From education to employment

A celebration of learning

Tom Wilson is the director of unionlearn

September is the political conference season often meaning late nights, lots of travel and many meetings. At unionlearn we decided to add celebration to the mix at this year’s TUC Congress in Liverpool and use it as an opportunity to celebrate learning successes and reward those who had been working hard on the lifelong learning experience.

A range of companies from the North West joined us at the Liverpool Convention Centre to meet Pat McFadden MP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills. The minister presented an award to Anne McCall who was retiring after many years promoting training and learning through the TGWU and Unite who had opened up the world of education to hundreds of staff.

Amongst those the minister was also able to meet were staff and learning reps from organisations such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport, McVities, Mersey Travel, Aintree NHS Trust and Sefton Metropolitan Council. They were able to tell him of the inspiring stories from their workplaces and how they had brought skills and training to employees who would previously have not considered further education.

Earlier during Congress we were able to take advantage of the presence of the prime minister to present the award for Union Learning Rep (ULR) of the year. The award was won by Nicola Njie, a call centre customer service specialist at E.ON in the East Midlands. She has been credited with helping bring thousands of learning opportunities to E.ON colleagues and for recruiting at least 500 new members to her union Unison.

Nicola hadn’t been involved in her Union but was inspired by her interest in learning to sign up to be a ULR. She was pivotal in negotiating with a learning agreement involving unions Unison, GMB, Unite and Prospect. The agreement is the first such in the Energy sector and gives facility time for reps as well as members to promote and take part in learning projects throughout the business. The company now has maths and English tests taking place in many of its sites and members embarking on courses they would never have considered without the help of a ULR.

Celebrating the success and achievements of education is a vital part of engaging with learners and encouraging new people to take up the opportunity of training. It has also been great to reward those people who are spreading the message about further education and learn from their inspiring examples.

We are looking forward to another year of supporting companies and their learning reps in developing new schemes and bring on new apprentices so we can hear more inspiring stories and achievements when the TUC meets again in Manchester in September 2010.

Tom Wilson is the director of unionlearn, which helps unions encourage lifelong learning among members


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