Claire wins ULR award for supporting digital skills

PCS Union Learning Rep (ULR) Claire Thorpe has been presented with the unionlearn ULR of the Year -  Winner at this year’s unionlearn Annual Conference at TUC Congress House in London.

Claire Thorpe
Claire Thorpe receiving her Award from Gordon Marsden MP and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady ©Jess Hurd

Claire works for HMRC and won the award for the work she has been doing to upskill staff in her office who were faced with an upgrade to new technology in their workplace.

Staff had been given new IT equipment in the shape of Surface Pros, but had been offered no training. Claire quickly sourced IT skills courses available to help staff but only had two weeks to pull it all together.

With many staff feeling as though technology was passing them by due to a lack of training support, Claire aimed to not only bridge a learning gap, but to foster a collaborative relationship with the employer that would help them see that working with PCS could help staff be more productive and agile in an ever-changing environment.

Claire said:

The role of a ULR is very important because it is there to bridge the gap between management and it also shows that unions are not there to be adversarial and can actually help people and improve people’s lives.

Claire swiftly got in touch with the provider and started to build rapport, finding out the finer detail of the course and what their requirements were. At the same time Claire was scoping interest in this opportunity with staff, and selling it to the business.

The employer was keen to support any learning that would upskill their staff, acutely aware that staff were feeling vulnerable, had low morale and little faith in their own capability, whilst also having to deal with a continuously changing environment.

Claire added:

I was able to find a provider that offered face to face learning – which is what our people wanted. They wanted to be able to ask real time questions, they wanted to be shown what to do.

Claire was soon swamped with requests, with over 100 members of staff showing interest at the initial stage. Not everyone was able to attend due to commitments and availability, but Claire set up a steady programme of events to maximise staff attendance, taking into account working patterns etc. and has been able to get 73 staff through the learning.

The feedback from staff has been very positive regarding the training.

Karen Nutting is a Civil Servant who took part in the training sessions. Karen said:

It’s quiet scary getting new technology. Claire told us about this new course that they were offering with actual classroom support rather than just online, and she set it all up and organised all the timetable and everything.

I couldn’t have done it without her, she’s been a lot of support going through the course. She’s been really good.

Janet Johnson, Regional Learning Co-ordinator with PCS said:

Claire really deserves this award. She has done a great job bridging that divide between, getting training and upskilling around digitalisation for her work colleagues – something the employer wasn’t able to provide.

We are really proud of her in PCS.

Unionlearn Director, Kevin Rowan, said:

Union Learning Reps are vital in promoting learning and skills development, which not only helps workers, but also employers – and the award recognise all their hard work.

Claire has done a fantastic job over the last year supporting digital skills and supporting her colleagues at HMRC. Unionlearn is very pleased to present her with the 2019 ULR Digital Award Winner.