Driving development in public services

Unions, employers and third-sector organisations are working together in the East Midlands to expand and improve workplace learning across the public services.

Developing learning

Two public service compacts (PSCs) in the East Midlands are helping unions, employers and third-sector organisations work together to develop learning and skills in the region’s local authorities, NHS trusts and other public service organisations. Greater Lincolnshire PSC was originally set up 12 years ago when it was directly funded by the Learning and Skills Council, before the LSC was replaced by what is now the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in 2010.

D2N2 PSC is a more recent creation, established by the merger of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire PSCs three years ago. It took its name (a reference to its key components of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) from the area’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which had been set up shortly before (and is also a member of the compact).

Chris Donkin has facilitated both compacts in recent years, and explains:

At the time of the merger – and this is still very much the case – we were keen to align ourselves with their skills agenda, so we are the public sector compact that supports the skills agenda of D2N2,” explains Chris Donkin, who has facilitated both compacts in recent years.

Both PSCs allow organisations to work together on a range of workforce development issues, including apprenticeships, explains Chris, who is also a familiar figure to regional union learning reps and project workers from both the GMB and UNISON, having worked closely with both unions on the learning agenda in recent years.

Chris added:

They act as forums for public sector organisations, some voluntary organisations who provide some public services as well as trade unions, of course, and enable them to get together on a regular basis to address issues around workforce development that are of common concern and interest.”

The D2N2 PSC includes members from most of the major public service employers, with the exception of the universities and the police.

Chris said:

We have the big four local authorities (Derby City Council, Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council); all the big further education (FE) colleges; virtually every NHS Trust in both counties; a couple of schools; some of the smaller district and borough councils; and a handful of private sector organisations and voluntary organisations that provide some public services – and of course we have UNISON and the TUC as members as well.”

Both compacts are committed to promoting the apprenticeship agenda in their local areas as well as organising events where stakeholders can share information and best practice.

This September, Greater Lincolnshire PSC organised a successful event at Lincoln College, called Apprenticeships: Where Are We Now?

It featured a keynote address by Professor Sharon Green of the University of Lincoln; a presentation by Bev Moxon from the Department for Education (DfE) on industry placements; and a guide to transfer of Apprenticeship Levy funds to non-levy paying organisations by Mark Coulson from ESFA that was particularly well received by attendees.

It also included a presentation from two of the winners of the Lincolnshire Public Service Apprentice of the Year Awards 2018, which examined effective ways of attracting young people to apprenticeships in the public sector.

Lincoln MP Karen Lee, herself a former UNISON learning rep, had presented the winners with their apprenticeship awards at last year’s celebration event.

D2N2 PSC organised its own apprenticeships event last year that included a panel discussion by apprentices from Derby Homes, Rushcliffe Borough Council and Nottinghamshire County Council about how their apprenticeships had changed their lives, as well as the presentation of the D2N2 public service apprentice of the year awards.

The PSC followed that up with a good practice event on the theme of celebrating apprenticeships in public service in November 2019 that included this year’s apprentice of the year awards. The compacts benefit significantly from working closely with their trade union members, says Chris.

Chris explained:

We get professional input on how workplace issues look to the workers involved and because we’re in dialogue with UNISON, the GMB and the TUC, we usually know where member organisations can find the answers to questions about, for example, what rights young workers are entitled to.”

I also think it’s valuable for the member organisations to see the trade unions there because some of the more traditional professionals might only think of them as people they meet when they’re sitting over the other side of the table from them at a disciplinary meeting.”

But working with them on the compact, they get a very clear message that on this occasion we’re very much on the same side, we’re all supporting workforce development for people in the public sector.”

This story first appeared in the Winter 2019 Learning Rep