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learningrep Âť Spring 2013

Valuing our apprentices It’s all about training, trust and pay

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Why apprentices need a voice I’m writing this message at the end of this year’s National Apprenticeships Week, which once again helped raise the profile of apprenticeships with hundreds of events all over the country attended by thousands of people. I’m very glad that we got things underway on the first morning of the week-long celebration with the unionlearn event The Value of Apprenticeships, which put the union case for quality in the spotlight with contributions from key thinkers such as Lord Adonis, stakeholders such as the National Apprenticeship Service and the Edge Foundation and – crucially – some very impressive apprentices themselves. We have always prided ourselves on giving apprentices the chance to talk about their experiences at events like this. We are one of the very few organisations to offer them a platform alongside the policy-makers and opinion-formers. And it’s vital to do so, because they are the ones who really know what an apprenticeship is like – what works, what doesn’t and how things could be improved. As always, they said some very interesting things. For example, none of them had received any help from teachers or career advisers when they first tried to find out about the apprenticeship route at school (something that often happens because few teachers have any direct experience of the vocational route). But there were some much more reassuring observations. Most of them had had positive contact with their unions and been encouraged to take part in union events for young members. All of them said that felt valued at work because they had been offered interesting and worthwhile learning opportunities, with one of them studying at Foundation degree level. Even if some of what they had to say was disappointing to hear, it was very important that they had the chance to say it – and in front of people from government and elsewhere who might be able to help bring about change. I firmly believe that the more apprentices have a voice, the more we will be able to tackle all the issues raised by the challenge of training the next generation. Tom Wilson Director, unionlearn The Learning Rep Spring 2013 Editor: James Asser Writers: Astrid Stubbs, Martin Moriarty Cover: Leslie (CWU), Rachel, Mike and Clare (Unite) by Jess Hurd/ Design: Print: Ancient House Printing Group Distribution: Cavalier mailing

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News Continuous Professional Development Become a Maths Champion I’m An Apprentice – Value Me National Apprenticeships Week Sally Rose interview Taking learning into care homes Using the latest tablet technology Studying at Birkbeck Collecting learning data Six Book Challenge TUC Education Contacts Calendar Resources


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Photo: Jess Hurd/

News «

NASS Chief Executive George McGrath (far left), Skills Minister Matthew Hancock (right) and City of Bristol College tutor Josh Gearing find out what’s on offer at the new centre with learner Rosie McKee

…and they’re off! Workers at the home of horse racing in Newmarket are under starter’s orders for courses in English, maths and ICT after Skills Minister and local MP Matthew Hancock opened a dedicated learning centre for them in February.

Launched by the National Association of Stable Staff (NASS) with the support of unionlearn and City of Bristol College, the new centre is based at the New Astley Club, a social welfare organisation closely linked to the racing community. Equipped with a new IT suite, the centre is opening its doors to learners with 15-week courses in English, maths and ICT, organised around the times of the stables’ working hours to ensure as many staff as possible can take part. NASS Chief Executive George McGrath said the union was keen to help racing staff at all points of their careers.

“We hope that this new facility at the Astley Club is the first of several around the UK,” he said, adding that more were planned at Lambourn, Middleham, Malton and Epsom. “We’re delighted that the minister was able to join us to support the new facilities and the continued growth of union supported learning,” commented unionlearn Director Tom Wilson, one of several important guests at the launch. “Lifelong learning is vital for the life chances of employees but also for the health of business and the economy and we’re delighted to be able to support the first learning centre for staff working in the racing industry.”

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It’s a deal (from left): the GMB’s Simon Todd, UNISON’s Paul Brown, EMAS Chief Executive Phil Milligan and RCN’s Irene Murray

Photo: Roy Peters

Ambulance trust signs pioneering deal

The East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) became the first ambulance Trust to commit to developing its staff through union-backed workplace learning when it signed a learning agreement with the onsite health unions in January. The ground-breaking scheme enables ambulance service staff from the lowest to the highest grades to develop themselves at work and gives them the right to apply for reasonable time off to undertake courses.

“The key thing now is making sure we use our resources in line with the agreement, which is very much about development across the board,” commented EMAS Chief Executive Phil Milligan at the signing ceremony in the Trust’s Nottingham headquarters. UNISON Branch Secretary Paul Brown said the major breakthrough was securing reasonable time off for staff to undertake courses through the union route. “At the end of the day, we’re an emergency service, which means

Ron Dyer Photo: Janina Struk/reportdigital

Frances focuses on skills in BBC Breakfast news slot

there will be times when the Trust won’t be able to grant people time off to learn when they apply,” he said. “But UNISON, GMB and RCN will plan the courses to avoid busier times like the summer holidays when we tend to be short-staffed.” GMB Executive Representative Simon Todd said the agreement would help the workforce feel more valued by the Trust. “I hope it leads to more people on the ground thinking they can better themselves, and if we can do that for every member of EMAS, that will be great,” he said. Midlands unionlearn Senior Union Support Officer Lisa Stones was very pleased that more than 12 months of hard work and negotiations had paid off with an agreement that would benefit employees right across the Trust. “This is a fantastic achievement and a credit to the hard work and determination of the union learning reps,” she said.

New TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady demonstrated her commitment to union learning by conducting an agenda-setting interview with BBC Breakfast from the GMB’s awardwinning learning centre at Brighton Cityclean. Broadcast to mark her first day in the trade union movement’s top job, the profile opened with an interview on the seafront at Brighton. It also included Frances’s address to the Royal College of Midwives’ annual conference in the seaside city and ended with a segment filmed in the cab of a refuse vehicle at the Cityclean depot. “This learning centre is run by the GMB together with the management and they help refuse workers in Brighton get hold of the learning and the qualifications that they want,” Frances explained to BBC business specialist Stephanie McGovern. GMB Southern Region Project Worker Declan MacIntyre, who originally overcame his own literacy issues with the help of the union learning initiative while working at Cityclean, said visits like Frances’s were a vote of confidence in the project.

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High-profile visitors such as TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady (right) are an endorsement of union learning, says the GMB’s Declan MacIntyre

“Having the TUC General Secretary and the BBC TV’s cameras come to the centre is an endorsement of the important work that’s going on there,” he says. “It’s key that we have that input at very high level from the trade union movement, as was shown on the day Frances visited: senior management came down, as did councillors from the different political parties and the Mayor, and that all makes our job to protect the centre and the funds that go into it a lot easier,” he says.

Ron Dyer, the former warden of the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Museum in Dorset, died earlier this year at the age of 88. The West Country agricultural union activist retired in 1989 to live in one of the six cottages the TUC built in Tolpuddle to commemorate the 19th century farmworkers, who were deported from Dorset for daring to organise a union. A popular figure in the community, Ron was often to be seen at the head of the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs March carrying his union branch banner.

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Jobless youths need apprenticeships Better apprenticeships are crucial to combating youth unemployment, South Shields MP David Miliband told a Northern unionlearn seminar held in Newcastle’s Life Science Centre at the end of last year. “The government has said it wants to abolish long-term youth unemployment so it has a responsibility to put in place the policies to do so, not least because young people who hear that message from the government will feel a double betrayal [if it doesn’t],” David said. “Better apprenticeships are a crucial part of this deal.” The local MP, who also chairs the Commission on Youth Unemployment set up by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), welcomed how unionlearn and the unions are working to increase the number of quality apprenticeships. Other speakers included Neil Burke and Katy Portrey from the Regional Youth Work Unit, representing young people seeking

South Shields MP David Miliband (left) backs the unionlearn apprenticeship campaign, with Neil Burke and Katy Portrey from the Regional Youth Work Unit and Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan (back)

opportunities; Gillian Brown from the National Apprenticeship Service, and Martin Hottass, UK Skills Partner at Siemens, which has a long history of apprenticeship work. Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan said unionlearn had been particularly effective in helping trade unions play a positive role in both promoting apprenticeships and

supporting apprentices in many workplaces. “As this event illustrated, there have never been more advantages to employing apprentices – so it would be fantastic to see more than the current one in seven regional employers doing so,” he said.

>> Apprenticeships focus: pages 13–17

Pay us, train us, trust us!

Between them, they agreed that decent pay and quality training were vital components to a good apprenticeship programme. But many of them reiterated that trust and responsibility were also crucial to apprentices feeling appreciated at work. “I feel valued when I meet up with my gang in the morning, see my boss and he says, ‘There you are, Adam, job for you, crack on with that, any problems, come and see me’,” commented Adam from Babcock Marine.

Paul from Alcoa Fastening Systems agreed. “Our company gave a couple of us a project to manage that involved implementation of an entire new system over two sites,” he explained. “They trusted us to go through a major external audit which we passed and they keep trusting us with even harder projects now.” The vast majority of the apprentices gave high scores for their first impressions of the unions in their workplace. “I injured my leg at work and had to have to have an operation: my employer wanted to trigger disciplinary action because I was off sick, but my union rep stepped in to argue my case,” said Neil.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

More than 30 apprentices from all over the country and a wide range of public and private sector organisations descended on Congress House late last year as part of the new unionlearn campaign ‘I’m An Apprentice – Value Me’.

But many of them argued that more work needed to be done to promote the apprenticeship route among parents and in schools. “There is not enough awareness of apprenticeships,” commented Charlotte from Community. “Parents want their kids to do well but enlightened parents need to support the vocational training option.”

Apprentices feel valued by being trusted with responsible tasks at work, according to participants in the Voice of the Apprentice event

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Photo: Matthew Usher

King’s Lynn signs learning deal

UNISON West Norfolk Branch Secretary Judy Close (centre) signs the new learning agreement with King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Chief Executive Ray Harding and Personnel Services Manager Becky Box

UNISON’s West Norfolk Branch has signed a new learning agreement with King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council to help spread the benefits of workplace learning throughout the East Anglian Authority. The council and the union signed the agreement in January to demonstrate their joint commitment to a ULFfunded project to promote English, maths and IT courses as well as a number of informal learning opportunities. “This is a marvellous opportunity not just for UNISON members, but for all council employees,” commented UNISON Branch Secretary Judy Close.

Council Chief Executive Ray Harding said the authority was pleased to support UNISON in this initiative. “The council is committed to developing the skills of its workforce and encourages and supports employees to enhance their skills and gain qualifications relevant to the job,” he said. “UNISON’s new programme will complement our approach and allow people to look beyond the skills immediately required for their day-to-day job. “Developing new skills can help people to take a fresh approach to familiar situations as well as being personally fulfilling, so both the employee and the employer benefit.”

PCS branch wins learndirect award The Solway Branch of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) won learndirect’s Outstanding Learner of the Year award after topping the online public poll, which closed in January. After winning the Business Impact Award in the 2012 Achievement Awards, the branch then went headto-head for the overall award with six individual learners from around the country, who had all come top in their own categories. The Solway Branch, which organises 350 Revenue and Customs (HMRC) contact centre staff in Cumbria, offers courses in English,

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maths and ICT by linking up with learndirect, as well as NVQs in advice and guidance, team-leading, management and customer service. The branch ensured the learning would be more accessible by working with County Durham-based provider, Communicator Training Associates, which sends tutors to deliver the courses in the workplace. The staff who have taken part have reported a range of benefits from the qualifications they have achieved. Many team leaders have said the NVQ programme has helped them develop new management skills, and some have secured promotion – one of the wider business goals identified

when the branch originally set up the learning programme. In addition, better training and monitoring from team leaders and managers as a result of the learning has helped staff reduce call times. As well as winning the learndirect overall award, the branch also picked up the PCS Outstanding Achievement award for the Northern Region at the union’s national learning conference in February. “All of these achievements mean so much to me as they prove that my team are doing an excellent and professional job and that the work that we do is appreciated,” says ULR Angela Harrison.

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Photo: Jess Hurd/

Dave Ross is named top Unite ULR

Dave Ross (left) collects his ULR award from Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite learning rep Dave Ross, who has encouraged dozens of colleagues at Southampton City Council to take up learning opportunities over the past eight years, won the union’s first national ULR of the Year award in February. Presented by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, the regional and national award presentations were the climax of the union’s first national lifelong learning conference at Congress House. A painter and decorator at the council for 26 years, Dave threw himself into the learning rep role as soon as the Unite branch launched its learning project at the authority in 2005. “I wanted to get involved right from the beginning because I felt I could offer something – that I could help people find their way back into education,” he says. His enthusiasm and commitment, with the support of the rest of the ULR team, has helped more than 100 employees progress to Level 2 national

English and maths qualifications over the past eight years. “I get a buzz to see people improving themselves and see the changes they’re making to their lives,” Dave explains. Originally opened in 2005, the learning centre was re-launched in autumn 2012 after the authority moved its refuse and recycling operation into new premises in the Millbrook area of the city. As well as running functional skills courses on Thursdays (when learners are given at least 50 per cent and sometimes 100 per cent paid release to complete their qualifications), the centre runs drop-in sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays. It also hosts English classes for small groups of local residents on Mondays. Unite learning organiser John Barr, who originally nominated Dave for the union’s regional ULR award, says he has done “a fantastic job” since taking on the role. “Dave has been an absolutely stunning learning rep,” he says.

Dee Rogers Dee Rogers, who took early retirement from unionlearn South West in 2011, died unexpectedly in her sleep in December. The former project worker and regional coordinator for Bargaining for Skills had worked for UNISON before joining the TUC. “Dee was a proud trade unionist and pioneer for learning at work. She was the first to lead the union learning project in the South West at a time when many people needed to be convinced that unions had a role in this agenda,” commented TUC Regional Secretary Nigel Costley. “Dee helped prove the case and the value to trade unions and kicked off a range of activities across the south-west.” Unionlearn Regional Manager Helen Cole said Dee would be sadly missed by everyone who had worked with her. “Dee was a valued and committed member of the unionlearn team, always supporting her colleagues and inspiring union reps and their members with her integrity and creativity,” Helen recalled. “She was passionate about improving the lives of working people through learning and made a significant contribution towards achieving this.” Dee is survived by her two children, Tom and Beth.

Helping older people put a digital spring in their step Digital Unite is running its national campaign again in April to engage and support older people to use digital technology. Spring Online 2013 runs from Monday 22 to Friday 26 April and aims to build on the success of the scheme last year, when 2,000 Spring Online events introduced 30,000 people to digital technology, many for the first time. “Seven million people have never used the internet, 6.5 million of them aged over 55, and acquiring digital skills could help them access services, find new interests, reduce loneliness and save money,” explains Digital Unite’s Julia Shipston. Julia is encouraging union learning projects to run Spring Online events, using the free resources available on the campaign website.

>> Web: >> Twitter: >> Facebook: spring 2013 « 7

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» Feature » Continuous Professional Development

You’ve got a friend in Prospect has launched an exciting new pilot scheme to match union mentors with colleagues who need support with their careers. By Astrid Stubbs Prospect learning rep Stephanie Lambeth, a communications officer at the Big Lottery Fund, took a bit of a personal gamble when she agreed to become a union mentor. Facing redundancy herself, Stephanie decided to take on the new role because it would allow her to gain new skills to boost her own employability and help colleagues in the same boat. “The Civil Service is very big and a lot of people are affected by the recession and need help and support,” she says. Although she was a former Prospect ULR of the year and a nominee for the overall TUC award, Stephanie knew mentoring would take her into unfamiliar territory. “I thought it would get me out of my comfort zone now rather than later,” she recalls. Stephanie’s background in lifelong learning, previous employment as a guidance practitioner and Prospect’s own training helped equip her for the new role. Prospect launched its pilot mentoring programme last September to help members: ❚ move to a new role where they work ❚ reskill or retrain to assist career transition ❚ leave their organisation ❚ broaden their horizons. The pilot has prioritised helping women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), redundant members and homeworkers. When she joined the programme, Stephanie was matched with three mentees, each entitled to a total of 10 hours’ support to help them identify and achieve personal career goals. “I already had a passion for informal learning and this role appealed to me on lots of levels,” says Stephanie, who gives up her own time to carry out the mentoring. She contacts one mentee by phone and email because he lives in Liverpool and she works in London; meets the second for face-to-face sessions; and uses a mix of both with the third.

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Prospect learning rep Stephanie Lambeth (right, collecting her 2011 ULR of the year award from the then union president Catherine Donaldson) has learned a lot by becoming a union mentor

Feedback has been fantastic, with her mentees reporting a high level of trust, support, stimulation and encouragement. “I’ve learned lots about myself and about new areas of work: people have been very positive in their feedback – it’s mutually supportive,” says Stephanie. “I’ve really enjoyed supporting members at a really personal level,” she adds. Since working with Stephanie, one of her mentees has found a new job, while another has gained confidence and joined new networks. Prospect launched the pilot scheme with nine mentors and 26 mentees as part of its comprehensive Continuous Professional Development (CPD) package. Overall feedback has been very positive, with mentees saying that they feel thoroughly supported, have learned more about themselves and identified dormant or new skills.

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Continuous Professional Development « Feature «

Stephanie Our aim is to encourage members to develop their potential to support their involvement in society. Although the project is still in its early stages, five mentees have already gained new jobs; two have started studying, one at postgraduate level and the other is taking a short teaching course. A further mentee is studying at postgraduate level. Three mentees have reported significant help in getting them thinking about their past successes, transferrable skills and job searching techniques – enabling them to move forward in their career and life choices. Prospect’s ULF Manager and Learning Services Officer Rachel Bennett says the union is delighted with the results and is hoping to build on the scheme. “This innovative work, with a small amount of ULF funding, has enabled the union to harness the skills of its members for the benefit of its members,” Rachel says. “What has been especially rewarding is the enthusiasm and willingness of members from across the union’s membership to share and learn from each other. Our plan is to now test the approach, extending the level of support, with a view to exploring other means to sustain the model.” Prospect is also about to launch a new scheme with the senior managers’ union FDA and Go Science to extend the FDA’s Public Sector Mentoring Scheme (see page 11) to scientists and engineers. “The range of programmes and initiatives that we are undertaking fits with our lifelong learning strategy to enhance the skills and personal development opportunities for all members,” Rachel says. “We are committed to exploring new ways of working to ensure that learning is accessible to all. Ultimately our aim is to enable individual skill enhancement and encourage members to develop their own educational, career and personal potential in order to better support their involvement with the union, their career and society.”

Moving on in STEM Prospect’s autumn workshop for women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) proved so successful that the union is running an expanded version this spring. The one-day programme aims to equip participants with the awareness, skills and strategies to turn the potential challenges they face in the workplace into positive experiences.

Prospect has created a suite of podcasts to support members, including: ❚ identifying skills and strengths ❚ writing an effective CV ❚ preparing for interviews ❚ combating stress at work. The podcasts have proved so popular that almost 3,000 have been downloaded to date.

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» Roundup » Continuous Professional Development

All photos: Rod Leon

Teaching union ATL joined forces with Show Racism The Red Card to run an innovative teacher training event at the home of Crystal Palace FC designed to help members and activists develop whole-school anti-racism policies.

Showing racism the red card in class Members and activists from teaching union ATL joined professional footballers, former players and local primary school children this February to improve strategies for tackling racism in schools. Held at Selhurst Park in Croydon, the home of Championship League club Crystal Palace FC, the workshop was the first time the union had run a teacher training event with education charity Show Racism The Red Card (SRTRC). The course included educational activities to help teachers and pupils better understand the dangers of racism and strategic sessions about involving their whole school in promoting equality. “SRTRC got us to think differently about racism and how we see others,” explained ATL Equalities Officer Dr Wanda Wyporska. “We may think we already know about racism and how to tackle it, but discussing potential situations and seeing the questions that children and students ask forces us to reassess what we think we know.” During one session, participants tried multicultural crayons, which enable children to draw themselves and their friends with a realistic set of skin tones.

Footballers, union members and youngsters joined forces at the ATL training event to tackle racism

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Primary school pupils (above) road-tested fun activities at the ATL event to promote equality

“That may sound frivolous, but it indicates where problems of self-identity and naming can start for children,” Wanda said. ATL members said they learned a lot at the fun day. “It was an excellent session for all of us – and for the kids too,” said Charles Atta-Darkwah. Croydon ATL Joint Branch Secretary Carole Horstead praised a fantastic and well-resourced event.

It’s been a really valuable experience that we need to replicate in every school. “It’s been a really valuable experience that we need to replicate in every school,” she said. SRTRC founder Ged Grebby declared: “It was one of our best sessions: the kids were great and everyone loved it.” At ATL, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) comes in many formats, including twilight sessions, online courses and full-day courses. Topics range from behaviour management, new Ofsted regulations and embedding functional skills to leadership and management. “At ATL, we want our members to get the most out of their professional development, which is why we offer a range of courses at national and local level,” explains Learning and Development Manager Kate Quigley. “Local learning events are vital to ensure that members’ professional development needs are met. “Education staff are highly skilled professionals who value the opportunity to learn new skills that impact positively on their teaching and learning. “These courses are part of a national commitment to demonstrating high-quality, high-impact CPD.”

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Continuous Professional Development « Roundup «

Freelancers join forces Learning reps from the FDA are helping students progress into the Civil Service

Meet the mentors from the ministry Civil Service union learning reps are improving their own skills by helping students through the Public Sector Mentoring Scheme (PSMS). The First Division Association (FDA) and the Civil Service Fast Stream development programme have joined together to develop union learning reps as mentors for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Middlesex University, which has a socioeconomically diverse student base, designed the training programme and recruited the initial mentees, 80 per cent of them from Black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds and 70 per cent women. The FDA arranged training for the ULR mentors, who are given release time to support the students for a minimum of 10 hours over nine months. “We have now engaged well over 200 ULRs in this work and supported a greater number of young people, with a number of them gaining public sector employment,” explains FDA Professional Skills for Government Project Manager Neil Rider.

“As a result, we are now extending our work with ULRs supporting young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) into employment as part of a scheme with one of our partner universities and a local council.’’ Mentors have praised the scheme for helping their own career development. “The best thing I did was joining the FDA, as I’m now exposed to a wealth of opportunities that other staff are not necessarily exposed to,” commented one Home Office ULR and mentor. Feedback has also been positive from participants: ❚ 71 per cent felt that the experience had made them more employable ❚ 88 per cent felt that since joining the scheme they know more about graduate recruitment processes ❚ 88 per cent felt more confident about their career prospects ❚ 96 per cent would now consider employment in the public sector (only 50 per cent would have before joining the scheme).

The NUJ, the Writers’ Guild, Equity and the Musicians’ Union have joined forces to help freelance members develop their careers. Under the umbrella of the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU), union members can sign up for free one-day workshops to develop a range of business skills. The FEU is also helping improve access to learning through its Digital Learning Centre, which offers bite-sized e-learning opportunities. “It’s a real success story for union-led training as participation is continually increasing, with most training opportunities being oversubscribed by at least 50 per cent,” says FEU Training Project Manager Frances Dredge. “What makes what we do unique and successful is that we provide both the key skills freelancers need to support their creative careers and the environment in which they feel comfortable to learn.”

Helping health staff understand bereavement The RCM union is one of the contributors to a Bereavement Care Network set up to support midwives, nurses and student nurses who provide, or who are interested in, the care offered to parents whose baby has died. Developed by the RCM, with the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands and the special care baby

charity Bliss, the new network helps practitioners to share good practice and procedures, exchange ideas and provide informal support. The network is also a way for the RCM, Sands and Bliss to keep professionals informed of relevant developments and resources. “Unionlearn provides practitioners with signposting to

useful resources like the Bereavement Network,” explains RCM Education and Professional Development Adviser Gail Johnson. “Being part of the network enables the sharing of good practice and means that midwives, nurses and students can learn from each other – something which is not so easy through some CPD activities.”

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» Briefing » Maths Champions

Go forth and

multiply! You don’t have to be Carol Vorderman to be a Maths Champion: all you need is a bit of enthusiasm plus some knowledge of the best places to go for help with numeracy problems. “Being a Maths Champion doesn’t involve being a whizz at maths,” explains Usdaw learning rep Jonathan Waterhouse, who has signed up for the new role at McVitie’s in Manchester, where he works on the Penguin biscuit production line. “But it does involve understanding the importance of maths in everyday life and pointing people in the right direction to get support for their maths needs.”

McVitie’s 2012 Learner of the Year Paul Whittaker collects his certificate from factory manager Neil Gallagher

Jonathan gained his own literacy and numeracy qualifications after training as a ULR – and because he has struggled himself, he is determined to help colleagues in the same boat. One of his latest success stories is Usdaw member Paul Whittaker, who has recently been named the firm’s 2012 Learner of the Year, thanks to help from Jonathan and his fellow ULRs. Paul completed an NVQ in Food Manufacturing alongside Skills for Life numeracy as well as a number of IT courses at the company’s Learn4u centre. “It’s just brilliant and without it I would have stayed still in my own development,” he says. Being a Maths Champion need not be timeconsuming, Jonathan explains. “You can do it anywhere: online, at work or in the canteen – in any scenario,” he says. “There is a great reward in seeing someone who takes the advice and benefits and at Mcvitie’s that can mean money in their pocket.” The new campaign by Maths4Us offers all the resources you need to become a Maths Champion in your workplace.

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Usdaw learning rep Jonathan Waterhouse has become a Maths Champion to encourage his members at McVities to tackle their numeracy issues.

“We are aiming to equip our army of ULRs with the tools and confidence to make a big difference,” says unionlearn Union Development Manager Judith Swift. Judith believes that the Maths Champions initiative could bring about the kind of culture change that would enable thousands of adults and their families to take more control of their lives by conquering their maths anxieties. “We understand the negative impact that a lack of confidence with numbers has on people’s lives,” she says. “We also know that many adults are better at maths than they think: we are dealing with numbers all the time but it’s when we hit a problem that confidence goes.” Sue Southwood from the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), which also supports the Maths Champions scheme, says that too many people are negative about maths and often go to great lengths to avoid it – which is why ULRs have such an important role to play. “A trusted group of people who already champion learning, such as ULRs, can help to raise awareness of the role, value and importance of maths for adults,” Sue says. “We would like to see a Maths Champion in every workplace!”

Find out more >> Sign up forms/maths-championregistration

>> Let us know what you need

>> More resources and tips

>> Download the unionlearn/NIACE booklet

>> Share your know-how

Help NIACE build a database of Maths resources for adults learners.

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Apprenticeships « Briefing «

Apprentice campaign launched at Skills Show Unionlearn took its message about quality apprenticeships to the next generation of potential trainees at the country’s first Skills Show in the autumn. There couldn’t have been a better place to launch the new unionlearn campaign ‘I’m An Apprentice – Value Me’ than at the country’s very first Skills Show, held in Birmingham last November. More than 70,000 young people packed themselves into five halls of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) for the three-day event, which gave unionlearn the chance to spread the message about apprentice rights to huge numbers of potential new apprentices. “We were delighted to launch ‘I’m An Apprentice – Value Me’ at an event that attracted so many young people considering taking the apprenticeship route,” commented unionlearn Apprenticeships Policy and Campaigns Officer Fred Grindrod. “It was a great place to ensure as many future apprentices as possible were aware of what they are entitled to, which is the essence of the new campaign.”

‘I’m An Apprentice – Value Me’ is designed to equip everyone currently considering or undertaking an apprenticeship with the basic facts on their rights at work, including pay rates, employment rights and quality of training. According to government data, 19 per cent of apprentices across the UK are paid less than the legal minimum wage, 9 per cent are paid less than the apprentice rate and 5 per cent are not paid anything at all. A breakdown by sector reveals that hairdressing is the worst offender, with just under half of its apprentices (48 per cent) not being paid the legal minimum, while construction companies are getting away with paying one-third (31 per cent) of their apprentices less than they are entitled to. “Pay is an essential component of valuing our apprentices,” commented unionlearn Director Tom Wilson. “If they are not receiving at least the minimum they are owed, the whole concept of apprenticeships is devalued.”

Try before you train The first Skills Show in the UK was a big success.

All photos: World Skills UK

The three-day event enabled its 70,000 visitors to try a new skill, trade or occupation at any of the 60-plus ‘Have A Go’ areas, while more than 50 ‘Spotlight’ talks by a range of industry experts offered useful insights into the world of vocational skills. In addition, more than 1,000 youngsters made appointments with the careers advisers onsite for one-to-one interviews in the weeks after the show to help them find the right training course, apprenticeship or job for them. The events also included a full conference programme, which brought together sector leaders, young people and businesses for two days of productive, informative and exciting discussion.

“We are thrilled to have reached so many people in this, the first year of the Skills Show, as it demonstrates the energy and enthusiasm that people have for vocational skills, training and apprenticeships,” commented Chief Executive Ross Maloney. “We are now evaluating feedback from all of those involved to ensure that future events can be even bigger and provide an even better experience for all those involved.”

>> The Skills Show returns to Birmingham from Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 November this year. The next generation of potential apprentices were able to try a range of trades at The Skills Show

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» Feature » Apprenticeships

Only the best will do All photos: Jess Hurd/

We need a revolution in our approach to apprenticeships according to Lord Adonis (front), flanked by apprentices (from left) Charlotte, Kirsty and Clare at the unionlearn event for National Apprenticeships Week

Union learning reps joined other stakeholders to discuss how to continue transforming and expanding quality training schemes for young people at unionlearn’s event to mark National Apprenticeships Week. By Martin Moriarty We need to create as many apprenticeships for school leavers as university places, Lord Adonis told union learning reps, union staff, stakeholders and apprentices at the unionlearn event kicking off this year’s National Apprenticeships Week. “We need a revolution in apprenticeships – we need to take the same approach as we took to schools 20 years ago as a country, in both parties, when we realised in the late ’80s and early ’90s that our schools were fundamentally failing the nation,” he said. “There is one acid test: we will only have cracked this problem we face when there are as many youth apprenticeships as there are university places and they are equally highly esteemed.” He further suggested that in future the university admission service UCAS should be the principal brokering point for places on apprenticeship programmes and higher-level learning courses. “If UCAS were the universities and apprenticeships service, that would hugely transform the accessibility and status of apprenticeships and crucially would help young people better judge for themselves what might be the right route,” he said. Unions had a vital role to play in developing new workplace partnerships to promote high-quality apprenticeships, he argued.

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On the evidence of his own visits to workplaces across the country, he could see how unions were “absolutely to the fore” in creating and sustaining the best schemes. “We need the trade unions, who have been doing brilliant work in this area, to continue campaigning strongly behind, and in partnership with, public and private sector employers, to encourage them to create apprenticeship schemes and to negotiate the schemes sector by sector and employer by employer,” he said. Union support for apprentices themselves was also crucial, he said. “When I was in Bury St Edmunds, I was very struck by how important UNISON was, not only having negotiated the scheme but also in supporting the apprentices themselves, which is very important for young people,” he argued. Central and local government had to lead the way by creating genuine youth apprenticeships within Whitehall and in town halls up and down the country, he argued, pointing out that during his own period as a minister, his office had not employed a single apprentice or indeed anyone under the age of 21. “Unless the state leads, it can’t expect others to follow,” he argued. “The state cannot preach to the private sector, and say, ‘You should be creating new opportunities for the youth of today’ if it isn’t doing so itself.”

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Apprenticeships « Feature «

Listening to apprentices Raising employer demand for apprenticeships is crucial, argued Gila Sacks from BIS

Have your say in upcoming review Unions and other stakeholders will have a vital role to play in getting the detail right when the government responds to last year’s Richard Review of apprenticeships, said Gila Sacks, the head of the apprenticeships unit at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Entrepreneur Doug Richard, a former investor on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, published his investigation into the possible future shape of the apprenticeship programme last November, and the government’s full response was due later this spring, Gila explained. “When the response comes out, it will launch a public consultation over the rest of the spring and I would really encourage you and the people you work with, the organisations you are involved with and the apprentices you meet, to take a look at the consultation and send us your views,” she said. “Government will set out at quite a high level what it thinks about the review, its vision of the future and its principles for change, but a lot of this will come down to the detail – and to get that right, we are going to need all of you.” The most important challenge would be to boost employer demand, Gila argued. “There are no short cuts round this: no government with the best will in the world could create enough good-quality apprenticeships,” she said. “It will only work if employers are committed not only to delivering apprenticeships but to raising the quality and raising the status – building employer demand is the first and will be the last challenge we face.”

Four apprentices talked about their experiences at the event (from left): Charlotte (Community), Kirsty (UNISON), Femi (CWU) and Clare (Unite)

The four apprentices who took part in a panel discussion on their experiences received no information, advice and guidance about the apprenticeship programme when they were at school. Femi (CWU) had no help and discovered the BT programme only by looking online; Charlotte (Community) found out about the scheme after three years at catering college; and Kirsty (UNISON) stumbled upon her

programme when she happened to do some post-school work experience at her local council. Only Clare (Unite) had any careers service help – and that was simply because her mum worked for Connexions at the time. They all agreed that earning while you’re learning was one of the key attractions of the programme, alongside the range of training courses and development opportunities that were open to them.


“Apprenticeships need to be high-quality training with serious kudos and tangible value both to the apprentice and the employer,” commented Doug Richard at the launch of his independent review of apprenticeships last autumn. Download your copy of The Richard Review of Apprenticeships from


Apprenticeship schemes completed over the next ten years will add £3.4 billion to the UK economy through gains in productivity, according to a new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Download Productivity Matters: The impact of Apprenticeships on the UK economy from

>>Skills Minister Matthew Hancock is now displaying the unionlearn ‘I’m An Apprentice – Value Me’ T-shirt, which he picked up when he visited St Edmundsbury Borough Council with Lord Adonis in December, on the wall of his Whitehall office.

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» Interview » Sally Rose

The sky’s the limi Unite member Sally Rose has no regrets after turning down her first-choice university for an apprenticeship at the country’s busiest airport. By Martin Moriarty

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Sally Rose « Interview «

After finishing her four-year advanced engineering apprenticeship at Heathrow last year, Unite member Sally Rose is convinced that taking the vocational route was the right one for her. “I would definitely recommend it to anyone: it’s the best opportunity and I don’t regret doing it for a second,” she says. She could easily have taken the academic route, since she was offered a place at her first-choice university before she finished her A Level course at Ealing College in west London. But she had also applied for the apprenticeship programme at the country’s busiest airport, encouraged by a friend who had already joined the scheme and thoroughly recommended it to her. “I asked myself where would I be happier and the apprenticeship came a lot higher in every aspect of what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “The only downside was that I wasn’t going to be able to do as much partying as my friends … but that wasn’t quite enough to persuade me!” And the friends who chose to continue full-time study might have had all the fun of student life over the past three or four years, but many are now struggling in these difficult economic times. “A lot of my friends have come out of uni and are frantically searching for jobs,” Sally says. “It looks like a lot of them aren’t going to get jobs in the field they did their degree in, so I feel really lucky to be able to do an apprenticeship in something that I love and be given an opportunity to get a job in that field as well.” Sally started her apprenticeship with a year at Kingston College, spending four days a week in the workshop and one day in the classroom working towards a BTEC National Certificate in Operations and Maintenance Engineering. “It was very hands-on, which absolutely suited me because I was sick of working from a book!” she says. The year at Kingston was followed by three years onsite working with all the different engineering teams around the airport on three-month rotations, while continuing to hone her vocational skills. Now that she has finished, her portfolio of qualifications also includes an NVQ Level 2 in Performing Engineering Operations (Engineering Practices) and a Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Maintenance. But she’s not done yet. Sally enrolled on a Foundation degree in building services engineering at East Berkshire College in the autumn, and is enjoying her one day a week back in college. “It’s nice to be doing some official learning again,” she says. In all the time she’s been working at the airport, being a young woman in a male-dominated world has never been an issue, she says. “If you look at the numbers, there aren’t as many women as there are men: there were three female apprentices in my intake, out of a total of 21,” she points out.

“But it’s never been an issue while I’ve been here, I wasn’t worried at all and I fitted in straight away along with the other two female apprentices in my year.” Heathrow Airport and its predecessor companies have been training young people in the skills they need for the past 35 years, which means a huge percentage of the workforce has come through that route, says Engineering Training Competency Leader Glyn Moorshead. “Being an airport environment, we’re very particular in terms of the skills we require, which mean the best way to go is with apprenticeships,” he explains. “If we can get guys and girls through the four-year apprenticeship programme, we can train them up to a point where they’re exactly what we need, so when they finish their training they’re ready to go to work straightaway.” Because so many workers are former apprentices themselves, they know exactly what members of the next generation need when they arrive on one of their rotations.

“The technicians at the airport are very happy to help all the apprentices, explain what they’re doing step by step and make sure we’re learning as much as possible.” “Right across the airport, all the technicians are very happy to help all the apprentices, explain everything they’re doing step by step and make sure we’re asking the right sort of questions and we’re learning as much as possible,” Sally says. Like most of the apprentices, Sally joined Unite, taking advantage of its heavily discounted membership rate for apprentices. “The senior shop stewards John Tarrant and Mark Howe introduced themselves straightaway when we started at the airport and we’re fully aware of who they are and have their mobile phone numbers,” Sally recalls. “Its nice to know you’ve got someone fighting your corner if you ever needed it and there’s someone else who’s willing to listen to you if you do have a problem.” The union is also closely involved in the operation of the scheme, Glyn explains. “We work as closely as we can with the union on all the issues to make sure everyone is happy in terms of what we’re doing and how we’re running the programme,” he says. “Obviously we’re committed to the scheme and so are they and it’s in all our best interests to make sure it reaches its full potential.”

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» Feature » Hard-to-reach learners

Carers take a break to learn

UNISON’s pioneering Learning With Care project marked International Women’s Day with an event full of fun informal activities for home care workers in Dorset. By Martin Moriarty West Country home care workers tried a wide range of fun learning activities to mark International Women’s Day in March, thanks to UNISON’s ground-breaking Learning With Care project. Jointly organised by UNISON and care provider SureCare, the event took place at the Barrington Centre in the town of Ferndown in Dorset, with some of the fun extending into the day centre next door and even the local supermarket. “We organised the event for women who don’t tend to earn a lot in order to give them opportunities that they might not have been able to experience before,” explains Project Leader Amanda Brown. “There was belly dancing, zumba and samba, all

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All photos: Paul Carter

We’re a team (from left): UNISON Lay Tutor Debbie Hudson, Project Leader Amanda Brown, Branch Women’s Officer Stella Crew, SureCare worker Lisa Elliott and Branch Recruitment Officer Emily Metcalfe

activities with a flavour of international learning; we laid on food from different countries; and we draped 30 or 40 national flags from the Olympics inside the community centre and outside in the shopping parade.” A flower arranging session gave everyone the chance to make a Mothers’ Day bouquet using suffragette colours of purple, green and white. “People might think flower arranging is a bit twee, but that was probably what got the most interest and it gave participants the chance to be a bit creative and do something they wouldn’t normally,” Amanda says. Open to the local community as well as care workers, the event nailed its inclusive colours to the mast by taking the samba band into the day centre next door, giving older people the chance to enjoy some Latin American dancing and try some of the musical instruments. “We also took the samba band into Tesco and played for a short time there as well, which was good because it got people talking about what we were doing and what we were there for,” Amanda says. Although numbers were lower than expected because of the sudden arrival of appalling weather on the day, Amanda is pleased with what the event was able to do. “It was definitely worth doing and we would do something similar again,” she says.

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Hard-to-reach learners « Feature «

“The project is clearly evidencing benefits that can be achieved within the workforce, which has a positive effect on the recipients of home care services.”

UNISON launched the Learning With Care project last year to create new learning opportunities for domiciliary staff at the nine companies that provide home care on behalf of Dorset County Council. The project means the care workers can improve their English and maths through functional skills courses; boost their job skills by taking professional qualifications; and explore non-vocational interests through informal learning. All these are opportunities that they would not be able to afford without the financial backing of the project. “These workers are predominately women working on pretty low wages, which usually means there is not always extra money in the family purse to extend to evening courses or other areas of training to enhance their own lives and that of their work,” Amanda points out. “This is where the project has come into its own and has benefitted both the worker and the employer.” SureCare is the company that UNISON has worked most closely with over the past six months, and it used the March event to help recruit new staff and volunteers. When Amanda first visited the company last October, only two of its 28 staff were UNISON members.

Care workers and members of the community took part in music, dance and flower-arranging activities at the International Women’s Day event in Dorset

Now that figure has more than quadrupled and Amanda has also recruited two union learning reps and a learning champion, who are spreading the word about the range of courses colleagues can access with their help and support. In addition, the company has signed a learning agreement with the union and Amanda is currently looking at building on that and signing a recognition agreement later this spring. The county council agrees that Learning With Care is a win-win for everyone involved, according to Acting Director for Adult and Community Services Harry Capron. “This project is clearly evidencing benefits that can be achieved within the workforce, which has a positive effect on the recipients of home care services,” Harry says. The authority understands the vital role played by the learning champions in the success of the project to date. “The learning champions are generating very innovative and much-needed opportunities for themselves, other staff and service users to participate in,” he adds. “These will enhance their morale, self-confidence and motivation and will inevitably have a beneficial effect on staff retention.”

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» Feature » Technology

Let your fingers do the learning More and more union learning projects are taking tablet devices like iPads and Kindles into workplaces to promote easier access to learning resources. At Nottinghamshire Probation Service, UNISON learning rep Audrey Dinnall successfully bid for union funding to buy tablets to promote learning and encourage the use of IT. “The iPads are great for individual learning and group work and members can also loan them,” Audrey explains. “Some use them for job and training searches; others to do their college course work.” Audrey has also used the iPads to run a taster psychology session, which members found useful and enjoyable. At Lincolnshire Police, UNISON learning reps Nigel Wass and Wendy Parry have turned to iPads to help colleagues with language training, maths and English. “The digital divide leaves many unable and unconfident about accessing any digital technology, particularly in areas where traditionally staff have not needed to access a computer, such as care or environmental services,” Nigel says. But now a UNISON learning coordinator is using tablets to take learning to police civilian staff, such as cleaning, catering and Community Support Officers. “IPads are easy to use if you are not familiar with new technology,” says Nigel. “They also have a huge variety of free apps, which can help you learn more about the world, practise maths, take and edit photos easily or learn a new language – all skills that people are interested in learning.” Professionals’ union Prospect has developed a new app for would-be apprentices, which offers advice as well as the largest selection of vacancies available via an app in the UK.

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Reps are tur nin new technolo g to g forge fresh p y to at into learning hways for members. By Astrid St ubbs

The app offers information and guidance on everything related to apprenticeships, from finding out about a particular role to applying for a job, minimum rates of pay and what should be covered in an apprenticeship contract. “This new resource is aimed not only at those considering an apprenticeship, but those already undertaking one and their parents or guardians, as well as employers involved in managing, designing or operating a scheme in their workplaces,” explains Prospect’s Director of Communications and Research Sue Ferns. The app, initially available for Android phones (an iPhone version is under development), allows users to search for apprenticeship vacancies using both the National Apprenticeship Service and Not Going to Uni, a website dedicated to helping schooland college-leavers make informed decisions about their future. To find out more about the Prospect app, visit:

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Technology « Feature «

Call of the new >> UNISON was the first union in the UK to develop an app for smartphones, which provides touch-of-a-button guidance about rights at work. The union plans to publish a new pilot guide on using technology to aid learning this spring.

>> Busy reps who want to improve their own learning can develop themselves digitally, now that an increasing number of courses are available online.

>> Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo and blogs such as Union Learning Voices ( allow reps to stay in touch and share tips, videos and podcasts as well as issues of concern and examples of best practice.

“iPads have a huge variety of free apps, which can help you learn more about the world, practise maths, take and edit photos easily or learn a new language – all skills that people are interested in learning.”

>> As mentioned on page 9, Prospect has produced a series of podcasts to help members sell their skills, write an effective CV and prepare for interview. The first podcast in a series on health and well-being includes techniques that can help individuals tackle stress and maintain well-being in the workplace.

>> The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has had input to a new app offering women and their partners easy-tounderstand information about pain relief during the antenatal period or while in labour. The app, available for Android and iPhone, has been developed by the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association (OAA).

Click on… >> >> >>

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» Briefing » Higher level learning

Flying higher with the union route Hundreds of learners this year are taking advantage of the unionlearn SERTUC 10 per cent discount on courses at Birkbeck, University of London. The 10 per cent unionlearn discount on course fees at Birkbeck is helping hundreds of union members develop their careers through part-time higher level learning. In total, 750 union members enrolled on courses in the current academic year as a result of the partnership between unionlearn and the college, which enables adult learners to study part-time within the University of London. “The hundreds of union members who enrolled on Birkbeck courses in 2012 clearly demonstrate the success of our partnership,” says Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck. “Both organisations are highly committed to making higher education accessible to everyone and we look forward to welcoming more union members as they seek to enhance their professional and personal development through study at Birkbeck.” One union member currently finishing a postgraduate law degree at Birkbeck is Unite activist Ousseynou Ly, who achieved first-class honours in his undergraduate law degree (LLB) at the college in 2011. He had never heard of Birkbeck when he spotted an advert on the Tube a few years ago encouraging applicants to study there part-time. He was already thinking about returning to the law studies he had been forced to abandon when the political upheaval of the 1990s in his native Ivory Coast drove him to Britain. “I went to have a look and gave them a try and it turns out it was the best decision I ever made,” Ousseynou says. Taking a law degree gave him lots of knowledge and skills he could put to good use as the secretary of the Unite branch at British Airways at the time.

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“I was doing a lot of disciplinary work representing members, so I was picking up skills I could readily apply to my union duties,” he says. Ousseynou completed the degree in five years, a year longer than scheduled because looking after his members in the wake of the initially disastrous move to Terminal Five in 2008 took up so much of his time. Since completing the LLB, Ousseynou has not only started on his Masters but also successfully secured a place as a trainee barrister (or ‘pupil’) at Doughty Street Chambers. “It’s a very progressive set of chambers, and they do a lot of human rights work – in an industrial dispute you would find them defending the worker rather than the employers, so basically it will be a continuation of what I have been doing in the trade union movement since 2002,” he says. Unionlearn Regional Manager Barry Francis says that stories like Ousseynou’s combined with the increasing number of learners taking the union route to Birkbeck prove that the partnership is paying off for all involved. “This is hard evidence of the major contribution we are making, through our partnerships with institutions such as Birkbeck, to helping union members gain the qualifications they need to help themselves and their employers progress,” Barry says.

>> Find out more about the unionlearn SERTUC 10 per cent discount on course fees at Birkbeck at: fees-information/union-discount

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Data collection « Briefing « Every piece of data unionlearn receives helps build a stronger case for government to continue funding the work ULRs undertake with unionlearn’s support.

Help us to help you help your learners It’s the start of another long day in the learning centre. You need to check the PowerPoint is working for the maths course later this morning. An email in your inbox is urgently asking you to call the local college. And another ULR has just texted to say one of the Entry Level English learners wants to drop out.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

With so much on your plate, it would be easy to let data collection requests slip down your to-do list. But every piece of data unionlearn collects adds to the compelling case unions have been able to make for continued government funding, explains unionlearn National Projects Coordinator Stephen Russell. “At the moment, we have a government that, regardless of our other disagreements with it, is prepared to fund us – so long as we can show we are doing what we say we are doing,” he says. In addition, the more unionlearn knows about what ULRs need, the better it can develop resources that offer reps the support they need in the format that’s most useful. “We don’t ask about age, gender, ethnicity or disability because we’re nosy – and we always

aggregate the figures together and keep them separate from the names of specific individuals,” Stephen emphasises. “We ask because the more information we have under those headings, the better we can see (for example) recruitment patterns of new ULRs – which means we can do more to help encourage underrepresented groups.” Take, for example, the most recent quarterly figures on the age of ULRs (Figure 1). If only 10 per cent of the 17 per cent of people who did not declare their age were 50-plus, that group would make up nearly 30 per cent of ULRs. On ethnicity, 25 per cent didn’t say anything in the last quarter (see Figure 2), which leaves a big gap in the knowledge about what proportion of ULRs are from minority ethnic backgrounds: it could be anything from 11 to 36 per cent. Which brings us back to the importance of data collection requests. The more information you can include in your responses, the more unionlearn can see what you’re doing and what extra resources you might need to help you do it better. It’s over to you.

Figure 1: Age of ULRs % ■ Under-24 ■ 25–49

Figure 2: Ethnicity of ULRs % ■ White ■ Minority ethnic

■ 50-plus

17 8 undeclared

11 29


A How it looks

B How it could look

25 undeclared



A How it looks

B How it could look 74




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» Briefing » Reading schemes

Get ready for this year’s Six Book Challenge

Signing up for this year’s Six Book Challenge

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw is aiming to sign up even more members for the Six Book Challenge this year, after more than 300 took part last year. “The Six Book Challenge gets people talking,” says the Wakefield Argos/DHL Distribution Centre HR Manager Lisa Lindsay. “It’s a great addition to our learning offer.” ULR and Learning Centre Coordinator Monika Paczkowska, who runs the Challenge at Castleford, has spotted that the scheme is linking to the Rugby League World Cup 2013. “Castleford is a Rugby League town so I think this will attract some members,” she reckons. Shona Wilson, a mobile ULR at Morrisons’ in Scotland, has masterminded the Challenge at stores in Lindsayfield and Airdrie, using it to bring new faces into learning and encourage staff to use their local library.

Photo: David Lindsay

Usdaw has put together a new leaflet to promote the Reading Agency’s successful reading intiative It’s been a family affair at Tesco in Hastings where ULR Maura Winchester has had a great response to involving partners and children in the scheme. Usdaw is spreading the Six Book Challenge message with a new leaflet for project workers and ULRs, which features three case studies plus lots of tips and useful contacts.

>> For a copy of the leaflet, email

>> For more information about the

Six Book Challenge, email

>> sixbookchallenge

Getting more out of Quick Reads NIACE has produced an extremely handy new booklet for learning projects to teach functional skills using this year’s batch of Quick Reads, which were launched in February under the tagline, ‘Start a New Chapter’. Learning With Quick Reads 2013 includes a huge number of suggestions for ways to use the six new titles to improve learners’ confidence and develop their functional skills (literacy, numeracy and ICT). The suggestions contained in the booklet can be used with learners working towards qualifications in English, maths or ICT or with informal reading groups in the workplace or the community.

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All the activities are rooted in the language and action of the new titles. Some maths activities are based on a group of friends renting a holiday cottage in Veronica Henry’s book, A Sea Change, for instance, while others use explosives calculations quoted in Andy McNab’s Today, Everything Changes. Similarly, there is a writing activity exploring the contrasting approaches of tabloid and broadsheet newspapers based on the way a character’s death is reported in the Kent Messenger in Minette Walters’ book, A Dreadful Murder, and another comparing alternatives to fossil fuel based on the fictional fuel in the Dr Who title, The Silurian Gift.

And since one of Veronica Henry’s main characters is sacked without warning, there is even a suggested activity focusing on employment rights, including internet research and discussion points.

>> Download Learning with

Quick Reads 2013 from

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

Unite members at the Caterpillar Articulated Trucks plant in the north-east have embraced the health and well-being agenda.

Keep on truckin’ Unions and management at Caterpillar Articulated Trucks in Peterlee have won a gold award from a health scheme to improve the well-being of workers across the north-east of England. Supported by the TUC, the North East Better Health at Work (BHAW) Award scheme recognises workplaces that motivate staff to develop a sustainable culture of health and well-being. These include initiatives like the Caterpillar programme, in which advocates supported the range of measures listed on the right. “We are extremely proud to be officially recognised with this award – achieving the gold standard has been the icing on the cake,” says HR Manager Chris Fairs. “Commitment and hard work by everyone involved over the last three years has helped us achieve this award and, more importantly, it has helped create a healthier workforce.” Unite Convenor Reynold Simpson says winning the award is a marvellous achievement for the business. “It’s a big step towards creating our goal of a healthier culture for all of our employees at Caterpillar Peterlee,” he says. The TUC is supporting the BHAW scheme because the north-east

fares badly in most of the key health indicators, says Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan. “The TUC’s health and well-being work and support of the Better Health at Work Award is making significant progress in making workers and workplaces healthier, happier and more productive,” he says. Diet and exercise Staff joined a weekly weigh-in challenge, at which they also received exercise cards and seven-day meal plans. Heart health Employees received a range of heart health information, and they were offered blood pressure checks and cholesterol testing. Sun awareness Various topics including cancer awareness and water saving were covered and 300 employees obtained free water-saving devices. Flu jabs Nearly 350 employees were vaccinated against flu. Alcohol awareness Information on alcohol was circulated and interactive awareness sessions were well attended.

Unite members at Caterpillar’s Peterlee plant had their blood pressure tested as part of the health drive

Reps at workplaces throughout the UK can support well-being in their workplaces with a new TUC Work and well-being booklet. The guide offers advice on the wide range of initiatives to promote well-being, with detailed chapters examining the relationship between work and health; using the workplace to deal with health issues; promoting health through work as well as a reps’ monitoring and evaluation how-to checklist; and a series of well-being at work resources.

>> Download:

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» Feature » Stow College From the Highlands and Islands to the borders and just about all points in between, Glasgow’s Stow College TU Education Centre delivers learning right across Scotland. By Astrid Stubbs

Reaching the parts others cannot teach Health and safety students (above) may come from a wide range of workplaces but they are united in their praise for the Stow College approach

There’s a joke among staff at Stow College TU Education Centre in Glasgow that the institution has the Heineken effect… because it reaches the parts that other providers do not reach (or should that be ‘teach’?). It’s funny because it’s true: Stow’s remit reaches hundreds of miles north to the Shetland Isles, which geographically have more in common with Norway than Glasgow! Two other TU centres serve Fife and Edinburgh. But depending on demand for local training, Stow can be asked to cover the rest of the country. “We travel the length and breadth of Scotland: we’ve delivered courses in quarries, Dounreay (nuclear centres), distilleries, shipyards, rail stations – wherever unions can organise,”says Curriculum Leader Mark Pollitt. Curriculum Leader Gus Grubb agrees. “Seven years ago we were limited in the venues available to us to deliver the TUC programme, but we are now able to ensure that the programme is available throughout Scotland by working closely with affiliates,” he says. As well as the TUC core programme at Stow and the online programme for Scotland, the college delivers a vast range of bespoke learning to affiliate unions, some delivered at the college and much in workplaces. Last year, Stow College delivered training to some 1,600 reps and extended learning opportunities to around 500 union members, all part of a diverse programme based on members' needs and organised with the help of Workplace Steering Committees involving senior reps, ULRs, employers and Stow TUC tutors. Operating from a former primary school once famous for a parental sit-in when it was threatened with closure,

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Stow is unique among other TU education centres for delivering the innovative Collective Learning Partnership (CLP). The partnership is a joint enterprise between major unions and blue chip employers in the country, including Rolls Royce and Scotrail, delivering learning directly in the workplace and at shift-friendly times. For example, Stow tutors deliver the functional skills component of Scotrail’s apprenticeship programme. Through the Collective Learning Partnership, a series of ‘responding to redundancy courses’ was developed, designed to help employees improve their chances of re-skilling. George Waldron, the deputy head of faculty at the centre, is responsible for running a partnership agreement with Highlands Council, its unions and Stow to deliver all the authority’s health and safety training as well as opening the training to reps from surrounding workplaces. “The scheme is proving such a success that work is now in progress to broaden it to involve health and safety training for NHS reps,” explains George. George was also instrumental in the college’s partnership projects report for the TUC’s successful Green Workplaces Project, highlighting the work management and unions across Britain are doing to secure energy savings and reduce the environmental impact of workplaces. With such a vast geographical area to cover, the growing trend towards online courses is invaluable. “Reps from all over have great difficulty getting to colleges: you can imagine that getting from Barra (Outer Hebrides) to the mainland for a course is not easy,” says Head of Faculty Brian Corrigan.

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Stow College « Feature «

Photographs: Alan Wylie

“The range and diversity of our students is staggering: people from the voluntary sector, housing, industry, agriculture – even footballers!”

Some of the team responsible for putting Stow College TU Education Centre on the map (from left): Deputy Head of Faculty George Waldron, Curriculum Leader Gus Grubb, lecturer Sallie Wilcox and (below) Head of Faculty Brian Corrigan

Gus Grubb, responsible for growing the online programme, explains that, as well as core TUC courses and customised courses for unions, a crucial element for far-flung Scottish reps is a discussion forum, which remains open to them long after courses complete, allowing them to continue to network, share and exchange ideas. “People meet this way, they gel and organise to progress together,” adds Brian. But for reps like David Nicholson, a POA member who works for Cornton Vale Prison, Stirling, there’s nothing like attending Stow in person. “I travel 30 miles to get here: there are places I could do courses nearer but this is the best,” says David, who is currently completing his Health and Safety Diploma. “The tutors talk to you at an equal level, it’s not like being at school and we all have the same thing in common – that we want better things.” Reps attending the Health and Safety Stage 2 Course, which lecturer Sallie Wilcox teaches at the centre, come from every walk of life and workplace. All are complimentary about their experiences, with comments including: “We are able to share our experiences”, “we learn off each other” and “you see things in a different light”. “We have a huge diversity of students, the range is staggering; people from the voluntary sector, housing, industry, agriculture – even footballers!” says Sallie, who came to tutoring after following courses at the college herself as a rep for Scottish Opera. “Some come with absolute horror stories but at least we are able to give them the opportunity of getting support from like-minded folk and help them to keep pushing in their workplaces.”

>> Case studies overleaf spring 2013 «


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» Feature » Stow College

Unite’s Scottish ULR of the Year Sonya Cassidy is building learning and organisation in her branch with the skills she developed on Stow College courses.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

Reaching the parts others cannot teach

» from previous page

Putting it into practice at RBS

Sonya Cassidy has helped recruit 130 new members with the skills she acquired at Stow College

Sonya has helped recruit 130 new members at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Mortgage Centre in Greenock. She has also signed up a new workplace rep, a health and safety rep and another potential workplace rep. She also helped set up a new workplace branch and has been elected branch secretary with more than 200 members. Sonya’s confidence has now enabled her to set up courses for members, including understanding pensions, Spanish, Italian, British Sign Language, computing and

communications – all with the Faculty of Trade Union Education at Stow (an ECDL course is also due to start soon). “Through our Collective Learning Partnership, Stow’s Faculty of Trade Union Education have reacted to the learning needs of our membership within RBS,” Sonya says. “They have been first class in creating bespoke classes to our member wishes, and shaping them around our shift patterns delivered within the workplace. “Stow work on a can-do basis with Unite in RBS, which has facilitated innovation in the courses that have been delivered – none more so than the bespoke Understanding Pensions course.”

Travel helps Janet broaden her mind GMB member Janet Adams dedicated a lot of her time to public transport when she opted to study for a Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety at Stow College. Janet was a safety rep and shop steward at Aberdeenshire Council and travelled over 100 miles from Aberdeen to Glasgow every Thursday for a year to attend the course.

Now a GMB Regional Organiser, Janet also completed the GMB Induction Programme and TUC Health and Safety Stages 1 and 2 before embarking on the demanding TUC Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety. “Most of the courses I have done within the trade union movement have been with the Faculty of Trade Union Education at Stow College,” she says.

“I have worked with several tutors and their support and willingness to go that bit extra has been invaluable within my trade union role. “Undoubtedly the support and assistance I have received over the years has played a key role in helping me in both my union role and my career.”

Cancer learners take in hospice visit Learners improved their understanding of cancer with a hospice visit

28 » spring autumn2013 2012

Students studying a pilot course on cancer in the workplace had the opportunity to visit a hospice and learn from a hospice nurse. The course was delivered by the TUC Trade Union Studies Unit at Colchester Institute and was well attended, with lots of interest from members of all the TUC-affiliated unions. The course gave shop stewards and health and safety reps the chance to study cancer in the

workplace and examine workplace occupational health services. One student commented that the course was “very informative and a complete eye-opener and has given me real food for thought”. The centre has already started advertising for the next course and is expecting a good response. As most workers know someone – a friend, relative or work colleague – affected by cancer, the course is a vital addition to the already wide range of subjects on offer to reps.

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

North West ULRs look at learning on the go North West ULRs took a close look at the role they play in promoting digital inclusion at their latest regional network forum. Learning reps in the region can hire tablet devices to take into workplaces for mobile learning, which unionlearn North West has filled with information on functional skills assessments, alcohol awareness, diet checks and so on. Unionlearn is a partner in many Go ON partnerships led or supported by local authorities to promote digital inclusion, including Go ON Wirral, Go ON Manchester and Go ON Knowsley. Go ON Liverpool is considered a beacon of excellence because the number of people digitally excluded has been reduced from 104,000 adults in June 2011 (29 per cent of the population) to 46,000 by December 2012 – a drop of over half in the digital divide. ULRs at the forum also heard how unionlearn encourages all ULRs to become digital champions with a three-day digital champion course, as well as offering a range of courses to help people get online in the workplace and the wider community.

Helping people access new digital welfare system A South West unionlearn conference on the digital impact of welfare reforms has proved such a huge hit that it’s being repeated in the Northern region this spring.

Speakers will include representatives from the Department of Work and Pensions and the Citizens Advice Bureau.

>> You can download the presentations from the South West event at:

Photo: Clint Randall

With some 8.7 million people nationally unable to use or without access to the internet, plans to implement an online claims system will affect many thousands across the country. The changes will affect pensioners, the unemployed, people with disabilities and those in work. The conference in February explored how working in partnership can help working people and the wider community adapt to these changes. More than 100 people signed up to the conference within days of it being advertised, with local authorities, unions, housing associations, further education providers and community and voluntary organisations all sending representatives to the event. Speakers came from Jobcentre Plus, the West of England Community Learning Partnership and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB).

“It was a great event,” commented unionlearn regional Senior Union Support Officer Rob Garrett. “The changes will affect lots of people.” Unionlearn with the Northern TUC will hold its own event on the digital impact of welfare reforms in the spring. It will bring together ULRs, community learning champions, learning advocates and other interested parties to share good practice and swap ideas about how to collectively help people at work and in communities gain the necessary skills and support required to access the services.

Nora Corkery outlined the CAB approach to the impact of welfare reforms at the South West event

spring 2013 «


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» Contacts

unionlearn contacts All TUC email addresses are first initial followed by

» Unionlearn

» U-Net centres

» North West

» Union contacts

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

Helen Gagliasso Tel: 0191 227 5567

Regional Manager Dave Eva Tel: 0151 236 2321 Union Development Coordinator Tony Saunders Liverpool office Tel: 0151 236 2321 Manchester office Tel: 0161 872 2688 Regional Education Officer Peter Holland Tel: 0151 243 2564

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 Trish Lavelle Tel: 020 8971 7340 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

» National unionlearn managers Standards and Quality Ian Borkett Tel: 020 7079 6940 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 and Finance Catherine McClennan Tel: 07795 606 982 Informal Adult Learning Joe Fearnehough Tel: 0151 236 7678 Policy Iain Murray Tel: 020 7467 1264 Apprenticeships Fred Grindrod Tel: 020 7079 1367

30 » spring 2013

» Website Ben Furber Tel: 020 7079 6943

» 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

» South West Regional Manager Helen Cole Tel: 0117 947 0521 Union Development Coordinator Ros Etheridge Regional Education Officer Marie Hughes Tel: 0117 933 4443

» Yorkshire and the Humber Tel: 0113 242 9296 Regional Manager Alan Roe Union Development Coordinator Sharon Burke Regional Education Officer Trevor Sargison Tel: 0113 200 1071

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Calendar «

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 Jim Mowatt Tel: 020 7611 2780 Unite Kenny Barron Tel: 0207 611 2500 Unity Gerald Crookes Tel: 01782 280 588 URTU Graham Cooper Tel: 07795 562 874 USDAW Ann Murphy Tel: 0161 224 2804

Forthcoming events For full details of the events and others arranged after we went to press, go to the unionlearn website

April 12–14 16 17 23 27

Black Workers’ Conference Equality Forum (North West) ULF health sector unions World Book Night Helping Young People Into Work conference

May 18–24 23

Adult Learners’ Week Learning At Work Day

June 19 26

Southern joint learning forum (South West) ULF quarterly project managers’ meeting

July 4–5

TUC LGBT conference

August 20

Equality Forum (North West)

September 8–11

TUC Congress

spring 2013 «


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Resources « Roundup «


Order now from And postage and packing is also free

Delivering better learning agreements When negotiating channels are established with the employer it is time to discuss making a learning agreement. This practical guide for trade union reps and officers discusses what learning agreements are and what they should cover, and provides a template for a framework agreement.

Breaking through the barriers – Equal access to learning for all Brings together the voices of unions and other stakeholders to show how union projects can overcome the barriers many learners face when they try to develop themselves at work.

CFEB Redundancy Handbook This handbook produced by the Consumer Financial Education Body (CFEB) is a useful information resource for anyone whose job is under threat of redundancy. This handbook covers issues from dealing with job worries and redundancy rights to managing money and the entitlements you can claim.

Negotiators’ guide for Bargaining for Skills A guide for union negotiators on engaging employers in bargaining for skills that sets the scene for putting learning and skills on the bargaining table. The guide is aimed at union reps and officers who are in negotiating positions, but helps everyone representing union members in the workplace.

Research Paper 17 – Making Skills Work This report is structured around three case studies highlighting best practice in how unions can negotiate with employers in a way that optimises the use of existing and newly acquired skills as well as maintain their role in supporting the workforce to acquire and update skills.

Health, work and well-being toolkit One of the most important roles a trade union can play is to ensure the welfare, health and safety of its members. This toolkit discusses strategies and initiatives to identify and overcome ill-health issues at work.

Stewarding the green skills agenda This report describes how trade unions are successfully leading or ‘stewarding’ the transition to a green economy. It sets outs how to make industrial change just and inclusive and support access to training and ‘green jobs’ through advocacy and practical demonstration. The report contains a number of case studies.

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.

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Learning Rep - Spring 2013