My learning journey in Europe

Thanks to the support of the TUC and my union, Unite, a few years ago I was able to study a Masters in Labour Policies and Globalisation, with the Global Labour University (GLU) in Germany.

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Studying overseas with fellow trade unionists from across the globe and becoming an active member of the Global Labour University alumni network has opened up some amazing opportunities, including the chance to develop and deliver training with the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). 

The ETUI is the independent research and training centre of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the TUC works in partnership with the ETUI to develop learning opportunities for union members and representatives. 

After graduating from the Global Labour University I started to work as the Trade Union Training Officer of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and was keen to bring the knowledge and contacts I had made on my Masters course to the organisation. One of my fellow GLU alumni member works for the ETUI and late last year proposed developing a partnership between the CSP and the ETUI. 

The ETUI were keen to work with a British union and the TUC, and late last year I travelled to ETUI offices in Brussels to meet my fellow tutors from the ETUI and ADEDY and to start to develop a course.  

We all went away from our one-day development meeting with plenty of work and organising to do! It was great to see how tutors from other European countries run their training events and what activities they use to facilitate the learning process. 

I soon realised that running a training course with three working languages (Greek, Spanish and English) created very particular challenges: the workbook, supporting resources and presentations had to be written well in advance in order to be translated by the ETUI, consideration had to be given as to how translators would be needed during group work and what technologies would be needed to facilitate translation. 

As trainers we also had to bear in mind that the activities would take longer than in a single language course and be aware of using clear English e.g. avoiding sarcasm and speaking slowly.

The training course proved to be popular as people from across Europe started to register as soon as it was advertised and in February the ETUI, CSP, TUC and ADEDY welcomed union reps from Spain, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania and Belgium, to Unite’s training centre, Esher Place. 

During the course, participants got to hear from experts in labour law and representatives from the TUC and the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) shared their experiences of campaigning. 

There were also a range of inter-active learning activities and, as is so often the case with trade union courses, one of the main benefits of the course was meeting and networking with experienced union reps. In today’s digital age it is easy for the networking to continue beyond the course and the reps have remained connected on social media ready to offer solidarity when required!

It wasn’t just the course participants that learnt lots during the course- not only did I expand my global understanding of trade union and labour rights but as it was my first experience of delivering a cross-European course I learnt about the specific requirements involved when delivering multi-lingual and cross cultural training.

I was keen to continue my European learning journey and later in February attended an ETUI course for trade union trainers, at the ILO training centre in Turin, on active learning methodologies. Again, I learnt lots about using engaging training methods and made even more European trade union contacts. 

I would encourage all trade union reps to find out more about the ETUI and its training courses - who knows where in Europe your learning journey may take you!

You can find out more about courses from the ETUI here:

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Helen Russell

Helen Russell is the Trade Union Training Officer at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

She previously worked for UNISON and the NASUWT before returning to learning with the Global Labour University where she studied a Masters in Labour Policies and Globalisation.