» Spring 08
Meet the man behind the Union Learning Fund
Hilary Benn reveals how he came up with the idea 10 years ago
Parliamentary work pays off
MPs of all parties have been finding out about the workplace union learning story since we launched our “Learning together – winning together” campaign in the House of Commons earlier this year. Our regional managers across the country are organising visits for MPs in workplace learning centres. And the feedback is positive, often with good media coverage. Working in Parliament is not new of course, and we’ve chalked up some impressive successes in the past. In this issue we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the start of the Union Learning Fund (ULF), and the fifth anniversary of ULRs being given a statutory right to time off for their duties. As always, though, there’s more to do. We will need to win strengthened rights for ULRs, and collective bargaining rights extended to cover training. Unions have taken their gains with great seriousness. We know that unions have used the ULF effectively to train more ULRs, and open up learning opportunities for their members. And ULRs who are given facility time have used it well and productively. But it’s been more than that. Here’s what David Blunkett, who was Secretary of State at the old DfES, and who was instrumental in setting up the fund said: “There are some things which are seminal in changing not only the world for individuals, but the outlook on the world of those individuals. The Trade Union Learning Fund is such a venture.” So, for him and us, ULF work is also about helping people find their place in society, and promoting their aspirations. And that’s what unions have always been about. Liz Smith Director, unionlearn
The Learning Rep, spring 08 Editor: Mike Power email@example.com Writers: Astrid Stubbs, Martin Moriarty Design: Redhouse Lane Communications Print: Ancient House Printing Group Distribution: Cavalier mailing Cover photo: ULF visionary Hilary Benn by Jess Hurd.
12 27 14 19
3 News 10 Check this out! 12 Everything you wanted to know about learning but were afraid to ask 14 Chris Humphries interview 17 Rights change lives 18 Champions in the community 19 Blackpool illumination 20 Hiliary Benn interview 23 Happy 10th anniversary ULF 26 Liz Rees interview 28 TUC education 32 Apprenticeships 34 Higher level skills 36 Learning at work day 38 Contacts 39 Jay knows 40 Free resources
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World Book Day « News «
t’s great to get involved with Quick Reads, to try to show new readers how much excitement and adventure can be packed into a few short pages,” Chris said. Chris knows all about packing in excitement and adventure: during the first Gulf War, he was the only member of an eight-man team deep behind Iraqi lines who managed to escape capture and survive the perils of desert winter to make it to safety (a story he tells in his first book, The One That Got Away). The best-selling author admits he didn’t make the most of his time at
Former SAS soldier Chris Ryan chose World Book Day to launch his Quick Read One Good Turn at the Boots Distribution centre in Rotherhithe, South East London
school. “It wasn’t until I joined up that I got into reading: in the Army, books were passed around among all the lads and we read whatever we could get our hands on.” As well as talking about his experiences, reading from his new book and signing copies for the USDAW members at the depot, he also formally opened a staff reading room in the onsite learning centre. “Having such a prominent Quick Reads author like Chris Ryan to come and encourage more people into the reading habit is really inspiring,” commented Boots supervisor Yvonne Kelly. USDAW ULR Sharon Pearcey agreed: “Chris is an outstanding role model of someone who has changed careers, for many of our
“Having such a prominent author encourage more people into the reading habit is really inspiring”
members who are facing big changes in their own lives,” she said. “It’s great we’ve been able to welcome him to our distribution centre – it’s a real boost for our five USDAW union learning reps.” And unionlearn Director Liz Smith commented: “It was great to hear about his exciting experiences at first hand and about his inspiration for writing his Quick Read.”
Chris Ryan (right) launches his Quick Read with (from left) Depot Assistant Manager Andy Collett, USDAW ULR Sharon Pearcey and Liz Smith
spring 2008 «
» News » World Book Day
Gordon Brown and John Denham (fourth left) welcome Adele Parks (centre) TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady (right) and Metroline learners to Downing Street
Next stop Downing Street!
The Metroline Learning Bus parked in the most famous street in the whole country on World Book Day to help the Prime Minister launch the latest titles in the ever-popular Quick Reads series. It was the most prestigious stop yet made by the state-of-the-art mobile learning centre, which is more often to be seen in the company’s North London bus garages helping support learners who wouldn’t otherwise access computers in the workplace. Speaking to adult learners from Metroline and South Thames College in Roehampton, Gordon Brown revealed that he aims to read every morning and every evening, regardless of how busy he is. “Everyone who’s a reader knows just how much books can change lives,” he explained. Alongside the PM were Cabinet member John Denham, TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady, Random House CEO Gail Rebuck and Quick Reads authors Colin Jackson and Adele Parks. “Quick Reads are having an extraordinary effect on reluctant readers and are a great example of publishers, authors and book retailers working together with the public sector to deliver the message that reading can be fun and rewarding,” commented Gail. Devon Edwards, who has been on the adult literacy course at South Thames College revealed he’d never read until he discovered Quick Reads. “They increased my confidence and helped me to carry on when I found it hard: I know I can go on to bigger things.” Neil Colston, Head of Recruitment and Training at Metroline, said: “We are delighted that we’ve been able to promote the Quick Reads initiative in all our Metroline garages, promoting the joys of reading to all our 3,700 employees and their families.” Metroline’s Learning Bus, Learning on the Move, is based on a partnership between Metroline, unionlearn, Unite – T&G section and the College of North East London.
Photos by Jess Hurd
Frances O’Grady (centre) inside Number 10 with Adele Parks and Colin Jackson
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World Book Day « News «
It’s not all pie and mash, you know
East End chronicler Gilda O’Neill returned to the Barking of her youth to launch her latest book East End Tales in the learning centre at the local authority Frizlands Waste Disposal Unit. She read from the book and answered questions from an audience of parks and ground maintenance workers, street cleaners and caretakers from across
Gilda O’Neill signs her Quick Read for Judith Swift (on her right), with learners and ULRs at Frizlands
Barking and Dagenham Council, all members of the GMB, UNISON and Unite–T&G section. “When I was a child we weren’t the sort of family who had books at home, so when I went to school I didn’t have a clue about reading. I was lucky though because I had teachers who cared and a local library,” Gilda explained. “By the time I was about 10 I’d worked my way through the small children’s section and started pestering the very strict librarian about when I could join the adult section: I wanted all those worlds and stories that I knew were in those books. In the end, I wore her down and she let me join!” Unionlearn Development Manager Judith Swift said: “Gilda is a great inspiration to those who left school with no qualifications and her enthusiasm for learning is clear to all who meet her.” Learning Centre Manager Penny Robinson said initiatives such as Quick Reads have helped council workers and the wider community get into learning. “We celebrate learning all year round, but having Gilda here reading from her Quick Read allowed us to celebrate the East End today as well.”
Kicking reading problems into touch
Rugby international Scott Quinnell revealed how he tackled his own dyslexia to become a published author at the launch of his new book The Hardest Test at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on World Book Day. “For so long my dyslexia meant reading was something I avoided whenever I could, but these days I’m rarely without a biography or novel, and I can’t believe my story is now down on paper!” he said. “I only hope my experience encourages others to pick up a book and discover for themselves what they’ve been missing.” Joining Scott in front of an audience of top sportsmen and union learners were unionlearn Regional Manager Dr Alan Roe, Leeds Carnegie Community Marketing Manager John Bentley and GMB Regional Education Officer Colin Kirkham. “World Book Day is a fantastic opportunity for everyone in the region to celebrate reading. It’s great to hear at first hand about Scott’s experiences as a learner, which will inspire many of the sportsmen and women here and trade union learners,” said Alan Roe. Leeds Carnegie Community Marketing Manager John Bentley said he was delighted to support the World Book Day event. “We interact with thousands of children every year right across Yorkshire through our work at the Leeds Rugby Foundation, the charitable trust which operates all the community work for Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie,” he explained.
Scott Quinnell with his new Quick Read (right) and from the left John Bentley ex British and Irish Lions International; Dr Alan Roe unionlearn; Colin Kirkham GMB
spring 2008 « 5
Dynamic duo win hearts and minds
“We’ve had some great initial feedback about our new animated film Kate and Umar’s Incredible Learning Journey,” says unionlearn’s Organising Officer Anna Burton. Tutors and union education officers have been overwhelmingly positive, saying that the film: G Covers a wide range of issues, particularly diversity. G Contains really useful chunks of information. G Raises union issues in an aspirational way. G Is fun, upbeat and positive. G Will be useful on all reps courses and during Adult Learners’ Week. “I think you’ve done a tremendous job here: the graphics kept me smiling, and that little musical ditty in the background stops the message from seeming overly didactic,” commented one union officer. “And in relation to the work you are doing, I now see it as an agenda which is much more transformative than it first appears.” Unionlearn has put together a new range of organising materials promoting trade union membership to accompany the new animated film,. The pack includes leaflets on joining a union and becoming a rep, a learning centre organising checklist and a recruitment poster and can be ordered online. The new film has also got its own microsite on the unionlearn website, where you can watch the film, pick up tips about how to use it in the workplace, order DVD copies and even meet the stars. Order a copy at: www.unionlearn.org.uk/ kateandumar
Employers, if they are having the benefits of people coming to the country to work, have a responsibility to give their staff time off to go to have lessons, and also, I think, to go a bit further and actually to help and support them. An enlightened approach, frankly, is where they take that responsibility seriously and actually provide some English as well.
ESOL does it!
The Government, unions and employers have got together to promote the importance of English language skills for migrant workers in the new publication, English Language at Work, built around a set of case studies from a range of industries. “These case studies demonstrate advantages to employees, employers and society in addressing English language teaching needs,” says Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell in his introduction. And a joint foreword by TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and CBI Director General Richard Lambert points out that migrant workers (and those from settled communities) can integrate with their local communities and avoid exploitation through gaining language skills. “The prizes here are significant: fairness at work and increased confidence for individuals, and greater business performance and competitiveness for their employers,” they say. Download the booklet from: http://tinyurl.com/3yhlt8
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, The Observer
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We’re not the only ULRs in the Westminster village
About 100 learning reps rubbed shoulders with politicians and leading figures from the trade union and learning worlds at a high-profile reception in Westminster held to highlight the vital role ULRs play in the workplace. DIUS Secretary of State John Denham, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, unionlearn Director Liz Smith, Chair Billy Hayes and Board Member Gail Cartmail mingled with guests in the Atrium restaurant, near the Houses of Parliament, as part of unionlearn’s campaign “Learning together – winning together.” The campaign aims to encourage MPs to drop in on workplace learning centres to find out first-hand about the importance of learning at work, and within weeks of its launch MPs have asked unionlearn to help organise 40 visits. John Denham paid tribute to the 18,000 ULRs who have helped over 400,000 workers back into learning. “With their real-life experience and credibility, I see ULRs playing a critical role in inspiring trust and fostering ambition in others, giving them the confidence to demand – and make full use of – opportunities to improve their skills,” he said. “Raising the skill levels of all our people is the key to delivering a
successful economy and a fairer society. Union Learning Representatives are instrumental in boosting employer participation in the Skills Pledge and Train to Gain, ensuring every business and employee has access to skills training.” But ULRs should have an even wider role and an even greater impact, he argued. “I urge ULRs to work with their MPs – as allies in Parliament –
DIUS Secretary of State John Denham listens to ULRs’ stories at the Westminster reception
advising them on how best to promote skills development in companies, constituencies, regions, and ultimately nationwide.” After his speech, John presented three new unionlearn Quality Awards to the Open University, Skillset and UNISON, while Billy Hayes formally launched unionlearn’s new ULR handbook Working for Learners (see pages 12-13).
Hook up to U-Net
Unionlearn is re-launching its network of learning centres run with learndirect under the new U-Net banner. Using focus groups, surveys and consultation with centre managers and learners, U-Net will offer more support to the centres and seek to build on the existing network of over two dozen large centres and dozens more medium and link centres across the country. “U-Net aims to offer the learndirect provision to more union learning centres and to roll out the WinWin campaign, which aims to increase the number of learners and build union capacity, to more centres,” says Learning Centre Network Coordinator Karl Schofield. “It's a great chance for learning centres to get involved with a very successful initiative and offer a high-quality learndirect package to their learners.” The new name and logo are being formally launched at an event in Congress House in May. More information: www.unionlearn.org.uk/centres/ index.cfm
spring 2008 «
Teaching migrants about their rights
Unite – T&G section has made a strong start to its new Learning for Organising Migrant Workers project, with over 100 workers attending the launch event in Transport House, London in March. The project is bringing learning to low paid cleaners by linking it to the Justice For Cleaners campaign, which has been securing better wages and union rights for cleaners in the City of London over the past two years. “The project aims to deliver Skills for Life to migrant workers in Canary Wharf, the City and the Tube, using the learning agenda as an organising tool,” explains Unite – T&G section union learning organiser Steve Rowlatt. Orpington College and the College of North East London (CONEL) staff talked to people attending about Skills for Life courses, while the Praxis support group, the TUC’s Vulnerable Workers Project and the union’s own Migrant Workers Support Unit and Justice for Cleaners campaign were on hand with advice on legal and employment issues. “We’ve started running classes at Transport House on Saturday mornings in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with 36 students in total, another ESOL class midweek, plus a Saturday morning IT class,” Steve says. “It’s about bringing education to the workers and running classes to fit in with their work patterns because many of them have two or three different jobs to do.” The project is going to start numeracy and literacy classes as well. “All our classes will have a trade union flavour to them so we can help to involve people in the life of
the union – in numeracy, we’ll be looking at migrant workers’ wage slips and how they can improve their wages, pensions or sick pay, for instance; and the IT class will concentrate on union websites and how to write an accident report or email fellow union members,” Steve says.
The migrant workers’ project launch attracted over 100 people
It’s Facebook for skills
Skillstories is a new online hub which uses innovative social networking technology to enable employers to profile their skills and training initiatives and interact online with a comprehensive database of resources, events and news for the skills sector. Dubbed Skillstories, the project highlights the business and human benefits of workplace training using a hard-hitting film, a publication and the website www.skillstories.org. Funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and developed by Business in the Community (BiTC), the project allows employers and their partners to promote their work and share examples of best practice, and there’s a comprehensive directory of skills resources, news and events which is updated daily. Visit: www.skillstories.org
8 » spring 2008
Answering the skills emergency
Over two dozen ambulance staff in Lincolnshire have answered the learning call after a Skills for Life drive jointly organised by UNISON and the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) helped more than 80 staff test their skills levels. Four ULRs and two training officers from EMAS visited 11 ambulance stations and liaison points to encourage them to take part in Test the Ambulance Service to find out where they need to brush up their English and maths. “This was an excellent opportunity to encourage staff to take a mini-quiz to test their skills in maths and English, which is part of a whole organisation approach to developing Skills for Life,” commented EMAS Chief Executive Paul Phillips, who took the test himself. UNISON ULR Keith Underwood said that ambulance staff can feel challenged and put under pressure if they are unsure about numeracy and literacy. “UNISON is committed to making sure that all staff are given the opportunity to carry out their work to as high a level as possible but also to be able to progress and to help with their personal lives.” While Keith had previously been struggling to engage EMAS in a learning partnership for some time, the Test the Ambulance Service project is now being rolled out county by county across the East Midlands and the branch has begun work on drafting a learning agreement. The project was jointly organised by EMAS and UNISON with support from the TUC, Lincolnshire LSC and the national Move On project which organises Test the Company campaigns and events across the UK to encourage staff in companies to think about Skills for Life.
News in brief
Improving delivery Our recent readers’ survey revealed that many Learning Rep readers do not receive their own copy by post, and many rely on picking it up at work or someone passing it on. Now following an email alert over 400 readers have ordered some 2,000 copies to be delivered directly. “The survey revealed that we have a very dedicated readership, that the magazine is valued, and people want their own, individual copies”, says editor Mike Power. “Among other things we are now expanding our coverage of courses available, giving more contacts, and more free resources following our readers feedback.” And congratulations to the three iPod winners: Jake Onwordi, Ayub Patel and Karen Wilcox. Budget boost The Chancellor’s £60 million boost for adults skills training and apprenticeships in this year’s Budget shows the Government is committed to improving the UK’s skills base, says TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. “We now need to see more employers playing their part by offering more training, including high-quality Apprenticeships, and making a real effort to increase equality and diversity in training places.” Happy anniversary! UNISON launched a new Learning, Equality and Diversity initiative offering targeted training opportunities to groups including migrant workers and specialist healthcare employees at an event in Congress House to mark the 20th anniversary of its pioneering Return to Learn programme.
The East Midlands Ambulance Service is committed to Skills for Life say Chief Executive Paul Philips (left) and UNISON ULR Keith Underwood
Tell us a story!
They say everyone’s got a story in them – so why not get yours out and enter the short story competition run by the Public and Commercial Services Union and Words magazine? First prize will get you £250, second
£150 and third £100, plus the winners and commended entries will be published in an anthology. Stories can be on any theme, but no longer than 2,000 words, and the closing date is Saturday 30 August. Guidelines and entry forms are available on the WORDS website www.wordsmag.com/tradeunion.htm
or send a SAE to PCS-WORDS Competition, PO Box 13574, London W9 3FX. You can also help to promote the competition by downloading a poster to display on your union noticeboard from the PCS website www.pcs.org.uk/learning.
spring 2008 «
» Feature » Organising
Promoting learning in the workplace can help you recruit new members and build your union organisation – just ask USDAW. By Martin Moriarty
t’s spread the word about lifelong learning. It’s helped recruit hundreds of new members. And it’s encouraged dozens of new activists to get involved. Whatever else it’s done – for union members, the companies they work for, and the union itself – USDAW’s Check Out Learning campaign has gone an awful long way to establish once and for all how workplace learning builds the union. Launched last May, the campaign was rolled out in over 80 stores across the country with a series of learning roadshows in canteens offering retail staff a chance to sign up for a massive range of courses. Although the union has pioneered lifelong learning in distribution and manufacturing sites (where over 20,000 members have signed up for courses), this was the first time it was offering courses on such a big scale to its retail members in or near their own stores. “Check Out Learning was unique because it was the very first time our retail members have been able to access a vast range of courses that benefit them and the companies they work for,” explains USDAW General Secretary John Hannett. Having visited learning projects up and down the country, John knows workplace learning makes life better for union members and their employers. “I’ve seen how lifelong learning has boosted the confidence of thousands of our members enriching
their lives and often leading to new career opportunities, and all the evidence proves that a skilled workforce is better motivated and has less absenteeism,” he points out. Check Out Learning aimed to: G Raise the union’s in-store profile through highly visible activity. G Encourage learners to sign up for courses to be delivered quickly after the event. G Increase membership. G Identify new and potential union activists and increase team-working. G Help build a long-term in-store learning presence. By almost any yardstick, the campaign proved a resounding success: the union collected and processed over 4,000 learning questionnaires, signed up 600 new members and identified over 300 potential ULRs, shop stewards and health and safety reps.
On your Bakemarks … go!
USDAW has launched a Learning Resource Centre with management at Bakemark, the Wirral-based baked goods firm behind the brands Arkady, Craigmillar, Readi-Bake, Caravan Brill and Bon Vivant. “We’re delighted that BakeMark has made this commitment to investing in people, which ultimately is to the benefit of all involved,” says learning co-ordinator Sue Prynn, who’s been seconded from the union. “With all the training that USDAW has given me, we’ll make the Learning Resource Centre a huge success,” she forecasts. The centre is offering a range of courses, from IT, numeracy and literacy to manufacturing NVQs, with courses running before and after workers’ shifts, and the company aims to train all its 550 staff to at least Level 2 numeracy and literacy by 2009.
10 » spring 2008
Organising « Feature «
Some events were very much geared to putting the union on the map among the workforce: union visibility at IKEA Bristol is much improved since Check Out Learning day; and the event has helped union numbers double in size from a low membership base at the Morrisons store in Nottingham. But it was in branches of Tesco’s across the country where the campaign notched up some of its biggest successes. In the Blackpool branch of the UK’s largest supermarket, USDAW recruited 11 new members (half of them Polish migrants), signed up two new shop stewards and four new ULRs and helped over 130 people complete learning questionnaires. And a three-day push at the Tesco Extra branch in Warrington, Cheshire, resulted in 23 new members, one new steward and three new ULRs, while over 100 staff filled in surveys about what they would like to study. The union is currently preparing a new Check Out Learning campaign for this year, so look out for the orderly queues for learning at a supermarket near you. Next customer please!
Check Out Learning has proved a resounding learning and organising success for USDAW
How it works
Check Out Learning has proved such a success because USDAW plans every promotional day to within an inch of its life, using a tight five or sixweek schedule to pull everything together.
G Five or six weeks before: the team checks staff
numbers, membership density, and how many activists they have in-store, before agreeing who does what in the runup to the event and on the day itself.
G Four or five weeks before: the
team checks which learning providers will be available locally, enthuses the in-store reps, maps the workplace, agrees the publicity material and ensures local management are onboard.
G Two or three weeks before: the team agrees
arrangements for the day with the reps, keeps human resources in the loop, publicises the event on noticeboards, organises a photographer and gets press releases distributed locally.
G One or two weeks before: the team checks
progress with everyone involved and makes sure all procedures are in place.
G On the day itself: the team sets up a stall with
USDAW materials, co-ordinates stalls from local colleges and liaises with the union’s organising staff who will be recruiting new members.
G After the big day: the team arranges the
courses, links to company training, notifies the union of potential reps, arranges ULR training, and celebrates its success.
spring 2008 « 11
» Feature » ULR handbook
Stay on top of all the demands on your time by ordering your copy of the new ULR handbook, Working For Learners.
you ever wanted to know about but were afraid to ask
The new ULR handbook will help unionlearn help ULRs, forecasts unionlearn chair Billy Hayes, launching the handbook
nion learning reps usually have a lot on their plates: members may need a bit of gentle encouragement back into learning; employers can drag their feet about time off for training; it’s not always easy to track down the right provider; and technology doesn’t always work the way it should. That’s why unionlearn has just produced a brand new handbook for ULRs called Working For Learners. Available as an indexed spiralbound booklet, about the size of a paperback, and in electronic form on the unionlearn website, the new handbook is designed to help ULRs in every aspect of their day-today work. There are top tips for learning and organising, bite-sized case studies of successful projects and a jargon-buster to help ensure ULRs can always tell their COVE from their ESOL. The handbook also includes inspirational quotes from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary John Denham and CBI DirectorGeneral Richard Lambert – powerful voices which have all
12 » spring 2008
ULR handbook « Feature «
What’s in the new handbook
The hew handbook comes in eight sections: 1 Learning and organising G equality and diversity G ULR/learner targets for 2010 G recruiting and organising G ULRs’ profile. 2 Benefits of ULRs
G the employee case for ULRs G the employer case for ULRs G top tips for learning and organising G case studies on recruiting and training migrant
works and how learning boosts productivity. been raised in support of union learning in recent times. Indeed, there’s a vast range of material packed into the publication’s 70-plus pages, which ULRs old and new will find useful. Thinking about your own development in the ULR role? Take a look at the diagram showing possible progression routes for ULRs through courses provided by TUC Education. It shows a range of options for further training depending on what you’re most interested in. Keen to negotiate a learning agreement with your employer? There’s a whole section devoted to the subject, with a model agreement and a sample agreement to help you avoid having to reinvent the wheel before you start talking to management. Need to persuade your boss that learning will pay off for the company? Just show them the case study detailing how an external assessment of the workplace learning project at VT Shipbuilding in Portsmouth demonstrated a 140 per cent return on the company’s investment in its staff. “A major reason for the TUC establishing unionlearn was to provide greater support to unions and their ULRs in carrying out their role,” says unionlearn Director Liz Smith. “The handbook is one of the resources unionlearn has designed to help unions and their ULRs deal with their day-to-day issues.” You can order your copy of the new handbook directly from unionlearn: see back page for full details. You can also download it from: http://tinyurl.com/2akxgv We’re here to help ULRs have taken on a sometimes daunting task, unionlearn Board chair Billy Hayes told a Westminster reception where he launched the handbook in February. “You know that many of your colleagues require learning and skills; and you have to have the skills to help them identify these needs, and then to help them access provision,” he said. “But often your employer will be very complacent; and sometimes your union officer might have other issues on their mind, such as pay and conditions, redundancies or outsourcing.” That’s why unionlearn had put together the new handbook, he explained, as part of a wider brief to give learning activists all the support they need. “I’m sure this handbook will be a useful resource for unions and their ULRs, and it will help us towards achieving our target of training 22,000 ULRs in two years’ time,” he said. 3 Functions and rights
G statutory functions for ULRs G statutory rights for ULRs and union members G securing recognition and time off G barriers ULRs can face.
4 ULR agreements
G the case for learning agreements G model learning agreement G sample learning agreement.
5 ULR activities
G what ULRs do G why training matters G unionlearn learning and careers advice service G unionlearn Climbing Frame G Nextstep careers service G workplace learning centres G unionlearn Quality Awards
6 ULR training
G ULR course G follow-on courses G ULR progression routes.
7 Support for learning
G Skills for Life G Train to Gain G Skills Pledge G Apprenticeships G Higher level skills/CPD G Help from the OU/National Extension College G TUC learning and skills policy.
8 Further information
G jargon-buster G free resources G regional contacts.
spring 2008 « 13
» Interview » Chris Humphries
The new UK Commission for Employment and Skills has just opened for business. Chief Executive Chris Humphries explains how it will work, and what unions and employers can do to raise their game.
By Martin Moriarty
Getting us the skills we all need
hris Humphries is feeling good about the current high profile learning and skills is enjoying in the UK. And although he has the kind of naturally sunny disposition of those born Down Under, it’s not his temperament that’s behind the optimism – it’s his analysis of the facts. Because the inaugural chief executive of the UK Commission on Employment and Skills (UKCES) has been watching with interest at the way the issue has moved up everyone’s agenda over the past decade. “I’ve been working in the workrelated learning arena for more years than I care to remember and it’s always felt as if we’ve been fighting an uphill battle to get the issues recognised by government, employers, the working public and even – to be honest – for many years by trade unions,” he says. All that has changed today, he points out. We have a Prime Minister for whom skills became an increasingly significant driver for policy in his term as Chancellor, and many employers who are telling the CBI that skills are the biggest challenge they face. And as someone who was involved with the TUC at the launch of the Bargaining for Skills agenda in the 1990s, Chris recognises there’s been “very strong union take-up around the whole issue of skills for future opportunity over the past 10 to 15 years.” And skills is not only moving up the UK agenda – it’s also gaining ground in the international arena, he points out. “Last year for the first time the World Bank held a twoweek event in Washington for ministers and civil servants from 40 countries on how to get your vocational training and education and skills system right,” he says. “They realise it’s such a critical economic and social justice agenda and failure to get it right could have very serious detrimental impact on economies, social welfare and social inclusion,” he points out. All of this means it’s crunch time. “We have to build on this now or we’ll miss an opportunity that’s bigger than ever it’s been,” he argues. However, while the issue has never had a higher profile, we’ve yet to reach a full consensus on what we need to do to take it forward. This is where the new Commission comes in. For Chris, its role is to function as an external auditor for the UK skills and employment system. “Its job is to understand the economic and social goals we’re hoping to achieve through improving our skills and employment system; to monitor progress on them; and to report honestly to Government on how well we’re doing in relation to those goals both in the UK and internationally in terms of our major global competitors,” he explains. “Wherever we find weaknesses, inefficiencies or outright failures in the system, it’s our job to identify and bring forward recommendations for improving the system in such a way that we can get ourselves back on track.” It is, as he himself says, “an absolutely huge agenda”. And for Chris, success will be measured on improved outcomes and nothing else. Take the Skills Pledge.
We have the best opportunity in years to drive forward the skills agenda, says Chris Humphries
14 » spring 2008
Chris Humphries « Interview «
“As a Commission what we have to measure is not whether the pledge was signed but whether the pledge had the impact it was intended to have – which was to increase the volume and focus of training.” Chris argues that we shouldn’t become so fixated on the pledge itself that we lose sight of the goal it’s supposed to help us reach. “Remember, the argument behind the Leitch report wasn’t that we should train because training is good but that we should train to improve productivity, competitiveness and social justice – so that’s what we have to measure,” he says. That’s why he wants to open an early dialogue with the
Government, employers and the trade unions about what success should look like, because for the man himself it looks like economic growth and increasing social justice. Chris is keen on everyone involved raising their game. “A system that was simply employment-focused could achieve its goals by ensuring that everyone had a job that was well paid and the skills to retain it, but for me the challenge is bigger than that,” he says. “If we are going to move our businesses up the value chain to remain competitive in a world which is definitely not standing still, then we have to work with employers to encourage and
support them to raise their game and utilise the skills of a more talented workforce to create better economic opportunities,” he argues. In the past, one of the big problems has been that too many employers have learned to live with skills shortages. “Employers say: ‘We just don’t maximise our capacity. We don’t fully utilise what we’ve got. We don’t diversify. We don’t go for contracts that are more challenging.’ In other words, they accept that skills shortages will have a negative impact on their business opportunities.” They’ve also become paranoid that if they train their staff, one of their competitors will poach them –
What is the Commission for Employment and Skills?
The Commission will play a critical part in securing a highly skilled, productive workforce and increasing employment levels, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It will: G Advise Ministers on strategy and policies relating to employment and skills. G Assess progress towards achieving national employment and skills ambitions for 2020. G Monitor the performance of Sector Skills Councils, and advise Ministers on re-licensing. The trade union members of the Commission are TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, Scottish TUC General Secretary Grahame Smith, and UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis. Website: www.cfes.org.uk/
spring 2008 « 15
» Interview » Chris Humphries
Chris Humphries CV
An Australian by birth, Chris moved to the UK in 1974, working in the private sector for ICL and Acorn Computers and in the public sector as Chief Executive of Hertfordshire TEC, and Assistant Director of the UK’s Council for Educational Technology. He became Chief Executive of the TEC national council in 1994, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce in 1998, and was appointed Director General of City & Guilds, the UK’s oldest awarding body for vocational skills on 2 April 2001. He also served as chairman of the government’s National Skills Task force from 1998 to 2000 and before being appointed as a founder member of the National Learning and Skills Council and was a member of the national Skills Strategy Steering Group from December 2002 to 2005. He is currently Chairman of UK Skills and in 2006 led the successful UK bid to host the WorldSkills competitions in London in 2011. He was awarded the CBE in June 1998 for services to training and enterprise and lives in London with his family.
and just because they’re paranoid doesn’t mean their rivals aren’t out to get them. “There are many employers – and over the past 20 years I’ve talked to so many of them, particularly when I was in the Chamber of Commerce – who had experienced the effect of poaching in a painful way,” he recalls. For Chris, the answer is not to outlaw poaching, though. “In my experience the reality is that businesses who make a long-term commitment to training win,” he argues. “Yes, you might lose some staff in the early days, but over time, if you make that commitment to skills training in the long term, you’ll actually get a positive payback because you’ll attract better quality staff who want to stay with you, who believe they have a longer-term career in that company because of the opportunities you provide them.” Unsurprisingly for someone who remained a union member until his career reached chief executive level, Chris believes unions have a crucial role to play in the coming period.
“I’d like to see unions encouraging their businesses to move up the value chain because I think that’s going to be equivalent to growth; and growth probably means increased employment, more diversified employment, and I hope it means better payback for the staff – in other words it can present a real win-win,” he argues. He also suggests unions could orient their offer to members and potential members more around support for career progression. “Unions could present themselves slightly differently to workers by saying ‘We are your partner in career progression and one of the commitments we will make to you is that we will help you find the skills, training and personal development opportunities you need in order to progress up the career ladder’,” he says. “When people are becoming more dependent on their skills, are having to do more to develop their own careers, then what a phenomenal opportunity to have someone who says to you ‘I’m your partner in your career throughout your life – stick with me and I’ll help you wherever you want to get’.”
16 » spring 2008
Five years on « Feature «
To mark the fifth anniversary of statutory rights for ULRs, we talk to USDAW ULR Tracy-Jane White about her journey from a supermarket coffee shop, and, overleaf, meet two local authority ULRs who have been planning ahead.
Rights change lives
When shopworkers’ union USDAW organised a lifelong learning awareness day at the Tesco store in York where she worked in the coffee shop, TracyJane White kept her distance until the last minute. “I ignored it for most of the day,” she recalls. “But then I thought – actually, this could be my chance to get back into education: I found out that we would be all adults together, in an environment that wouldn’t be like being back at school.” School had not been a positive experience for Tracy-Jane. An undiagnosed dyslexic, she left fulltime education unable to read and write until her husband twigged what the problem was – and taught her himself. Little wonder, then, that signing up to do the TUC’s five-day ULR course was a pretty big deal. “I was so nervous going because it was the first course I’d ever done since I’d left school,” she says. “But I thought I’m here to learn myself, I’m one of the government adult literacy statistics, and this is how I want to help other people as well, so I said ‘I’m dyslexic, please help me’ and from there I’ve just gone on in leaps and bounds.” Leaps and bounds it is. TracyJane’s finished numerous courses, including two to learn about pensions, is keen to make the time to do the DDA one and has become shop steward as well. “Becoming a ULR helped me in a very big way to get the confidence to become shop steward because there’s so much you need to learn – I wouldn’t have gone for it if I hadn’t done the ULR course first.” She’s also been lucky enough to have very supportive managers
Tracy-Jane White and USDAW Head of Education and Training James Rees (centre) talk about their work with DIUS Secretary of State John Denham
locally. “Tesco’s have been absolutely fantastic from day one really. They’ve allowed me to do whatever I needed to do in store time and I’ve done a lot outside store time as well,” she says. “It’s well and truly a great thing, because having employers onboard is half the battle really – getting learners to recognise that they want to learn and can go on courses – that’s the other half of the battle.” Tracy-Jane has used her own experience to help persuade reluctant colleagues to sign up.
“Having employers onboard is half the battle really”
“I’ve managed to get a few people who were in the same boat as myself come forward and go on courses and learn themselves and not be frightened,” she says. “I think my own experience has helped me in my role. You can see the classic signs – when you approach people and they say I’m too busy, I haven’t got time, I’ve got childcare issues, and because you know that person as an individual through working alongside them you know there’s something underneath,” she says. “When I turn round and say to my workmates that I’m dyslexic, they say ‘No way – there’s just no way because you do so much’, and I say Things like this have given me the confidence to do it. Just by learning or going back to college will give you the confidence yourself.”
spring 2008 « 17
» Feature » Five years on
We’re all familiar with ULRs these days. Now the Brinkburn Centre in Newcastle want to introduce you to the CLR.
he team behind the success of workplace learning at Newcastle City Council have started exploring how to spread the lifelong learning message to groups outside the workplace using Community Learning Reps (CLRs). UNISON and the Brinkburn Centre secured funding through the TUC EQUAL High Road Project last year to develop a programme for CLRs with the Scarman Trust, the national charity committed to helping citizens bring about a change in their community. A 20-hour pilot was developed with support from UNISON’s Bridges to Learning Project and the Newcastle East End Community Development Alliance, and delivered at Byker Community Fire Station in the East End of Newcastle last summer. Based on the ULR programme, it included contributions from active ULRs alongside local learning and IAG providers and community activists. Five of the eight who completed the course were keen to actively promote learning in the community as learning champions – three as volunteers and two as part of their jobs which involved working with local people.
“The feedback on the course was very positive and a learning roadshow was held at the East End Pool and Library in October to promote the learning champions and give them an opportunity to engage with local people about learning,” explains Felicity Mendelson, who is the Senior Learning and Development Officer (TU) at the council. Now Felicity is working with Margaret Stephenson, Manager of Trade Union Education at Newcastle College, to develop a pilot Community Learning Reps Course, based on the East End programme, to be delivered at the Brinkburn Centre in May. In addition, Newcastle City Council UNISON has secured funding from the Northern TUC/LSC
“We hope further funding will help will help the council’s ULRs mentor vulnerable workers”
Learning for All Fund for a project looking at how to support Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) vulnerable workers inside and outside the council who need help with employment-related learning and skills or nationality/immigration issues. “Following the initial pilot of the BME Project (January – March 2008), we hope further funding will be available to develop the role that council’s ULRs will be able to play in mentoring vulnerable workers into the council and rolling out of the Community Learning Reps programme to local community groups,” Felicity says. UNISON Branch Equalities Officer Rizwan Sheikh, who is managing the BME Vulnerable Workers Project, has just completed his ULR training and is keen to offer the CLR programme to groups such as the African Women’s Group with whom he’s currently working.
Community learning champions proudly display their qualifications in Newcastle
18 » spring 2008
Five years on « Feature «
Simon Kirwan/The Lightbox
When control of Blackpool council changed in last year’s local elections, many people feared for the future of the workplace learning programme. But they reckoned without the team behind the Unions2Learn project.
hen the control of Blackpool Council changed last year, many people feared that the new leadership would close down the authority’s successful learning programme. “After 16 years of Labour control, we understandably had some concerns,” recalls ULR Co-ordinator and UNISON member Elizabeth Bullen. Unions2Learn had been underway for less than two years when the local election took place, but it had already chalked up a series of impressive results. The project kicked off with a pilot scheme in the Streetscene service, encouraging staff in cleansing, waste management, highways and grounds maintenance to take a structured 30-hour literacy course concluding with a National Test. “On my first day, I was told by a senior manager that I’d never get anywhere because of the history and culture within that service,” Elizabeth says. “But we held a learning awareness day and 50 employees committed to the course and the test – and we had 100 per cent retention and 100 per cent success rate.” Their commitment and their successes couldn’t have proved that senior manager more wrong. “Many of these employees got up at 4.30am and they attended their training course between January and March at the darkest and coldest time of the year, several took work home and others attended sessions while on annual leave,” Elizabeth recalls. Because the union understood that many employees lacked the confidence to take a structured course after ten, 20 or 30 years out of education, the project secured
UNISON ULR Elizabeth Bullen has helped persuade the new Conservative administration in Blackpool to continue to back the Unions2 Learn project
money from the council, UNISON and the Union Learning Fund to open a learning suite in the town. “We’re open seven days a week and three evenings a week and people can come in to that safe, nonthreatening environment and they can do one-to-ones with the project workers for just as long as they want, and when they’re ready, they come on the structured courses,” Elizabeth says. The centre is also changing the authority’s approach to redeployment by successfully re-training a number of staff to enable them to change careers at the council. And it’s delivering classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages to
36 migrant workers not employed by the authority – “they recognise it’s important if we’re going to achieve social cohesion,” Elizabeth says. No wonder that in last year’s Outstanding Service Awards (the annual awards made by the council) that Elizabeth won the Outstanding Contribution to the Future of Blackpool award. It was this impressive success rate which helped preserve the Unions2Learn project when the council leadership changed hands a year ago. “We understandably had some concerns but the deputy leader is now a Skills for Life champion and we achieved regional GO status in December of last year,” Elizabeth says.
spring 2008 « 19
» Interview » Hilary Benn
By Astrid Stubbs
Who would have believed the phenomenon that is the Union Learning Fund (ULF) was an idea germinated on the end of Hilary Benn’s bed?
ext time you convince a colleague of the rewards involved in lifelong learning or hear another enthuse about the success of doing a course, spare a thought for how the Union Learning Fund (ULF) came into existence. Hilary Benn, now Environment Secretary, had just started work for then Education Minister David Blunkett as a special adviser when he had his Eureka moment. “I think I was sitting on the end of my bed and I thought ‘Why don’t we do this?’” he recalls. With over 22 years’ experience working for ASTMS, MSF and as chair of Unions 21, he says his idea for ULF was a distillation of that union experience and a way to ensure job security and progress in the world as it changes. “Trade unions are very good at that as they deal with change on a day-to-day basis.” Hilary, whose mother Caroline was a huge influence on him as an advocate of the comprehensive school system, explains: “David (Blunkett) was always really passionate about lifelong learning – it rose out of his experience, his story.” The decision to establish the ULF was, he says, twofold – to help people in the workplace gain the skills to enable them to progress as individuals and enable the economy as a whole and to harness that power, allowing trade unions to go to employers and encourage them to work in partnership. “It was using funding as a way of opening up a conversation and helping make something happen,” he says. Within days of his boss giving a wholehearted “Yes” to his suggestion, civil servants were turning Hilary’s bedtime brainstorm into reality and paving the way for thousands of lives to be changed forever. “We were clear that we shouldn’t have the department sitting adjudicating.” recalls Hilary. As a result links were formed with the with TUC. “Liz Smith did a fantastic job,” he recalls. “We have unleashed something which is absolutely consistent with the values and principles of the trade union movement – Agitate, Organise and Educate – and I’m delighted it has been so successful. “Without David’s speed of decision, clarity of purpose, finding the money and then the partnership with the TUC to make it happen it wouldn’t have been so successful. “I didn’t sit on the edge of my bed with a grand vision. It was a little idea and David said ‘Great’ and department officials deserve a lot of praise – they absolutely got stuck in working with the TUC. “The ULF is about reaching inside each of us, finding the potential in every human being and bringing it out. Continued on page 22
Skills Minister David Lammy: “The Union Learning Fund plays an invaluable part in improving the skills and therefore the life chances of employees. “With their real-life experience and credibility, ULRs inspire trust and foster ambition in others, giving them the confidence to seek ways to improve their skills. They are also instrumental in boosting employer participation in the Skills Pledge and Train to Gain, ensuring every business and employee has access to skills training. “That is why we will invest an additional £3 million per year in union learning, so that by 2010 there will be 22,000 trained ULRs helping over 250,000 workers back into learning each year.”
20 » spring 2008
Hilary Benn « Interview «
“Politics can change things in a profound way and that happens in the most profound way when we do it together”
spring 2008 « 21
Photos by Jess Hurd
» Interview » Hilary Benn
to the success of our economy. “The ULF made unions think about how they were going to do this and that was a really good thing – how would they reach people? Where should they be targeting this? It enabled unions and management to make this happen on an equal footing and funding through the ULF route meant they could do this together in the spirit of social partnership. “A lot of people in the workforce have been turned off education – I can’t think of a more effective way of putting people off learning throughout their lives than sending them a letter at 11 and telling them they are a failure – the 11-Plus system was a scandal!” Much work around lifelong learning has involved dealing with the legacy of that scandal, he says. “If education rejected you it takes courage to take that first step back across threshold – this is a way of making it easier to do that in the workplace with all its practical ways of building confidence.” In the end having a chance to be in Government is about making a difference, says Hilary. “It’s why we get up in the morning and what we are going to look back on when we get to 80 and think ‘when you had a chance what difference did you make?’ This is one small example of what we can do. “We are living in society where it’s alarmingly fashionable to decry the capacity of politics to change anything and it isn’t true – politics can change things in a profound way and that happens in the most profound way when we do it together. “I think it’s great to see the success that the ULF has had. It’s worked really well and is a success in tapping a lot of potential in the union movement, in partnerships with employers but above all with the individuals who have taken part and been encouraged by it.”
“People are capable of achieving enormous amounts and there is no more powerful testimony than hearing individuals describe what it’s meant for them. “After all where do we get our self-confidence and aspiration from? From the love and care of our families and from education – the opportunity to open a window on the world.” While clearly having little time to dedicate to formal courses, Hilary says he learns something new every day. “When I was young I would never have thought I might have ended up doing a job like this. Life is a journey of learning. My dad (former minister Tony Benn) jokes that he’s strongly in favour of the school leaving age being raised to at least 80! “The ULF is something workers, employers and unions have a shared interest in and in the process unions can bring something to this – person power and the ability to reach people. It’s staying true to the heart of what unions are about. It’s intensely practical, about finding potential and it’s fundamental
The ULF is fundamental to the success of the economy, argues Hilary Benn
Hilary’s reading matter
G My red box! G Alexander McCall Smith:
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
G Melissa Benn: One Of Us “It’s a
shameless plug for my sister’s novel but I really enjoyed it.”
David Blunkett: “There are some things which are seminal in changing not only the world for individuals but the outlook on the world about those individuals. “The Union Learning Fund is such a venture. “Important as it is to the individuals who have benefited, it has also had major spin-offs. It has demonstrated admirably the role of trade unionism; it has
changed the relationship in many enterprises between the trade union, its members and the employer, helping to develop a unity of purpose in what the union is fighting for and the ability of the company to be able to succeed and prosper. “But the Union Learning Fund is also more than this. It is about Britain in the
21st century and the kind of skills that we need to prosper both as individuals, and as a nation. It is about giving people the confidence that if you take a job you’ll be able to progress in that job, build your ability and know that your aspiration will be matched by the support that is needed to take you forward and build your social mobility. “This is why the Union Learning Fund is so important, and why I’m so proud that is has gone from strength to strength in the 10 years since we introduced it.”
22 » spring 2008
Ten years on « Feature «
In the following pages we look at the variety of ULF projects – old and new – and how individual learners have gained from their experiences
Building on the foundations
UNISON was one of the first unions With 12,000 UNISON-supported to take advantage of the learning programmes under its opportunities offered by the ULF. belt, the union’s major strategic In 1998/99 ULF funding helped it ULF project, Establishing a Culture run a research and development of Learning, continues across all project, Creating Lifelong Learning English regions with similar Advisers, which considered how it provision in Scotland, Wales and would engage members who came Northern Ireland. through its Return to Learn course. In addition its equality and That project set the groundwork diversity ULF project is now looking for its present position, with over at making links between equality 3,000 ULRS. and learning in the workplace. Pam Johnson, who led on the And its ULF pilot around project and is now Head of UNISON developing pathways in the health Learning and Organising Services, and social care sector, offering skills says: “We were very clear that this for life to degree and postgraduate project was not about using stewards level, will be rolled out if it is and existing reps but creating a successful regions if it proves a new layer of activists from people success. who had been learners and who “ULF has allowed us to expand had previously not engaged with access to learning much more rapidly the union. than we would otherwise have been “The learning agenda offered able to do to people who would not them the opportunity to get involved have had opportunities for learning,” and encourage others they worked says Pam, who has recently with into learning. It blossomed completed an MSc in adult from there!” continuing education and training The union was successful in and now continues her lifelong creating this new layer – over half its learning with guitar lessons! ULRs are women with around 18 per cent BME and 40 per cent who have never been active in the union before. “The support of ULF has allowed unions to build their capacity around learning, to recruit ULRs and, in our case, to recruit ULRs from among groups of members who have traditionally been underrepresented as activists – especially women and black workers. For many individuals the opportunities it has allowed us to open up have been life The learning lops changing, ” she says. agenda deve ys
s sa new activist am Johnson P
Bristol West MP Steven Williams joins teachers on an ICT course
Teachers log onto the future
Thousands of teachers have been given the key to the future – thanks to a project which dates back to the start of the ULF. The NUT’s highly successful ICT Skills for Teachers pilot kicked off with funding from the ULF in 1999. Nearly 10 years on and it is such a success it has been mainstreamed by the union, which now organises termly ICT skills courses for upwards of 600 teachers a term. Arthur Jarman, head of the project, says: “We had huge numbers of teachers who didn’t know how to use a computer and the Government’s attempts to train people were failing. “Because our courses were held out of school time people felt they could apply without their school knowing. The courses were non-judgmental and people found themselves with others in a similar position so there was a camaraderie,” says Arthur. “And our members think a lot of their union – if a course carries a NUT badge they will trust it.” He says the continuing success of the programme is stunning. “We thought it would be long over but it’s still boiling away nicely! We still have people looking for courses and once they have done the basic training they leave wanting more and want to go on intermediate courses and now there’s great call for multimedia courses.” “ULF is a fantastic thing – without it we would not have had the mechanism to do this and as well as benefits to teachers there are benefits to the children they teach and, indirectly, to the union.”
spring 2008 « 23
» Feature » Ten years on
How Allan proved he was Sharp
A school leaver at 15 without qualifications Community union member Allan Sharp is living testament to the success of the ULF. Little wonder that David Blunkett remarked recently that he was proud to have kickstarted the ULF when he heard Allan’s story. Allan worked for power cable manufacturer Delta in north London until 1998 when he was one of 600 colleagues facing redundancy at its closure. As branch secretary of the then ISTC union he was invited to meetings to help retrain and upskill staff in preparation for job losses. “The average employee had 23 years’ service, was 49, had no education or qualifications and had no chance of working in anything similar,” says Allan. And at first he admits he was skeptical at money being spent on training staff. “I had lots of concerns about it – I wasn’t sure learning is what people wanted. They wanted employment and instead of having the money for training I thought they might prefer it in their final pay packet.” Fortunately for Allan and his colleagues his eyes were opened when he
Allan Sharp spoke at the Progress “Social Mobility” launch where David Blunkett said it was stories like Allan’s that made him glad he had introduced the ULF
attended the TUC’s front line advice and guidance course, the forerunner to the current ULR training. “It gave me a different view about learning not least because for the first time I’d been back into education since leaving school myself,” he says. A partnership with the local authority, the TUC and union was put into place and Allan was asked to look after the project. “I thought they’d give me three months then get in a professional – 10 years later and I’m still here!” says Allan. In that time he’s helped thousands of union and non-union members in north London with a vast array of courses as the project has broadened into a community venture, giving people the skills they need to move on in life after redundancy. “At the beginning it was mindblowingly difficult – when the phone rang I didn’t know who it would be –
an MEP, someone from the council or anyone else – but it was also very exciting,” recalls Allan. “School wasn’t great for me and while at Delta I went for a job as a foreman. I didn’t get it and the feedback was that I would never get that kind of job – that was another kick in the teeth for me.” But Allan has proved the manager who gave him that feedback wrong. He’s been on every conceivable course – computers from basic to comprehensive, managing finances, project management and now staff appraisals. In the future he is contemplating management training. And to top it all he’s now operations manager for all Community union learning across England – somewhere neither he nor his old manager could have envisaged. “I found that by going on TUC courses I was with people at the same level – now I’m constantly looking to upgrade. “And I get such a buzz about being able to help people, helping get them better skills and a better working life is phenomenal.”
24 » spring 2008
Ten years on « Feature «
Raising the bar for prison staff
Taking the stress out of work is just one of the priorities of the three-year-old learning centre at HM Prison High Down in Surrey. The prison is one of a growing number across the country to promote learning through a national POA ULF learning project. Lynne Willmer is seconded from her role of prison officer for 24 hours a week to manage the centre and she describes the courses they offer as the ‘jam on top of the bread and butter’. Lynne is supported by Sophie Thomas, a Fento 4 teacher from High Down. “We try to make staff aware that in the centre, they can refresh their skills or up-skill, gain some qualifications and also it’s important that staff learn how to de-stress. “Prison officers deal with people of all ages, who have particular needs. Officers need to think on their feet all the time and try to keep the mood on the wing as calm as possible. They need to be alert as to whether a prisoner has had a bad letter or phone call, is he self- harming, or being bullied, or whether he is in contact with his family and friends. Many prisoners have mental health issues. Some are going through drug or alcohol detoxification, which bring their own problems too. You have to keep on your toes all the time.” Coupled with the nature of the workload, the different shift patterns, poor pay and staff’s own anxieties at home can make for a very stressful job, says Lynne. It’s why the learning centre has become a refuge, offering beauty treatments and massages, a book club as well as organising film, theatre and pub quiz outings. Courses span literacy and numeracy, IT at all levels and now an Introduction to Criminology, which may be expanded into a three/four year part-time course, combined with psychology. Courses such as Customer Care, Sign Language, Digital Photography, Domestic Violence in the Workplace, and Employment Law all feature on the 2008 agenda. Lynne is hoping to organise a Family Homework evening as well as Soft Furnishing, Upholstery, and Salsa classes along with a Weight Watchers and Step Class. Last year, Lynne and Sophie completed 156 staff assessments on Learning at Work Day – a feat they are hoping to beat this May.
When it comes to learning, Bob’s your uncle
Unite–Amicus section ULR Bob Bridger is more than happy to raise a glass to celebrate the anniversary of ULF – he believes it’s changed his life. Bob left school as a teenager without qualifications and has worked as a paper technician at Wansborough Mills in St Regis, Somerset, ever since. Bob is dyslexic so tackling his own difficulties with literacy and numeracy gave him the incentive to help colleagues who also had problems. With the backing of management, a learning centre was opened at the mill, running classes in CLAIT and ECDL. Bob is now hoping to organise further courses in computing, digital photography and a City & Guilds qualification in paper-making. “ULF has made a hell of a difference to me: even though I left school without qualifications I’m now working above people I went to school with who had O Levels,” he says. “If anyone is offered the chance of becoming a ULR they should go for it. It can be a challenge but then you get to see someone who has passed their CLAIT qualification, for instance, and that experience is something worth having.”
Anyone who gets the chance to become a ULR should go for it, suggests Unite-Amicus section ULR Bob Bridger
spring 2008 « 25
» Interview » Liz Rees
Leading from the
After training thousands of reps every year, TUC Education, with unionlearn, is determined to make sure it’s allowed to get on and do its union work.
ead of TUC Education Liz Rees is facing the happy prospect of organising a big party – after all she promised one if figures for the number of trained TU reps in 2007 beat the 50,000 mark. “Last year we had the biggest net number of reps we have ever trained and you have to compare that to the 1970s when we had similar numbers. The trade union movement was twice as big then, so it’s a real achievement,” she says.
By Astrid Stubbs
26 » spring 2008
Liz Rees « Interview «
The only problem for Liz is finding the time to get everyone together for the celebration – tutors are busy delivering new and increasingly diverse forms of learning and TUC Education is kept stretched meeting that demand. This work includes maintaining the pressure on the Government to match its words on the need for skills training with strong practice to allow employees to take the time off they are entitled to in order to train. Even though employees have the legal rights which we celebrate in this issue of Learning Rep, it’s not always easy to get employers to agree to taking them, explains Liz. “The workplace is more demanding than it has ever been, and doubly so for union reps who find it hard to get the time off to do courses. We fight for every rep to get on a course and offer a lot of guidance on how to obtain and negotiate paid release.” TUC Education is working with the TUC’s employment rights experts to support reps through improved guidance on paid release. “Reps have rights but they also have problems accessing those rights and ULRs as much as
other reps are feeling the strain. It’s hard to persuade employers of the need to release people and sometimes reps are hesitant about pushing it even when they have legal rights. We want to see a stronger drafting of the code of practice on rights as well as more support in terms of best practice and negotiating tips.” Difficulties in accessing rights and the changing economy in the UK means the department has had to be very flexible in how it delivers, says Liz. It has adjusted to those needs by making its courses and delivery as flexible as possible. “We offer courses at weekends and in the evenings and, in the last few years, in the form of online provision so that reps can learn at times that are convenient to them and their employer.” She believes that online provision will play an increasing role in the work of the department, helping to
“It has made for a hectic year with huge changes to the way we package our programme but at the end we’ll be well-placed to manage new arrangements for reps,” says Liz. The next year will also see TU take on two new challenges – developing courses for equality and environment reps “We have run courses on both but our new projects will lift these two areas to new levels.” This means working with newly appointed project managers in both areas to develop reps and programmes for them. “The message is coming out loud and clear about a range of equalities issues, from migrant workers, to disability rights and LGBT issues – we have lots of equality issues which the movement still needs to address.” In addition she says: “Our environment work appeals to the next generation every bit as much as to this generation, and we are in the
“We want to see a stronger code of practice on rights for reps as well as more support on best practice”
reach hard-to-get-to-reps as well as providing extra training for those whose passion for learning has outworn their entitlement to paid release but who want to carry on. The online programme offers increasing possibilities for reps to branch out with learning in everything from pensions, occupational health and safety, countering the far right and, of course, all reps’ training now offered electronically. In addition the department’s spine of courses includes the TU ed course and follow up as well as health and safety 10 day programmes and its prestigious year-long certificate courses in employment law, health and safety and contemporary trade union studies. These courses are now being linked into a new qualifications framework for adult eduction, the QCF, which we are piloting as part of Government changes. front line on this issue, finding solutions ahead of employers.” It’s why the decision has been taken to create a new environment work book with the aim of equipping every rep with a green side in the same way that the department blazed a trail with the Out At Work and Organise 2 handbooks last year in which it mainstreamed the work of LGBT and organising issues. Liz also looks to seeing an increase in its already sizeable programme for TU officers or union professionals. Training for union professionals expanded significantly in 2006, a total of 544 from 37 unions – a rise of almost 200 officers from 2005 with 61 per cent women. “The TUC General Secretary always says that TUC Education is our flagship service – and this year it’s certainly been all hands on deck as we’ve faced our busiest, most successful period of growth," says Liz.
spring 2008 « 27
» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn
We kick off a new series on TUC Education in the regions with a closer look at what’s going on in the Southern and Eastern region
Ten years at the top
Lewisham College TU Education had every reason to toast its 10th anniversary recently – it’s helped thousands into learning in the last decade. And in training some 9,000 reps, the college has forged excellent partnerships with unions such as UCATT at Canary Wharf, Bovis Lendlease and Skanska construction, Prison Service and Prison Officers Association, Communication Workers Union at Croydon and the BT Tower, Rail Union Learning at Chatham and USDAW at Tesco. Tim Potter, Deputy Principal, said high points of the last 10 years have included two OFSTED Grade 1 Outstanding results; two Beacon Awards for Widening Participation and Partnerships in Skills for Life; a Highly recommended Beacon Award for Innovation in Health and Safety Teaching and the IAG Matrix Award. Liz Smith, Director of unionlearn, officially launched unionlearn at the college, praising the positive professional relationship it had with the college and celebrating new initiatives such as the ULR online course and the new awards under the QCF.
Unionlearn chair and CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes presents Lewisham College TU Studies and CWU Special Certificate for Achievement to Laura Wright, a ULR at his own union’s head office learning centre
Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union and Chair of the unionlearn board, paid tribute to the hard work of union reps in the workplace to make work a safer and rewarding place to be and to ULRs in establishing workplace learning initiatives and centres to improve the education
and prospects of union members and their families He congratulated learners and awarded certificates, including special achievement awards for reps who had attended numerous courses and used their skills to really make a difference in their workplace.
Making sense of mental health
At least five people in any group of 20 are likely to experience a mental illness during their lifetime. This was just one of the many shocking statistics that participants from NAPO, UNITE, UNISON and PCS found out about in an innovative TUC course on Mental Health Awareness held at the Trade Union Studies Centre, Lewisham College. The course covered: attitudes of employers, the media and society to mental health; G stress at work; G discriminated against people with mental health issues; G case studies; G supporting people with mental health issues at work; G achieving a mentally healthy workplace. Workplace action plans
included mental health awareness sessions and publicity for employers and the workforce, particularly for those who work with or near the person with mental health issues Participants also agreed on the importance of ensuring that employers know they have responsibilities and people experiencing mental health issues have rights under the Disability Discrimination Act.
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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «
CONEL tops the class
Trade union education is behind the success of a top Ofsted report at the College of North East London (CONEL). The college has been recognised as making ‘significant progress’ in developing its adult training in a recent Ofsted report. The report states: “The college has made significant progress in expanding adult training. A well established national centre of excellence in Trade Union Studies provides a good experience base for highly effective employer engagement.” “The award is excellent news as this report highlights that TUC Education continues to be at the heart of employer engagement for CONEL,” says unionlearn Regional Education Officer Rob Hancock. The centre works closely with the Employment Training Solutions team to meet the skill needs of trade unionists from a wide range of workplaces. ULRs, trained through the centre, have helped arrange a variety of courses for their members in the local area. Successful courses have included Skills for Life for a wide range of trade unionists from postal workers to teaching assistants, who have taken the opportunity of sitting the National Tests in Literacy and Numeracy and successfully gaining recognised qualifications at Level 1 and 2. ESOL courses have also been laid on for workers from a variety of workplaces, such as transport and the cleaning industry. CONEL is now delivering the new Information Technology Qualification (ITQ ), which, along with a whole host of Level 2 vocational qualifications, is proving popular with ULRs. DIUS Secretary John Denham recently visited the college and praised its progress.
TUC Education has gone from strength to strength in recent years. TUC tutors in the Southern and Eastern region are totally commited to giving reps the training they need and to building the trade union movement Rob Hancock REO
spring 2008 « 29
» Update » TUC Education with unionlearn
A flare for learning
TUC Education was born in its current form in the 1970s, forging partnerships with FE colleges in developing its Union Reps Stage 1 core course for basic training of reps. That course celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, with new materials to invigorate it. TUC Education joined forces with the organisation’s Learning Services in 2005 to become unionlearn. “Trade union studies tutors are absolutely the back-bone of what we do. They work from some 60 colleges across the UK using courses written and provided by the department. The TUC puts a lot of resources into training – and developing tutors is key to our success,” says Liz Rees. “We have first class regional education officers (REOs), who develop partnerships with local colleges which then run courses on everything that you can think of, whether it’s equality, employment rights, health and safety or on learning. We have a huge curriculum and work hard to keep up-to-date with the needs of reps and the priorities of unions. And the support we get from unions across the board, education officers, regional officers, national officers and workplace reps, is crucial.” It’s little wonder then that 13 consecutive Adult Learning Inspectorate reports of Trade Union
TUC Education provides the training you need
G Union reps You may be known as a shop steward, office representative, staff rep or union steward. The union reps courses provide a thorough basis in the skills needed for carrying out the role. G Safety reps Courses will help you become better reps by providing a thorough grounding in health and safety issues as well as tackling welfare issues. Training gives new reps an opportunity to discuss issues around health and safety at work.
Studies units in colleges by Ofsted have all been Grade 1 – outstanding – unmatched by any other curriculum area across adult education. “The quality of the work makes me very proud – it’s not easy to keep on top of all the changes that come along but we have managed it and that quality of work is what pulls us through. We have terrific tutors and materials and so much commitment across the field in keeping that quality high.” log onto www.unionlearn.org.uk to download PDFs of courses online. Or contact your regional education officer (see back page) for more information.
G Learning reps Courses will help you understand the role and statutory rights of the ULR; organise to improve learning opportunities and work with employers towards a learning workplace. G Pensions scheme trustees Courses will give a better understanding of pensions so you can provide advice to your members on issues as well as help you understand your own pension situation. G Equality reps Reps need an understanding of employers’ legal duties for members to get effective representation. Courses include legislation on discrimination and diversity, and union equality strategies and tackling discrimination at work. G Environment reps Courses give an understanding of environmental terminology; examine legislation and review environment management systems; assess current trade union policies; and develop workplace and community strategies. G Union professionals The professional development programme brings locally delivered high quality, accredited education and training to union officers. G Trade union tutors Developing the skills and experience of TUC tutors is central to maintaining and building on our high standards. TUC Education trains and develops its tutors on specially designed and accredited courses.
“Organise 2! A voice in every workplace” builds on the success of the first edition of Organise!, and has been designed to help develop the skills for effective workplace organisation. It has been developed for use across the TUC Education curriculum, for branches, for union officers, for union learning reps, for campaigns and for wherever the voice of the union should be heard. Reps will find it available on courses from January 2008. Let TUC Education know what you think of it – email Liz Rees at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details, or with any suggestions for improvement. TUC Education will use these for Organise 3!
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Diversity « Update «
Firefighters answer diversity call
Fire and rescue service staff in South London are improving their communications with deaf people thanks to a session organised at New Malden fire station. The Deafworks course trains firefighters about how to approach deaf and hard of hearing people when carrying out Home Fire Safety Risk Assessments and how to install smoke alarms designed for deaf people. With the help of funding from the London Development Agency (LDA), the course is currently being run for Red Watch at New Malden fire station and for borough-based fire safety administrative staff from Lambeth, Croydon and Kingston. It all came about as a result of a short fire safety presentation by Surbiton Deaf Club at New Malden fire station on Learning at Work Day (LAW) last year, which sparked a lot of interest among the workforce. The Watch Manager is keen for the session to form part of the initial training firefighters receive when joining the Fire Service since it provides excellent advice on communicating with the hard-ofhearing and is also very useful for helping engaging with anybody who has difficulties with English. “This is a fantastic course, which the students have really enjoyed and which has taught them many useful skills,” says FBU London Region Lifelong Learning Coordinator Tim Davis. In addition to the Deafworks course, two firefighters are studying British Sign Language (20 per cent of firefighters in the capital are interested in BSL, according to a recent London-wide learning survey).
Firefighters at New Malden are improving their communications with deaf people
“Learning at Work Day has produced a real benefit for the local deaf and hard of hearing community as well as setting Fire Service staff on a personal learning journey,” says unionlearn Regional manager Barry Francis. “This serves to underline the value of union learning as an important part of social cohesion: the partnership between the LDA, unionlearn and the FBU has resulted in a real benefit to the community.” Tania Fletcher, Head of Employability at the LDA, says the Agency is delighted to be funding such a worthwhile programme. “Deafworks has found a new way of working between the fire service and the deaf and hard of hearing communities, and will encourage better practice when engaging with other vulnerable communities,” she says.
spring 2008 « 31
» Feature » Apprenticeships
The TUC wants the Government to improve pay rates for apprentices. And what better time to talk about it than during the country’s first-ever Apprenticeships Week?
Building the youth team
By Astrid Stubbs
he Government should increase the minimum pay rate for apprentices, says a TUC report that coincided with the first Apprenticeships Week. Decent Pay for Apprentices reveals that although apprenticeships are a good route into work for young people, the quality of training can vary. Some apprentices are paid as little as £1.54 an hour with inadequate training, which in turn leads to poor completion rates. Low pay particularly affects women apprentices, who are paid on average 26 per cent less than men.
Young women working in areas such as hairdressing, early years education and social care fare most badly. Most apprentices are exempt from the minimum wage, but in 2005 the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) established a minimum payment of £80 a week for apprentices. The TUC report says that while this rate has helped protect some apprentices from unscrupulous employers, a pay rise is long overdue. It wants the minimum rate for apprentices to be increased to £110 a week, roughly in line with the minimum wage rate youth rate (£3.40). According to recent statistics, less than one in
Former track star Steve Cram launched a new Athletics Apprenticeship during Apprenticeships Week
ten apprentices are paid between the LSC minimum rate of £80 and the TUC proposed rate of £110. The Prime Minister has said that the issue of minimum wage exemptions for apprentices would be looked at by the Low Pay Commission. But because this is unlikely to lead to any changes before October 2009, the TUC wants the LSC to urgently increase the minimum rate to £110. Release of the TUC report also coincided with the Government’s review on apprenticeships. And while TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber broadly welcomed Ready to Work, Skilled for Work, he called the situation on low pay a scandal.
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Apprenticeships « Feature «
This is the TUC’s six-point plan to build on review:
G Government should establish a
G The £80 minimum pay rate should
national equality and diversity strategy with action to target particular groups, sectors and localities. G Government should use mechanisms to promote equality and diversity in apprenticeships, including public procurement policy and targets for Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), which could be linked to Government funding of SSCs.
urgently be raised to at least £110 per week. G Joint work between unions and employers should be encouraged and supported by Government. In particular, unions could do more in this area with statutory rights to collective bargaining over training, and the Government should reconsider this issue. G The Government should expand adult apprenticeships, helping break down occupational segregation. G The Government should fully explore how the public sector gender equality duty can ensure gender equality in apprenticeships.
are 240,000 apprentices working in over 130,000 organisations in England alone. G The TUC target of £110 is broadly in line with the minimum wage for 16-17 year olds (£3.40), taking into account the average weekly working time for apprentices is 32 hours G Download the TUC report Decent Pay for Apprentices from http://tinyurl.com/3y5b74 G Download the Government report Ready to Work, Skilled for Work from http://tinyurl.com/2l3fms
“It’s disappointing that the Government has delayed addressing a key problem with apprenticeships, that of poor pay. Although the poorest paid apprentices are now protected from the worst ravages of exploitation, this has not increased since August 2005. Rising prices mean this is effectively a pay cut. “Apprenticeships are an excellent route into work and we want to see more employers offering high quality places. But there is a stark quality divide between apprenticeships, with too many young people receiving poor training and poverty pay. Many are training to care for our families and friends and it’s scandalous that they are paid so poorly. It’s no surprise that these apprentices are among the most likely to drop out.”
Backing the youth team (from left): Skills Active CEO Stephen Studd, LSC Director of Apprenticeships Stephen Gardner, Skills Minister David Lammy and Olympic Medalist Steve Cram
Good for business
New research released to mark the start of the first ever Apprenticeship Week in February highlighted that employing apprentices has a hugely beneficial impact on overall business performance. In an independent survey of organisations that employ apprentices, conducted on behalf of the LSC, over three-quarters
felt their apprenticeship programme made them more competitive, while the same number believed apprenticeships led to higher productivity. The TUC joined forces with the Federation of Small Businesses to mark Apprenticeships Week and stress the importance of apprenticeships. The FSB, one of the leading providers of apprenticeships, supports the TUC call for an increase in the minimum
weekly wage. The organisations believe that further increasing completion levels is crucial to improving the quality and reputation of apprenticeships. The TUC and FSB are also determined to boost diversity within apprenticeships. More women should be given a route into non-traditional roles and ethnic minorities and disabled people need greater access to high quality apprenticeships.
spring 2008 «
» Feature » Higher-level skills
Why CPD is AOK out West
ULR Briony Marder is making a quiet difference to the lives of West Country probation service staff.
Briony is a probation service officer (PSO) and trained in 2006 as part of the first cohort of NAPO’s (Probation Service Union) ULR team. Briony says she has had problems with management’s understanding of her role so for the moment: “I’ve been working away in the background raising the profile of my role, and by supporting my workmates, so when I hear about someone’s needs I try and get it for them. This will demonstrate the benefits of what a ULR can offer.” Part of spreading the learning message for Briony has been letting people know about the unionlearn discounts available to them if they book courses with the Open University, Open College and National Extension College. “Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is important here, for instance with keyboard skills,” says Briony. “People are expected to work on keyboards for hours a day but are not always up to date on, for example, EXCEL and Word. “I try to tell people that there is still CPD after a degree! This can involve keeping up-to-date with the law, new computer programmes as well as personal development with courses in such things as glass and jewellery making.” Briony is hoping her role will become more visible during Learning at Work Day in May. She also advertised her ULR role more widely during World Book Day on March 6. “I’d like to think that I could work with managers to organise a full training needs analysis and to work in tandem on CPD, which I believe would help lift morale. “Being a ULR is not about making waves but about complementing the work management does. “People have degrees but they might not want to admit that they have Skills for Life needs, such as not being great at maths or the fact that they need to brush up their English. They might not wish to admit this to management but they might talk to me and in this way I’m hoping we can work together.”
There’s still CPD after a degree, Briony Marder tells her colleagues
Whitehall gets developed
The Continuing Professional Development of the UK’s senior public servants has been given a major boost with a project established by the FDA – the union for senior managers and professionals in public service. FDA members include Whitehall policy advisers and senior managers, tax inspectors, economists and statisticians, government lawyers, crown prosecutors, schools inspectors, diplomats, and accountants. Neil Rider, project manager, says the union sought funding after surveying members around the Professional Skills for Government scheme (PSG), which represents a different and more structured way of thinking about Civil Service jobs and careers. It is a major, long-term programme designed to ensure that no matter where people work in Government, they have the right mix of skills and expertise to enable their department or agency to deliver effective services. It also aims to ensure that high level skills are transferable into the private and third sectors. “We found there was concern among members about how PSG works so we wanted to work with Government Skills (the Sector Skills Council for Government) to make sure PSG is effective for our people and their employers and to build confidence in the scheme,” says Neil. The outcome is that the project has the support of Government skills
and the employers that the FDA works with. Indeed Neil is himself a Civil Servant seconded by his department to be project manager. The union is also in the process of setting up a partnership agreement with Government Skills. Members are being offered career
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Higher-level skills « Feature «
At a national level NAPO works to make sure employers understand the role of the ULR and how it can benefit their business and organisational needs. ULRs can make a significant impact in the Probation Service and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). The Probation Service is going through a period of change with the introduction of a new training qualifications framework. And ULRs will be able to make sure all staff in the service are aware of the changes and how to make best use of them and continue up the career ladder if they wish to do so. By negotiating local learning agreements ULRs will be able to assess staff training needs’ and find out what barriers prevent them from taking up training opportunities. NAPO’s learning strategy within this climate of change is to work in partnership with employers to promote learning and professional development, says Ranjit Singh, the union’s ULF project manager (pictured). “The introduction of ULRs is an intrinsic tool to achieve this, to both promote new learning opportunities and also to ensure fairness and accessibility on a long term basis, ULRs will be able to ensure that workers are given the time, support and encouragement to learn and develop,” he says.
Liverpool signs learning deal
A joint learning agreement has been struck between Liverpool Community College and its unions. A significant achievement in the agreement is that newly appointed ULR Steve Burns is co-opted onto the Staff Development Management Group, which ensures dialogue on issues, including the need for FE teachers to join the Institute for Learning. Another really useful outcome of the agreement between the college and unions, UCU and UNISON is the time given to Steve to carry out his work, demonstrating genuine investment by the college in the initiative. “As a learning organisation whose key role is education, the work of the ULR dovetails well with its core activities,” commented Joel Petrie, Chair, UCU Liaison Committee, who took the union lead on negotiating the agreement. “Staff development/CPD is a key element in the current professionalisation agenda in further education and we believe having a ULR will give staff a stronger voice in steering this agenda locally.”
development through Opus2, the Connect union careers advice organisation, which has already produced an excellent response, says Neil. And a request for volunteers to train as ULRs got off to a flying start with 27 already signed up across 10 departments and agencies. Two of the ULRs are based abroad and are set to undertake training online. “Our people are by definition career conscious and the aim of the government scheme is to give them the skills both inside and outside public service so that they can exchange between sectors. “For instance a lawyer who is giving high level legal advice might need the skills to manage a project or need financial management skills.” FDA General Secretary Jonathan Baume is fully behind the project.
“The FDA believes that whatever level people are at in their careers, they never lose the ability to learn more. That is essential for career and personal development. Lifelong learning means learning for the whole of one’s life – and that applies to our members as much as anyone,” he says. For FDA members, Neil says that as well as attention to higher skills there has already been an enthusiasm for IT and language skills. “It’s a very positive start – and we are knocking at an open door with members and employers. We are already hitting targets and that’s fantastic,” he says. “This clearly benefits our members, their civil service employers, and ultimately, the country.”
spring 2008 « 35
» Update » Learning at Work Day
The green grass of work
The big theme for this year’s Learning at Work Day during Adult Learners’ Week in May is Sustainable Workplaces. Find out more about how you can make it come alive for new learners.
ustainable Workplaces is the theme of this year’s National Learning at Work Day, and the idea is that ULRs use the day to help their colleagues and employers learn new skills and working practices to help sustain the planet and benefit their business. By coordinating this one day of workplace learning, on Thursday 22 May in Adult Learners’ Week, the Campaign for Learning (CfL) hopes employers will begin to see the business benefits of staff development. “Learning new skills and recognising those that already exist creates a loyal and motivated workforce leading ultimately to business success,” says the CfL. “And Learning at Work Day provides the perfect platform for ULRs to tackle many of the barriers to learning in the workplace for both employees and employers.” By leading on the planning of Learning at Work Day events within individual organisations, ULRs can offer the peer support to encourage staff participation and the influence with management to ensure they buy into the event and give it their full backing, increasing the longer term benefits of taking part. Under the umbrella theme of Sustainable
Workplaces, the Campaign is providing resources around three different strands to help workplaces make positive changes, both internally and externally, to benefit organisations, employees and the wider community and economy.
“Learning at Work Day provides the perfect platform for ULRs to tackle barriers to learning”
The environmental strand will look at what organisations can learn about green issues and how employees can learn by interacting with the community they live and work in. G The work/life balance strand will help employers develop good practice and procedures that can lead to healthy, productive and motivated employees. G And the learning throughout life strand will explore how to develop transferable “soft” skills
Put OpenLearn to work for you
OpenLearn is the online learning space where the Open University (OU) has uploaded a vast range of its course materials for anyone to use, completely free of charge. If you want to find out more about environmental sustainability (one of the overarching themes for this year’s Adult Learners’Week), or sustainable workplaces (the theme for Learning at Work Day), OpenLearn is a great place to start.
G An introduction to sustainable energy
http://tinyurl.com/2mpmz6 Provides an introductory overview of the present energy systems and takes a brief look at where the world may find energy in the future – cleaner use of fossil fuels or renewable energy sources.
G Why sustainable energy matters
the world’s present energy systems and their sustainability problems, together with some of the possible solutions to those problems and how these might emerge in practice.
G Introducing Environment –
taster materials http://tinyurl.com/2w8tf9 Provides an overview of Open University Course Y161 Introducing environment,
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Learning at Work Day « Update «
and the vital Skills for Life needed by everyone in the workforce. To get your learning ideas for this year’s event flowing here are some examples of organisations can take part. G Scrap Heap Challenge: The art competition element of turning old office waste into masterpieces will engage even the most reluctant employee while highlighting the business benefits of recycling. G Family Story Writing Competition: Taking an interest in employees’ family lives will help to promote the importance of work/life balance and writing and reading stories will improve everyone’s Skills for Life. G Ready Steady Cook: A session where employees can learn to make quick and easy healthy lunches to show how a healthy diet can improve performance at work and lead to a more enjoyable life, G Colleague Skills Swap: Sharing hidden talents boosts employee confidence and workplace relationships as well as developing transferable skills to maintain a productive, motivated workforce. For more ideas, resources and materials to help make the day work, visit the Campaign for Learning’s website, www.learningatworkday.com or call 020 7766 0001 for more information.
introducing the types of activities, tasks and assignments undertaken on the course.
G Climate change
G Global warming
G Managing coastal environments
http://tinyurl.com/3dqgqb Explores the basic science that underpins climate change and global warming.
http://tinyurl.com/2oc3nv Provides an introduction to global warming, looking at the pattern of ice ages and analysis of recorded temperatures, assessing the impact and influence of humans on global warming and examining climate models and how to predict future changes.
http://tinyurl.com/326zx2 Looks at the example of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, England, describing how the current state of the estuary came to be and examining the contests and conflicts in terms of managing the environment for human needs and the needs of the other species who make their habitat there.
spring 2008 « 37
All TUC email addresses are first initial followed by email@example.com
Tel: 020 7079 6920 Fax: 020 7079 6921 firstname.lastname@example.org www.unionlearn.org.uk Director Liz Smith Tel: 020 7079 6922 email@example.com
» Regional unionlearn
Southern and Eastern Tel: 020 7467 1251 Regional manager Barry Francis Union Development Coordinator Jon Tennison Regional Education Officer Rob Hancock
» National unionlearn
Standards and Quality Ian Borkett Tel: 020 7079 6940 firstname.lastname@example.org Research and Strategy Bert Clough Tel: 020 7079 6925 email@example.com Business and Finance Matthew Fernandez-Graham Tel: 020 7079 6936 firstname.lastname@example.org Communications Mike Power Tel: 020 7079 6942 email@example.com Trade Union Education Liz Rees Tel: 020 7079 6923 firstname.lastname@example.org Union Development Judith Swift Tel: 0151 243 2568 email@example.com Development Officer (ULF) Catherine McClennan Tel: 07795 606 982 firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional Development Workers: Bristol Alan Shearn Tel: 0117 947 0521 Cornwall Geoff Hale Tel: 01209 611 604 Regional Education Officer Marie Hughes Tel: 0117 933 4443
Tel: 0121 236 4454 Regional manager Mary Alys Union Development Coordinator Gary O’Donnell Regional Education Officer Pete Try
» Yorkshire and the
Tel: 0113 245 4909 Regional Manager Alan Roe Union Development Coordinator Sharon Burke, Regional Education Officer Trevor Sargison Tel: 0113 200 1071
Regional manager Barney McGill Tel: 0191 227 5552 Union Development Coordinator Elizabeth Killoran Tel: 0191 227 5557 Regional Education Officer Ian West Tel: 0191 227 5572
» Union contacts
Aspect Judith Hibbert Tel: 07968 322 969 email@example.com ATL Mark Holding Tel: 020 7782 1596 firstname.lastname@example.org BECTU Brian Kelly Tel: 020 7346 0900 email@example.com BFAWU Dorban Ippoma Tel: 020 8801 0980 dorban58@yahoo BSU Vikki Botham Tel: 07717 805 521 firstname.lastname@example.org Connect Kirsi Kekki Tel: 020 8971 6052 email@example.com CWU Trish Lavelle Tel: 020 8971 7340 firstname.lastname@example.org Equity Louise Grainger Tel: 020 7670 0214 email@example.com FBU Trevor Shanahan Tel: 07917 75 9473 firstname.lastname@example.org FDA Martin Furlong Tel: 020 7401 5555 email@example.com
» North West
Regional Manager Dave Eva Tel: 0151 236 2321 Union Development Coordinator Tony Saunders Liverpool office Tel: 0151 236 2321 Manchester office Tel: 0161 445 0077 Regional Education Officer Peter Holland Tel: 0151 243 2564
» Equal Project
Joe Fearnehough Tel: 0151 243 2571 firstname.lastname@example.org
» Learndirect centres
Helen Gagliasso Tel: 0191 227 5567 email@example.com
» South West
Regional Manager Tel: 0117 947 0521 Helen Cole Union Development Coordinator Ros Etheridge
Jay Sreedharan Tel: 020 7079 6943 firstname.lastname@example.org
38 » spring 2008
MU Pauline Dalby Tel: 020 7840 5516 email@example.com NAPO Ranjit Singh Tel: 07943 827 353 firstname.lastname@example.org NASUWT Jennifer Moses, Stephen Smith Tel: 0121 453 6150 email@example.com NUJ Linda King Tel: 020 7843 3717 firstname.lastname@example.org NUT Andrew Parry Williams Tel: 020 7380 4800/4780 email@example.com PCS David McEvoy Tel: 020 7801 2727 ext 2360 firstname.lastname@example.org PFA Alan Irwin Tel: 07717 467 718 email@example.com POA Andy Rowett Tel: 07917 699 210 firstname.lastname@example.org Prospect Rachel Bennett Tel: 020 7902 6687 Rachel.Bennett@prospect.org.uk RCN Linda McBride Tel: 020 7647 3855 email@example.com UCATT Jeff Hopewell Tel: 01302 360 725 firstname.lastname@example.org Unison Pam Johnson Tel: 020 7551 1267 email@example.com Unite – Amicus section Tom Beattie Tel: 020 8462 7755 firstname.lastname@example.org Unite – T&G section Jim Mowatt Tel: 020 7611 2628 email@example.com Unity Gerald Crookes Tel: 01782 280 588 firstname.lastname@example.org URTU Graham Cooper Tel: 07795 562 874 email@example.com USDAW Ann Murphy Tel: 0161 224 2804 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay Sreedharan, unionlearn’s website officer, answers some recent questions raised by site visitors
Q “Thursday 22 May will be my first Learning at Work Day as a ULR. Could you give me some tips on what I might do the day?” A First of all go to the Campaign for Learning’s website where they have created a new section especially for ULRs. You will find information including action plans that takes you through the essential steps to a successful Learning at Work Day from “making your case” to “measuring success”. There will be downloadable materials, resources and case studies that have been designed to help you as a Union Learning Rep, as well as other useful websites and information sources. A few example of activities you could run on the day are, book swaps, Indian head massage, job swaps, laughing in the workplace, presentation tips for public speaking, managing your workload and plenty more. And an A-Z of activities that you can use in your workplace can be found at www.campaign-for-learning.org.uk You should also contact your regional unionlearn project workers for advice on local activity and funding. Contact details at the back of this magazine.
Top tips from you
On our website we recently asked ULRs to share their “Top Tips” on getting workmates into learning. Here are 10 of the best.
Try to collaborate with other ULRs. Having more ULRs involved keeps turnout high and costs down. Create an events calendar for your team. Provide information on what’s available, when and how to enrol. Go on courses yourself, so you can give first hand experience.
Where possible get support from local/regional learning officers from your own union and unionlearn as they have all the up-to-date information on funding etc.
You can download free online books for anyone anywhere at no cost, and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included at www.gutenberg.org.
Get involved with local authorities/colleges and learning events.
Set yourself clear goals and make an action plan with target finish dates so you can monitor progress easily.
Get colleagues involved as reviewers i.e. courses, books etc.
Give yourself plenty of time when planning events as things often take longer than you think. All these tips have been submitted by ULRs, why not submit your top tips and we’ll send you a set of nine Sandstone Vista books. www.unionlearn.org.uk/toptip
If you have a question you want answered or want to take part in online discussions, please visit www.unionlearn. org.uk/discuss
Share your experiences and potential stumbling blocks with your colleagues. Let them know how you got over obstacles or if you overcame a fear of learning.
spring 2008 «
Resources « Roundup «
Farteiels m er a
Whether or not you are organising events for Adult Learners’ Week, and especially Learning at Work Day (Thursday 22 May) there’s lots of material you can use – and post and packing is free as well.
Order now for Adult Learners’ Week events
Working for Learners This new, updated handbook is a must have for all ULRs. This 80 page, wire bound publication contains everything a ULR needs to know. Its chapters cover: learning and organising, benefits of ULRs, functions and rights, ULR agreements, ULR activities, ULR training, and support for learning. Plus a jargon buster, resources list and contacts. See story on page 12
Kate and Umar’s Incredible learning journey – DVD Now available this new 10 minute animated film is being widely used in workplaces and on courses around the country. See story on page 6.
Unionlearn directory This list of TUC Education programmes and centres should be on the shelf of every learning centre and ULR.
Learning and organising – leaflets and poster A new set of materials to encourage people to become ULRs and to join the union. They include leaflets entitled: “Fancy taking on the best job in your workplace?” Designed to encourage members to become a ULR. And a join union leaflet “No other membership gives you this many benefits”. Plus a poster urging people to join the union. Local heroes – the importance of ULRs – DVD The first 3,000 copies of this film went within six weeks – a great response to a film showing the vital work carried out by ULRs. More copies have been ordered, which means that the ULR story can be spread even wider.
Keep members and colleagues in touch with what unionlearn and its partner organisations are doing, saying and offering by ordering further copies of this edition of the Learning Rep and pass them on. Order lots for your Adult Learners’ Week activities (17 – 23 May).
spring 2008 «