to learning, whilst the TUC unionlearn is excellent at pulling together partnerships

▸▸ CRUNCH promoted better relationships between

unions. Communications, trust and shared goals have much improved, and benefits have been cascaded elsewhere in the South West region through the Skills for the Future project. All unions’ members have had enhanced opportunities to take part in joint courses, workshops and training days

▸▸ CRUNCH has been well managed and has

established wider networks across sectors and geographies. The project team has been proactive and flexible, and the Accountable Body role for the TUC unionlearn in CRUNCH has served to improve its capacity and understanding of ESF project management

▸▸ CRUNCH funding has helped to confirm the TUC

unionlearn’s position as a central point of contact for unions in Cornwall, and widened the range and volume of support the TUC can offer to unions, employers and union-funded workplace projects

▸▸ Involvement of unions in CRUNCH has to an

extent been uneven, depending on the size of union, sectors they work with, and vulnerability of employees to redundancy. Unions most likely to succeed in learning invested in dedicated project staff, who had the time to come to grips with issues and were flexible enough to try different methods for engagement


▸▸ CRUNCH support for the ULR network and its

work to extend it has been very significant for its success and effectiveness – and validated the contribution of many committed ULR individuals. Case studies indicate that dedicated funding for ULR development has had an impact in workplace learning that will be a sustainable legacy for CRUNCH and related initiatives, and has been nationally recognised by BIS

Developing models of good practice

▸▸ The TUC unionlearn team at the U-Net Learning

Centre made important contributions to European Social Fund project delivery practice by simplifying paperwork and encouraging union participation. Their approaches to ‘painless’ collation of data acted as models of good practice for ESF project management, returning quality results in the most efficient and balanced way

▸▸ Whilst the TUC team was very good at ‘hiding the

wiring’ themselves, over the project lifetime they became more proactive in helping unions and ULRs to become more consistent with paperwork submission. Towards the end of CRUNCH, they worked very closely with individual unions to ensure that project outputs were met

▸▸ The successful Joint Operations Group (JOG)

project steering model introduced by CRUNCH – which brought unions together for regular meetings – has now been replicated around the South West, enhancing union collaboration and encouraging further joint working. Unions participating in the Skills for the Future project have also benefited from transfer of good practice and relationships developed through the JOG

▸▸ CRUNCH has taken a holistic view, both attracting and sustaining collaborations and partnerships with statutory agencies that raise the overall profile of union activities. The Skills for the Future JOG benefited through enhanced participation by regional stakeholders

Supporting redundancy

▸▸ The CRUNCH project has demonstrated that early

intelligence of redundancy is important in helping to mitigate its effects, and in building better relationships with employers. During the second half of the project, CRUNCH funding has enabled closer working with large public sector employers to reduce planned job losses. It would be useful for future projects to include more opportunities for forward planning

▸▸ Both CRUNCH and Skills for the Future have been

able to target those at risk of or who may have experienced redundancy, rather than narrowly focus on those under notice of redundancy who receive help via mainstream support. With a wide reach into the workplace, it had an advantage over similar schemes which do not work closely with unions

▸▸ CRUNCH was responsive and adaptable to

the individual needs of private and public sector workplaces and their people. CRUNCH has been able to offer businesses of all sizes in Cornwall additional support during the recession, which would not necessarily have been available under Response to Redundancy or other national programmes.

▸▸ The timing of CRUNCH during the economic

recession was built on to maximum effect, and helped to give workplaces at risk ‘room to manoeuvre’. Additional advice available has opened up more options for employers to consider how they deploy their workforce, so that redundancy becomes a last resort

Training and progression

▸▸ The CRUNCH project supported a variety of

progression routes – both accredited and nonaccredited, including ‘part’ and full qualifications – into formal further and higher education. As such it was more flexible and demand led than other initiatives, and demonstrated how well informal learning such as ‘taster sessions’ link to the mainstream

▸▸ Initial CRUNCH training days were especially

popular. Company staff at all levels became involved in learning; unions, workers and businesses benefited alike. Training days were very successful in attracting new ULRs

▸▸ The wide range of bespoke non-accredited

courses developed was useful to address and support the ‘softer’ issues faced by workers coping with recession, such as financial planning and family concerns

Lessons for the Future, Union learning in the South West


▸▸ CRUNCH was active during a period of significant

changes underway nationally with new government policies, mainstream training initiatives and funding providers. The project has done well to improve its target achievements over time in less than ideal circumstances. The local Skills Funding Agency has supported the team closely throughout the project to maximise its success

▸▸ In conjunction with the Skills Funding Agency,

through CRUNCH the TUC has identified better tracking of progressions and destinations by providers as a key development area to validate the effectiveness of union-led learning

▸▸ The CRUNCH project has experienced great

success in registering new learners onto its courses. In some areas, however, retention has been a challenge, which is a key learning point for future union-led initiatives for the TUC unionlearn and union partners


ESF cross-cutting themes

▸▸ Promoting equality and diversity has been of central importance to TUC unionlearn and trade union partners to drive engagement with – and provide access to learning for – ‘non-traditional’ learners, particularly the disadvantaged. CRUNCH has helped to open doors to learning for many, often older workers who felt they could no longer learn

▸▸ During its operation, the U-Net Centre strived to be as open and accessible as possible to all types of learners, and was able to provide specialist staff to support particular needs

▸▸ CRUNCH was proactive in developing relationships with other projects covering ‘green’ issues in the workplace, both under Convergence ESF (such as Clear About Carbon) and union-led (such as the Green Workplaces project, run by the South West TUC). This has helped to strengthen the impact of all initiatives

This publication is also available via: Evaluation of the ‘Skills for the Future’ Project and Evaluation of the ‘Convergence ESF Crunch’ Project Independent evaluations of the above projects were completed by Marchmont Observatory, College of Social Sciences & International Studies, University of Exeter in September and December 2011. The full reports including case studies, together with summary reports are available via: You can also find details of the union contracts supported by the Skills for the Future project on the website.

All TUC publications may be made available for dyslexic or visually impaired readers, on request, in an agreed electronic format or in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape and large print, at no extra cost. March 2012 Printed by: XXXX Design:

Marchmont Observatory

Lessons for the future, Union learning in the South West  

It is a distillation of two independent evaluations completed by Marchmont Observatory, Exeter University at the end of 2011.

Lessons for the future, Union learning in the South West  

It is a distillation of two independent evaluations completed by Marchmont Observatory, Exeter University at the end of 2011.