My role within Trade Union Studies (TUS) is Learning Partnership Coordinator, my duties are to develop learning partnership with trade unions, employers, the College and community groups. About 25% of my time is to organise and deliver teaching and learning for trade unions and community groups. For example, the role and functions of the union learning rep, environmental sustainability and ICT. I recruit and enrol trade union (TU) learners to short courses (five days).
A key responsibility is the awareness, information, advice and guidance given to trade union learners who are returning to education for a second chance to learn. Many have had either a poor experience at school or fears about taking up formal education and walking into a formal institution. Giving support and confidence is critical within the first hour and throughout the remainder of the course.
Learner needs are firstly identified in the enrolment process and in within the first couple of hours of the course, where activities are designed nationally or customised to revel who is taking notes, asking questions and what the workplace issues are. Learners can also contribute to course content during the early stages of the course to make sure there are covered. For example skills in writing letters, problem solving and speaking with confidence. I am bound only to train trade union reps and community groups because SFA funding is only for the Trade Union Council (TUC) approved courses.
Our funding only covers 19 yr olds plus. Accreditation is another boundary as this is agreed by Open College Network (OCN) and TUC every 5 years where learning outcomes, assessment criteria, levels and progression pathways are agreed. Within this there is scope to customise courses to meet different learner needs and sectors. But our accreditation principals must be adhered to. A good example is the TUC Union Learning Reps Course (ULR) where I have run a general course with mixed Unions and a customised course for USDAW (shop workers) and RMT (rail sector).
Student centred learning is at the heart of TUC education with emphasis on learning how to learn and learning by doing. Identifying the progress of a trade union learner is not only determined by not only accreditation but also there practical application of what they have learned to workplace issues. In other words so they become an effective rep? Some of our learners have trouble with literacy, but can still effectively represent there members and negotiate with management.
Learners complete a record of achievement, I use question and answer to check their understanding, role plays, sitting with groups while they discussing issues, giving workplace for them to complete while they are off the course with the learners reviewing there experience of completing that activity. Strength and weaknesses of teaching and learning are identified by comments on end of day plans, mid and end of course reviews. At the start of every course it’s made clear that the learners can contribute to the course content which empowers them and gives them ownership of their course and learning throughout the course.
Equality, diversity and inclusion is central to trade Union education, not only for ‘protected characteristics (age, gender, etc) but also for low pay, hard to reach workers, young workers, language issues and migrant workers. This can affect their access to a course, course retention, participation with other leaners and understanding. An example is manual workers who find it difficult to sit down in a classroom for 6 hours or to read a lengthy piece of text so learning how to learn is a key feature of TUS Education.
Working with the TUS team and the College help me address these barriers when they occur in the classroom. ‘Making a difference The impact of trade union education on Britain’s workplaces A union reps survey report by Doug Gowan 2009’ ‘There was clear agreement on the skills that are important for union reps. The skills they felt they need are closely related to their regular activities outlined above. In addition, nearly all respondents agreed that using a computer is at least of some importance to a union rep’