Page 1 | Autumn 2013

• Green Skills Partnership • Skills funding • Six Book Challenge • Apprenticeships • Reps training • Technicians Pathway

Meet Sarah Barnes, ULR of the year

TAKE YOUR PARTNERS WELCOME TO THE FIRST edition of the new Learning Rep magazine. Moving to the online format allows us to use more of the latest technology to improve communications with our learning reps – for example, by embedding digital video on the page to give readers more direct access to online content. However, it’s not only the look of our flagship publication that is changing. The wider skills landscape is also evolving rapidly, as evidenced by the Employer Ownership Pilot. This pilot is testing out major changes by routing £340m of skills funding directly to employers over a four-year period. A new consultation on changes to apprenticeship funding is likely to support this direction of travel over the longer term. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has been helping advance this new approach by managing the bids from employers and partners, including unions, to use the pilot to deliver learning and skills opportunities better tailored to the needs of business and individuals.

“These are laudable aims but they will only be achieved if unions are fully involved.”

Significantly, the second round of the pilot has involved bids from Industrial Partnerships – comprising employers, unions and other stakeholders – in order to support skills strategies aligned to the government’s industrial strategy.

These are laudable aims but they will only be achieved if unions are fully involved. That is why we at unionlearn will be working with our affiliates to develop a coherent and effective approach to boosting union engagement in the pilot projects. Keep an eye on our website to find out more.  Tom Wilson is Director of unionlearn

Funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the European Social Fund. Learning Rep magazine is published three times a year by unionlearn, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. Written and edited by Astrid Stubbs and Martin Moriarty | Designed by TUC | © unionlearn, 2013 Cover photo by Mark Harvey

MBE for CWU’s Parminder Recognition for union learning rep highlights positive role all ULRs play in supporting adult learners CWU learning rep Parminder Kaur, who works at Royal Mail’s Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her services to adult education. In her five years as a ULR, she has enabled more than 500 workmates to achieve qualifications in IT, English and maths. But Parminder did not realise she was even in the running for the award: she didn’t read the official letter because it arrived just as she was about to drive a seven and a half ton truck on a CWU charity mission to Bulgaria (she also finds time to do huge amounts of charity work). “It wasn’t until I got home a couple of weeks later that I actually read the letter and saw I was up for an MBE!” she recalls. Parminder now has further plans to develop learning centres and is about to open a community centre in West Drayton for families affected by cancer. CWU Head of Education & Training Trish Lavelle was quick to congratulate the west London learning rep for her MBE and thank her for everything she continues to do for union members. “Parminder’s abilities have long been recognised by the CWU, but it is wonderful that her

achievements have gained wider recognition – and in so doing highlighted the good work carried out by so many of her fellow ULRs,” Trish says.

USDAW’s Monika wins award, too USDAW learning rep Monika Paczkowska was lost for words when she won a major learning award earlier this year. Monika was named Learning Champion of the Year at the fifth Leading The Learner Voice Awards, which celebrate the significant contributions learners and their mentors make to the further education (FE) and skills sector. “It was a big surprise for
 me when I found out that I
 had been short-listed and when it
 was announced that I was Learning Champion of the Year I was absolutely speechless!” Monika says. Monika moved to the UK from Poland seven years ago and started work in Castleford Home Delivery Store (Argos warehouse) as a picker. She hasn’t looked back since taking on the ULR role when the company learning zone opened in 2011, coordinating the nine-strong

learning rep team and last year overseeing the move of the learning zone to a better position on the site. Her dedication has led to a huge surge in learner numbers: more than half of the 300 staff on site have taken courses, between them accessing 1,300-plus learning opportunities since 2010. “Monika does an incredible job for her members: she makes coming to the learning zone comfortable, fun and accessible, removing any barriers for staff,” says USDAW National Lifelong Learning Coordinator Martyn Warwick.

Vince Cable is coming to conference Business Secretary Vince Cable is a guest speaker at unionlearn’s annual conference, which takes place on Monday 28 October at Congress House in London. This year’s theme is Skills for Growth, with a broad agenda focusing on meeting the needs of the modern workforce through workplace and community learning. As well
 as looking forward to the year ahead, the conference is a chance to celebrate our work over the past 12 months and we will be marking the achievements of several projects with our Quality Awards. Other speakers include TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady,

UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Chair Charlie Mayfield and former professional footballer Paul Mortimer. Workshops will cover a range of topics from apprenticeships and traineeships to numeracy and technician pathways. For more information and booking details, call Yusuf Dadabhoy on 020 7079 6944 • Click here for email enquiries

Farewell to an inspiring leader One of the key union voices on skills in the Midlands for over a decade as well as a lifelong feminist and peace campaigner, Mary Alys died in May, a year after being diagnosed with cancer. At the helm first of Midlands TUC Learning Services and then of Midlands unionlearn, Mary provided 12 years of continuous leadership that helped ensure the organisation became highly regarded across the region. Softly spoken but wholly committed
 to enhancing the life opportunities of working people, Mary battled to keep equality on union agendas and ensure people from disadvantaged backgrounds were truly represented and had their voices heard. She tirelessly campaigned against gender segregation on apprenticeships, and for 25 years fought to ensure English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

learning gained the higher profile that it deserved. “Mary was an inspirational leader who had a positive impact on all those that she came into contact with,” commented the Midlands unionlearn team. “She will be missed by all of us for her massive contribution to ensuring that the working people of the Midlands, whenever possible, got the best opportunities to develop their knowledge and their skills and enhance their life opportunities. “She will also be greatly missed by her team, whom she supported so passionately to become the best that they could be.” A political campaigner who was also heavily involved
 in the women’s and peace movements, Mary was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for more than 30 years, serving as vice-president in 2011–12. Since Mary was deeply affected by her visit to the Panama School in Nicaragua in 2011, money raised in her name will be used to help set up a bakery to help local women and youngsters – a prospect she would have been thrilled about. Just days before she died, Mary was able to complete her book, Calling Time On Women’s Wasted Potential, which examines how history has shaped women’s home and working lives and offers practical solutions to overcome the barriers to their fulfilment. She also set up the Mary

Alys Trust as a legacy to fund projects helping children and young people work on peace, reconciliation, justice and equity issues. • Click here to find out more or to donate to the work

REPTECH Supporting learners on your smartphone ULRs can offer support to their members with a few taps on a smartphone, now that unionlearn’s Climbing Frame app is available on both the Apple and Android platforms. The new resource will prove a boon for learning reps who find it hard to access the main Climbing Frame website because they are restricted in their online access at work or don’t use computers as part of their regular job. Unionlearn developed the new app after a survey revealed 60 per cent of respondents would use it to help them support learners. “I have just downloaded this app, and it seems fantastic. Thanks so much for developing this, as I am sure it is going to be really useful to ULRs,” said ULF Project Worker Karen Reed. • Download the app here



COUNT US IN After training as maths champions earlier this year, USDAW learning reps at Shopdirect in Oldham have been signing up many more colleagues for maths courses in the workplace. “We got a group of our ULRs around the table, got them interested and arranged a day’s champion training,” explains Learning Centre Coordinator Carl Sutcliffe. Could you be a Maths ChaMpion? Helping members with practical maths skills

“Not all of the 11 reps who took part would call themselves great mathematicians, but they gained the confidence to raise the subject of maths with members.” The number of maths learners has grown fast as a result of the new champions raising awareness out on the shopfloor. “A lot of the learners are really interested in the basics: even though they learned maths at school, it was a long time ago for many of them,” Carl says. And workers are discovering their new number skills are helping with other aspects of their learning, he says. “It seems that the help learners are getting with maths is also helping with other things, like using PCs and the internet.” Over the past year, unions have recruited more than 900 champions as part of an umbrella campaign to encourage adults to overcome their worries about maths and help themselves and others to improve their maths skills. Unionlearn is providing resources, success stories and training through the Maths4Us website. If you want to become a champion or organise maths programmes in your workplace, please get in touch. 

• Listen to an interview with Mick Power from the Learning Centre at the Sainsbury’s Distribution Centre at Rye Park in Hertfordshire • Click here to email Chris Pearson at Maths4Us • Visit the Maths4Us website

Learn for life with the NHS The Social Partnership Forum has launched a new campaign to promote workplace learning in the health service, especially among low-paid staff. Learning for Life aims to spread the word about learning opportunities, increase the amount of training taking place and highlight the positive impact of training on patient care for all NHS staff. With the help of a toolkit, posters, podcasts and other materials, the campaign is hoping to stimulate greater awareness of, and increased participation in, learning at work, particularly among the lowest-paid staff in Bands 1–4. It also aims to increase recognition among chief executives and board members that supporting the development of staff makes good business sense. “We know that when staff have access to goodquality appraisal, learning and skills training, and are properly equipped to undertake their job role, this has a positive impact on the patient experience and the quality of health outcomes,” explains Christina McAnea, chair of the NHS trade unions and UNISON head of health. “This campaign will encourage employers and trade unions to work together to promote learning for all staff – particularly those in the lower pay bands – and will help to

ensure that staff have the right skills for the job and the confidence to act in the patients’ best interests.” As with the seasonal flu campaign Flu Fighters, trusts are encouraged to develop a Learning for Life awareness campaign that supports the learning needs of their organisation. • Click here for more information, a copy of the toolkit and access to more resources

Why it pays to study part-time Unionlearn is supporting a new campaign to tackle the dramatic 40 per cent overall downturn in students enrolling for part-time undergraduate courses. Backed by an alliance of universities, business and unions, Part-Time Matters aims to highlight some of the less well-known benefits of part-time study to the economy, society and the individual. Part-time study supports the competitiveness of the UK economy by enabling people to retrain later on in life, and also provides an important route into higher education for those from poorer backgrounds.

Graduates also report that part-time study helped them develop as a person, improve self-confidence and increase their overall happiness. The campaign is asking people to: • tell their stories on how part-time study has changed their life • ask their MP to sign an Early Day Motion supporting the campaign • tweet about the campaign using the hashtag #PartTimeMatters • talk to friends, family and colleagues to raise awareness of the campaign. • Click here for more information

Ipswich Trust signs new agreement

Unions and management at Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust have signed a learning agreement with the aim of building a learning culture in the workplace through a partnership that encourages everyone in the organisation to take up learning opportunities. “Unions are keen to work together to share resources and spread lifelong learning across the organisation and the learning agreement shows that the Trust is committed to working with

unions in partnership,” commented Royal College of Nursing (RCN) ULR Tracey Risebrow, the driving force behind the agreement. “Developing a learning agreement is not as hard as you might think! Talk to the employer: you would be surprised how much enthusiasm there is for learning!” • Click here for more information

Hugh (Shug) Higgins Leading TUC Education tutor Hugh Higgins, of Stow College, Glasgow, died after a short illness in March this year. As many people have pointed out since then, his work and professionalism as a trade union educator directly and indirectly touched the lives of many thousands of workers over the past 20 years. But his influence also spread beyond the movement. When Hugh and colleague Joe Campbell were asked to run a negotiating skills course for the United Nations in Cyprus in 2006, one of their more highprofile students was the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Before arriving at Stow, Hugh worked first as an electrician at the British Leyland Tractor Plant in Bathgate, where he was active in the union and involved in the 1982–83 strike, and later at West Lothian District Council, where he was convenor of

the Joint Trade Union Group in the mid-1980s. After completing the Diploma in Contemporary Trade Unionism at Ruskin College in 1991, Hugh was determined to use everything he gained for the benefit of the wider trade union movement. When he first joined Stow in 1991, there was no Trade Union Education Department. By 2006, Hugh’s hard work had led to the Trade Union Department becoming the largest in Scotland and widely respected across the Scottish college sector. Involved in all aspects of the delivery of TUC Education at Stow, Hugh developed and delivered a wide-ranging TUC Education programme within the UKAEA Dounraey nuclear establishment in Thurso, as well as developing and delivering the TUC Professional Officers programme in Scotland. Harry Cunningham, Regional Education Officer, TUC Scotland and Brian Corrigan, Head of Faculty of Trade Union Education, Stow College, Glasgow • Click here for the Just Giving web page; donations raised will be given to the Friends of the Beatson Centre

All the skills on show Book your free place now for the national Skills Show, the UK’s largest skills and careers event, which runs from Thursday 14 to

Saturday 16 November 2013. Held at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, the show is a unique annual celebration to inspire the fashion designers, web developers and engineers of tomorrow with exciting opportunities in further education, skills and apprenticeships. As well as exhibitions, demonstrations and competitions, the show offers visitors the chance to roll up their sleeves and have a go at 40 skill activities and discover skills, careers and opportunities they might never have considered – from mobile robotics to forensics, cooking to web design. The Skills Show features five sectors: • Built Environment • Cultural and Creative Arts • Engineering • IT and Business Administration • Social and Professional Services. • Watch a video about the show • Click here for booking information and more


© Groundwork London / Jess Hurd/

All join hands!

The Green Skills Partnership continues to expand its successful programme of work, helping organisations pool resources to achieve brighter and better outcomes for local communities. ✒ Martin Moriarty


he Green Skills Partnership brings together unions, employers, local councils, environmental organisations, education providers, community groups and state agencies to deliver green skills training in construction, retrofit, horticulture and waste management. “It’s about reaching out and giving everybody an opportunity to get involved in making a difference around environmental issues within their community,” explains unionlearn SERTUC Senior Union Support Officer Stuart Barber. “We are also helping to generate potential career paths to make members of communities more employable, and create job opportunities that allow people to work with local employers within their communities.” One of the partnership’s key strengths is the way it enables organisations to share information and resources around everything from funding applications and training opportunities to work placements, apprenticeships and jobs. “Our role has been to bring all these organisations together and pool resources: it’s that joined-up approach that has given everybody more of an opportunity to develop more of their communities.” Unionlearn SERTUC convenes the meetings of the main group, which meets every six weeks or so to ensure the programme is meeting its objectives, while a number of sub-groups have formed as the organisation has grown to look after issues at local level. Unionlearn’s leadership means quality remains high on the partnership’s agenda, according to Graham Parry, the youth, employment and skills director at environmental and social regeneration Groundwork London. “Instead of being led by a partner with a vested interest in a contract or programme, we are led by an organisation with a vested interest in high-quality training and high-quality employment opportunities,” he says.

Think Twice Constructing Futures, which is one of the key players in the partnership, has started running vocational skills and environmental awareness courses for people at its Kent headquarters and further afield in north London. Constructing Futures exists to deliver vocational, educational and professional accredited awards to all sectors of society, making a particular point of reaching out to the disengaged, jobless and young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). This spring, Think Twice attracted more than 100 people to its Kings Hill, Kent, headquarters to look at ways of developing their communities for the better, including through training. The north London courses got underway in September at the Redmond Community Centre, headquarters of the Manor House Development Trust, the resident-led community organisation for people in the north London boroughs of Hackney and Haringey. “We’re going to be running a series of different courses mainly for disengaged people to try to

“It’s about reaching out and giving everybody an opportunity to get involved in making a difference around environmental issues within their community”


get them onto a pathway into work,” explains Think Twice Director Tony Sanders, a former training adviser with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) who has recently trained as a union learning rep. “The whole idea is to be able to get people off the streets who have no employability skills and give them the opportunity to have a chance in life.” While Constructing Futures cannot guarantee course participants will be able to find jobs once they complete, it is working hard to ensure there are genuine opportunities available to them when they gain their qualifications. In Kent, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council has promised to provide work placements for people who complete courses through the organisation. Constructing Futures is part of the international charity Think Twice, which launched two years ago to support children living in an impoverished orphanage on the banks of the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. “The idea is that eventually, once we’ve got our first people through courses this year, we may take some of the instructors and some of the people overseas to give them the chance to work in Guatemala and pass on their knowledge to this very impoverished area,” Tony says. 

“The whole idea is to be able to get people off the streets who have no employability skills and give them the opportunity to have a chance in life.”

Many Learning Rep readers, especially those in London and the south-east, will know Rossina Harris from her days as Head of Trade Union Studies at Lewisham College, where she was closely involved in the development of the Green Skills Partnership. But since leaving Lewisham in November, Rossina has started work as a learning rep for construction union UCATT to promote a wide range of training, including green skills. “The role involves talking to as many people as possible – employers, voluntary groups, disadvantaged groups – to promote construction training, apprenticeships, work placements, a whole range of opportunities,” Rossina says. “Green issues are really important in construction: there are all the new materials and new technologies to deal with, energy efficiency, and there is also the issue of tackling waste, which is huge on construction sites, through disposal, re-use or recycling.” Rossina enjoys helping local activists develop and deliver their ideas for transforming their communities. “I met two wonderful young mums recently who had found this massive old toilet block and had these very good ideas about turning it into a youth centre: they had all the passion but they didn’t know where to start,” she explains. “They are absolutely amazing because of the fervour they have got to make change happen where they are living, and I was able to talk to them about different funding sources and what the union could do to help and hopefully out of that we will get two new young members of UCATT.”


© Mark Harvey

Meet our latest ULR of the year Ever since housing support worker Sarah Barnes (front) joined the GMB to become a ULR, her colleagues as well as her clients have been benefiting from her passion for lifelong learning.

✒ Martin Moriarty


arah Barnes had been working at Action Housing and Support for a year when she overheard her manager talking about the union learning rep role with one of her colleagues. Her ears instantly pricked up. As client engagement officer at the Yorkshire-based charity, she was already helping her vulnerable adult clients improve their skills in everything from communications and confidence-building to cooking on a budget. In addition, Sarah was one of those people co-workers felt relaxed about asking how to do things when they got stuck with software such as Word or Excel. So ‘union learning rep’ sounded right up her street. The only problem was that she wasn’t a member of a union. “I said, ‘I’d really like to do that,’ but my manager pointed out I’d need to be a union member first, so I signed up online while we were talking,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Right, I’m a GMB member, now can I be a ULR?’”

That was last October. Since then, Sarah has organised a series of courses for colleagues that have proved both popular and useful for participants, including two different editions of Preparing To Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTTLLS). Feedback from both courses – a mixed group at the GMB office in Sheffield and a bespoke version for Action Housing colleagues – showed staff were grateful for the chance to acquire the new skills they will need to deliver services as funding restrictions begin to bite. “Because of funding cuts, we will be doing less one-to-one and more group work with clients in future, and the staff who took the course have said it has prepared them for the way the organisation is moving forward, so I genuinely feel it has been really helpful,” Sarah explains. Although she has proved a natural both as a ULR and in her substantive post, Sarah only discovered her love of learning and her ability to encourage others to give it a try by accident. “I come from a mining town, where the idea of

“The most rewarding thing is when someone who has taken a course comes to ask what they can do next”

“I discovered a thirst for learning that has changed my life completely.”

doing well at school was looked down upon,” she recalls. “And I didn’t enjoy going to school because you had to, so I played truant a lot and left at 16 with no qualifications.” She first came into contact with Action Housing while struggling with post-natal depression after her daughter was born seven years ago: it was the Doncaster branch of the social enterprise that helped her make a full recovery. Once she was back to her old self, Sarah started volunteering at the charity, enjoying it so much she decided to return to learning. After completing an access course, she enrolled on a Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (CTLLS) and then moved on to a Cert. Ed. at Sheffield Hallam University.

“When I went back to college, I thought, ‘I’ve got a bit of a brain here,’ and I really enjoyed using it and I carried on from there,” she says. “I discovered a thirst for learning that has changed my life completely.” After joining the GMB and volunteering for the ULR role, Sarah went on her first union course at the end of last year to get to grips with what being a learning rep involved. Although she was the only newcomer on the course – “everyone else was a steward or a safety rep already” – she fitted right in. “I loved it, the people were all from so many different backgrounds and everyone was really welcoming – the way one person from a biscuit factory had helped people with their functional skills really inspired me,” she says. Armed with new skills, Sarah returned to work and took a learning needs survey around the local offices to find out what her colleagues would be interested in – hence the PTTLLS courses. “The company was very generous and allowed us to use our central office training room and gave staff one day off a week to do the five-week course, which I was really pleased about,” she says. She is aiming to lay on whatever she can secure funding for. “I’m constantly looking round training organisations and colleges to see what’s available – things change all the time so I have to get my head round the funding issues and enable people to carry on with their education,” she says. “Now that we have a set of eight tablets at our learning centre, our staff are going to be able to use them to do more online courses – employability, mental health, anything that’s connected to development of the job supporting vulnerable people.” The ULR role perfectly complements the work she undertakes in her substantive post, Sarah says. “I like to help my colleagues and our clients and open up more opportunities for them,” she explains. Sarah reckons that the best thing about being a ULR is the ‘thank yous’ from colleagues and clients. “The most rewarding thing is when a client or a colleague has taken a course and comes back and asks what they can do next,” she says. 


Going overground Former ULR Kelvin Nel has drawn on many of his experiences in his first novel, out now. Kelvin was a ULR for the RMT while a customer station assistant for London Underground. “I have always furthered myself with courses where I could and when I’ve had the time, so when I discovered that the RMT union wanted somebody to promote and facilitate courses for union members, I jumped at the chance,” he recalls. With NVQs in Management and Customer Service as well as CIPD qualification in Personnel Management and A Levels in British Government & Politics and English Language & Literature all achieved once he’d left

“As a ULR, I tried to convince most people that there was always a course for them — and there often was.”

full-time education, Kelvin was the perfect example for colleagues of the benefits of lifelong learning. “My fiancée is a secondary school teacher and it does appear that a lot of children give up in school, unless they are talented,” he says. “My motto is ‘never give up’ but if you have no curiosity about the world and certain subjects, you never get in the habit of reading. And if you never read or master reading, you will never embrace new things or overcome any confidence issues with learning. “As a ULR I tried to convince most people there was always a course for them – and there often was. “Like many people I always wanted to write and with this job, because of the shifts, I found I had lots of free time in the evening to make notes and during the day to write them up and develop them.” The result, You Like That, Don’t You? is a 716-page epic set in 1984, during the time of the miners’ strike. Although the subject matter is dealt with seriously, it is a work of fiction that involves many comedic moments.

The book is available on Kindle and in paperback through Amazon. Waterstones, W H Smith and Barnes & Noble supply it through their websites only, and it is also available in interactive form for iPads through Apple’s iBookstore. 

THIRD TIME LUCKY FOR USDAW READERS Usdaw learning reps at the Argos/DHL distribution centre are running the Six Book Challenge. “So far we have signed up 60 people with just over 40 completing,” says project worker Martyn Warwick. The Challenge is part of a learning initiative at the site that has seen over 50 per cent of staff take part in learning over the past two years with many taking three or four different courses. The company has a workplace library (with more than 600 books) and always orders copies of

Quick Reads so there is no shortage of reading matter available on site to union members. And after the branch booked local author Ian Clayton to run creative writing classes, some members signed up to the Challenge to read his work. The Challenge has gone down well with members and is supported by site management. “It helped get me back into reading and rediscover my love of books and joy of reading,” says member Michael Shepherd.

Start a QR group

I DMU strikes gold


e Montfort University has won a gold award from The Reading Agency after a magnificent 167 members of staff completed the Six Book Challenge this year. “To go from 72 completers just two years ago to 167 this year is fantastic,” says UNISON learning rep Andrew Jennison. Andrew has won praise for the hard work he always puts in to promoting the Challenge around the university, and believes DMU deserves credit for involving all staff, including administration, security, cleaners and porters. DMU completer Helen Mercado enjoyed taking part. “I particularly loved reading to my son and encouraging his imagination through storytelling: he has so enjoyed it as we have discovered some great stories together.” Kelly Causer used to believe she didn’t have time to read as a working mum. “This challenge has showed I can find the time and I will continue to do so as I really enjoy reading.” Shamia Dagia loved the collective approach. “This Challenge was a really good idea because it’s something we are all doing together at work. This makes it more interesting and also much more fun!” Each year the agency’s Six Book Challenge makes reading for pleasure visible, something that’s talked about, and brings people together.

“This Challenge was a really good idea because it’s something we are all doing together at work. This makes it more interesting and also much more fun!” This year at least 35,000 adults have taken part in the scheme – a 50 per cent increase on 2012. For some it’s a brand new thing, for others a rediscovery, and for many it’s the joy of finding something you can share with others. If you want your workplace to take part, call David Kendall on 07814 060 572 or email him by clicking here Click here for more information and details about how to order a range of materials online.

f you’re inspired by the DHL and DMU stories, why not run your own Six Book Challenge or start your own Quick Reads group? Quick Reads groups offer a social activity to meet other people, share ideas and build relationships with colleagues and peers. They also have great potential to: • build confidence in reading and speaking in a group • develop creative, independent and critical thinking • develop the ability to question, read between the lines and compare and contrast information. Quick Reads groups can also act as stepping stones into other learning opportunities. They are ideal for less confident readers who may be daunted by longer texts. Quick Reads wants to get reading groups started that are mapped to the adult literacy curriculum so those taking part can achieve a new Unit Qualification. It offers: • two visits from a reading consultant to help get the group started and keep it going • a free set of 10 Quick Reads • free registration with OCR for a Unit Qualification (for up to 10 people) • a free toolkit and learning resources.

• • •

In return, you will need to provide: between five and 12 participants who are prepared to attend for 20 hours over 10 weeks a suitable venue to meet with refreshments a facilitator with enthusiasm to ‘give it a go’ signposting to Functional Skills English. To contact Quick Reads click here For more information about Quick Reads and the 2014 titles click here

Why don’t you take the Six Book Challenge? LEARNING REP AUTUMN 2013

Telling it like it is Unionlearn enabled apprentices to take part in the consultation on the Richard Review by inviting a range of young union members to discuss the issues with Whitehall officials earlier this year.

© Jess Hurd/


nionlearn invited apprentices from a number of unions to discuss the Richard Review of apprenticeships earlier this year with officials from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Held at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby in April, the two-hour event enabled staff from the apprenticeship unit at BIS to find out at first hand what young people currently in training thought about their experiences, and the recommendations of the recent review by entrepreneur Doug Richard. “What normally happens in these circumstances is that the government talk to employers providing apprenticeships, to the providers who deliver the college-based elements and even to the TUC or core unions – but they very rarely talk to apprentices themselves,” explains unionlearn Apprenticeship Liaison and Promotion Officer Graham Randle. “That’s why this was a unique opportunity for apprentices to feed back their views into the Richard Review.” BIS asked unionlearn to coordinate the event as part of the public consultation on the review, after being very impressed by the quality of debate and discussion at our Voice of the Apprentice event in Congress House last autumn. Drawn from a range of sectors and a number of different unions including UNISON, Unite and Unity, the apprentices were divided into two groups on the day to discuss what they valued in their apprenticeships, how to resolve negative issues and what they thought of the Richard Review proposals. On pay, there was a strong consensus that young people who start their apprenticeship on the minimum apprentice pay rate should be able to progress to a higher rate as they gain additional skills during their training. “They liked the idea of progressive pay rates – as people earn more money for the organisation they work for by acquiring new skills, they should be rewarded,” Graham says.

“This was a unique opportunity for apprentices to feed back their views into the Richard Review” The participants were also keen that their apprenticeships should offer a pathway into further and higher level learning. “The message came across very strongly that they were all very keen to see progression routes into more advance learning once they had achieved Level 2,” Graham says. There were also major concerns about health and safety for apprentices – which has prompted construction union UCATT to organise a safety seminar in Sheffield in September. The apprentices were all extremely positive about the union role not only in promoting learning but also in good industrial relations. “One of the big pluses from our point of view is that they really valued the wider role unions play in the workplace in terms of pay and conditions, health and safety, equality and diversity, and their union reps’ experience in dealing with any problems that arise,” Graham says. 

WORKING WOMEN Out now is a new edition of Working Women, which focuses on the lives and experiences of women at work, in their communities and as trade unionists. TUC Education produced the first Working Women

course book in 1991. This third edition is an updated resource for all trade unionists – a source of information, an aid to discussion and a stimulus to working towards a fairer deal for women. It has a mixed format:

easy to read information, a mix of facts and comments on the experience of working women, a list of things to find out and activities for groups. • Click here to order your copy

We’re training more reps


UC Education increased the number of reps it trained last year, despite the problems many activists face in securing time to train in the current economic downturn. “We’ve had a lot of support from union education officers who are really keen to get reps trained up and ready to take on the challenges in their workplaces,” says a delighted TUC Education Manager Liz Rees. “And our tutors have really risen to the task of fighting for every single rep’s right to come on a course.” The rise is particularly significant, given the pressure on time off for reps to access training, and a real tribute to the hard work of union education officers and TUC tutors. Almost all affiliated unions participate in the programme and many commission tailored programmes within TUC Education. TUC Education reports that difficulties for trade union representatives in obtaining paid release and the decline of industries and sectors with strong, traditional release arrangements peaked in 2011–12 with the added and unprecedented recessionary pressures of redundancy, wage freeze and a slide in confidence. Unions have been forced to prioritise industrial matters at the expense of new and emerging initiatives such as learning and green issues. The substantial short course programme, which grew significantly over the past 10 years and which experienced a sharp decline in 2011, remains an indication of the pressure on paid release and the difficulties reps face in accessing training. However, new developments in the use of educational technology, coupled with a firm commitment to reach out to reps with a flexible classroom offer has meant that real progress can still be made.

“Our tutors have really risen to the task of fighting for every single rep’s right to come on a course” With release for training increasingly restricted, TUC Education has continued to develop alternative ways of providing reps and officers with knowledge and information updates via eNotes. The short, online modules, which have been well received by union reps and unions, cover a range of subjects, including Supporting Learners, Being a Route Steward, Using the unionlearn Climbing Frame and Facility Time. The 40-minute eNote on Facility Time has been extremely popular and well used. To date, almost 2,500 reps have registered at TUC Education is supporting unions in developing their own eNotes. New ones in development include Understanding Universal Credit and Apprenticeships. 

Fresh look to stage 1 course A new union reps’ course embedding learning at the heart of union activity launches this autumn. The launch follows a successful pilot in which 500 reps were trained by mainstreaming learning within the Stage 1 Union Representatives’ Course (the Shop Stewards programme). With union reps bargaining in a much harsher economic climate than ever before, it was agreed that learning and skills will be most useful at the heart of union activity at a time when pay bargaining is yielding scant returns. Active recruitment to the ULR course will continue alongside the new union reps’ stage 1 course.



Testing a new skills funding model Unionlearn has been supporting union engagement in both rounds of the Employer Ownership of Skills (EOS) pilot, which is testing a new approach to government subsidy for workforce training in England. At the moment, the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) distribute most public money for workforce training to colleges and other training providers.

The EOS pilot is experimenting with a different approach, which would represent a major overhaul of the funding regime – inviting employers and partners, including unions, to bid directly for funding from a pot of government money with which to design and deliver their own training solutions. While the first round of the pilot was looking for bids that would develop training provision, especially apprenticeships, the second round specifically tried to develop a more strategic approach by encouraging bids from “industrial partnerships to take wider responsibility for skills development in a place or sector”.

© Stefano Cagnoni/

Helping older workers plan their next steps Unionlearn is one of 18 partners in a new project led by the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) to identify the best ways to help older people plan the next stage of their working lives. The Midlife Career Review project aims to address some of the crucial issues raised by the combination of people living longer and needing to work longer, alongside the abolition of compulsory retirement at 65 and changes to the state pension age. “This is a very exciting development that is looking at the best way to support older workers on a range of issues such as learning, reskilling and redundancy,” explains unionlearn Standards and Quality Manager Ian Borkett. Working with a wide range of organisations across England, the project is exploring whether there is a demand for a mid-life career review as well as evaluating a number of different models.

Since the bidding process used in the pilots would not be a realistic option for the long term, the government is currently consulting on significant changes to the funding of apprenticeships to support the thrust of direct funding and the recommendations of the Richard Review. Writing in a recent UKCES report about these reforms, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain urgently needs a long-term industrial strategy for growth and a social partnership of employers and unions, working together to boost skills investment, is the best guarantee of success”. 

The 12-month project kicked off in April this year and completes next March, when it will host a conference to share its findings and recommend how to help people in midlife review their situation and make plans for an active future. As part of its legacy, the project is also aiming to create a range of materials for learning reps and other learning champions to use in information, advice and guidance (IAG) sessions with older workers in the future. Unionlearn has invited ULRs across the Northern, North West and SERTUC regions to carry out midlife review meetings with their relevant members. “There are all sorts of things that can happen to people to affect their career,” IAG expert Lesley Haughton told a SERTUC seminar on the project this summer. “Of course, you can’t plan for things like disasters, divorce and financial crisis, but there is a bedrock of challenges people can think about and learn how to plan for.”

“This is a very exciting development that is looking at the best way to support older workers on a range of issues such as learning, reskilling and redundancy”

© Janina Struck/

ACTION PLAN FOR ULRs 1  Find out where your technicians are by mapping the workplace:

How technicians can gain the status they deserve

They play vital roles in today’s economy, but they don’t always get the respect they should. Now technicians have the chance to change all that, thanks to a new unionlearn project.


nionlearn is managing a two-year project to encourage more technicians in the science, engineering and technology (SET) sector to become registered members of their professional bodies. Funded by The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the project also aims to promote greater awareness of technician registration within the union movement and strengthen the relationships between unions and professional bodies. Unionlearn launched the Technicians Pathway project at a well-attended Congress House event this summer for ULRs and other union activists, representatives of professional bodies and a range of skills sector stakeholders. “Science, engineering and technology (SET) are vital to the UK economy but there is a problem because technicians’ contributions aren’t sufficiently recognised – they don’t get the status they deserve,” explained unionlearn Project Officer Lauren Usher.

Registration was crucial to turning that round, she said. The process involves a technician joining the professional body covering their sector and becoming registered by demonstrating that they meet key industry standards. Registration would also help address the demographic challenge of the SET sector, which will require large numbers of new technicians to replace existing staff due to leave the industries in the next 10 to 15 years. “We need to make sure that those new people coming into the

“Science, engineering and technology (SET) are vital to the UK economy but there is a problem because technicians’ contributions aren’t sufficiently recognised”

find out who is registered and who is not

identify barriers to take-up of registration

promote the benefits.

2  Raise the profile of technician registration: •

work with other reps/union negotiators

put technician registration on your branch agenda

raise registration at your next meeting with management.

3  Develop an agreement with the employer, including: •

employer pledge to support application for and maintenance of registration

employer contribution to professional membership fees/registration

union/management to reach out to women, BME workers and other under-represented groups.

• Click here to watch a video from Putting Technicians on the Agenda conference

industry have got the ability, have got the competence, to be able to run the power stations and run the wind farms going forward,” argued former apprentice David Hughes, Head of Professional Development – Engineering Academy at power supplier E.ON. • Click here to find out more Alternatively, contact Lauren Usher: 020 7079 6930 



ONTACTS Head Office Tel: 020 7079 6920

Tom Wilson Director Tel: 020 7079 6922

Trade unions Aegis

Duncan Mclaren Tel: 0131 549 4849


Mike Tansley Tel: 07739 473 174

Union Development Coordinators Southern and Eastern Jon Tennison Tel: 020 7467 1251


Kate Quigley Tel: 020 7782 1558


Kate Elliot Tel: 020 7346 0908



Gary O’Donnell Tel: 0121 236 4454


Linda Hughes Tel: 01325 503 273

North West

Tony Saunders Tel: 0151 236 2321

South West

Ros Etheridge Tel: 0117 947 0521

Yorkshire and the Humber

Sharon Burke Tel: 0113 242 9296

John Vickers Tel: 01132 565 925


Vikki Botham Tel: 07717 805 521


Tom Davis Tel: 01562 749 170


Paul Askew Tel: 020 7306 6622


Trish Lavelle Tel: 020 8971 7340



Louise Grainger Tel: 020 7670 0214

Denise Linay Tel: 020 7312 3422












Janette Vizard Tel: 01242 2562 220

Trevor Shanahan Tel: 07917 759 473

Neil Rider Tel: 020 7401 5575

Kevin Flanagan Tel: 0161 848 9173

Marilyn Owens Tel: 020 7223 4887

Bob Oram Tel: 0121 457 6203

Linda King Tel: 020 7843 3717


Chris Skidmore Tel: 01226 215 555


Pamela Collins Tel: 020 7388 6191

Teresa Williams Tel: 07881 812 244

Liz Salem Tel: 01625 829 396

Sal Morawetz Tel: 020 7529 8049

Jeff Hopewell Tel: 01302 360 725



Joanna Cain Tel: 020 7551 1700


Kenny Barron Tel: 020 7611 2500

kenny.barron@unitetheunion. org




David McEvoy Tel: 020 7801 2727 ext 2360

POA For a complete list of national and regional officers, click here

Emily Spencer-Rigby Tel: 020 7647 3769

Phil Kelly Tel: 020 8803 1761


Rachel Bennett Tel: 020 7902 6687 rachel.bennett@prospect.

Gerald Crookes Tel: 01782 280 588


Bob Monks Tel: 0161 486 2105


Martyn Warwick Tel: 0161 224 2804

The learning rep autumn 2013 final