Supporting vulnerable learners

While I was running my Check Out Learning campaign in the Tesco Lurgan store, one of our members, Mark McInteggart, came to ask me what I was doing.

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I told him that I was the store’s Usdaw Union Learning Rep and thus I helped to organise courses such as maths, English and ICT and also sought information about any other courses that colleagues would be interested in attending.

I had a chat with Mark to find out a little more about him as this is an important part of my ULR role i.e. listening to what he wanted to do and to give the right information and advice. He told me about his education firstly. He attended Tandragee Junior High School where he was in the Special Needs class until June 1997.

He said:

I was in this class because I was deemed to be a slow learner and I found it difficult to read and to do maths. When I left High School the only qualifications I had were junior certificates City & Guilds. I then decided to attend Portadown college to do joinery which I enjoyed because of the support I got from the teacher.

We talked about how he came to be employed at Tesco and he told me that he had interview support from the Voluntary Opportunities Training Employment (VOTE). This was his first interview and he was successful! He collects the trolleys and works in the Warehouse at the store.

Our conversation turned back to education and courses that I could help support with.

I have a laptop at home and would like to know more about computers.

I talked him through what he would learn on a Level 1 ICT course and he decided that he would enrol in it at the SRC Lurgan with the support he needed as he still found it difficult to read with his slow learning disability.

Mark completed his Level 1 and passed and went on to enrol through Usdaw again for his Level 2 in February 2018. he told me:

I decided I did not need support this time as my tutor Jim Cunningham was a great teacher and took the time to help and support me through the course.

Each month I checked with Mark how he was getting on but a chance conversation with his tutor at a meeting threw up a problem. He had told me that Mark had not been at class for a few weeks and asked could I speak to him and encourage him to come back as he had been doing so well.

I talked to Mark to find out what was going wrong and mentioned what his tutor had said. It turned out that his old fear of maths had come back to haunt him because the course was covering Excel software and spreadsheets. After a bit of a chat he decided to return to the class. It was just the support he needed.

He added:

I overcame my fears of the dreaded maths and spreadsheets and now I have completed my Level 2 ICT. If it wasn’t for your encouragement, I don’t think I would have gone back to the course. But I volunteer for the YMCA in Lurgan on the YES program for children and young adults and needed the skills to be able to design posters for the YMCA and wanted to encourage other young people to learn computers.

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Jennifer Gracey

Jennifer Gracey is an Usdaw Union Learning Rep at the Tesco store in Lurgan.

Jennifer has been supporting vulnerable learners in her workplace build confidence and skills.