Emma helps colleagues take the Reading Ahead Challenge in Southampton

After encouraging colleagues to successfully complete the Reading Ahead challenge last year, Southampton Union Learning Rep (ULR) Emma Nand is planning to roll out the initiative across more housing offices at the council in 2019.

Reading Ahead in Southampton
Emma (centre) has been promoting the Reading Ahead Challenge to colleagues

UNISON ULR Emma had successfully applied for a Kickstart grant from Learning and Organising Services to cover the cost of buying more Quick Reads and other novels, official Reading Ahead merchandise and refreshments for lunch and learn sessions.

Kickstart is an initiative from UNISON which gives their Learning Reps the opportunity to apply for small funding pots to help run events like learning lunches. The funding can cover room hire and provide food to encourage people along.

Emma is a Housing Management Assistant at the local housing office in Shirley and ran the Reading Ahead challenge in her workplace. After completing her ULR training a year ago, Emma became one of four learning reps in the branch, promoting learning activities, finding out what courses colleagues are interested in and encouraging people to join UNISON.

Emma took time to promote the challenge by designing a poster to put up on union noticeboards in workplaces. She also sent the poster to fellow ULRs and colleagues who work in the other housing offices as well.

The promotion paid off and Emma had eight colleagues sign up initially, in the New Year Emma will be rolling this out to the other housing offices across Southampton and has offered to help the ULRs to roll this out across their workplaces. There was an added bonus as Emma recruited a new member.

While Reading Ahead has proved particularly popular, it’s just one strand of the learning work underway in the branch.

In the past year, Emma has helped organise a lunch and learn course on stress in the workplace and a Healthy Eating Midweek Meals for Less all-day event with Solent University.

Martin Merritt is Lifelong Learning Coordinator/ Education Officer with UNISON’s Southampton District Branch and is really pleased with the way that Emma has been working to promote skills at her workplace, and in particular engage with Reading Ahead.

Martin said:

I would defiantly encourage other branches to so sign up to the Reading Ahead Challenge and other lunch and learn activities. This is a good way to encourage those who may find reading a bit daunting. This is a good way to help with your self-confidence when applying for jobs, promotion, or helping you fill out forms at home.

Emma’s lunch and learn sessions are a great way to encourage all workplace colleagues’ whether already a Unison member or non-member back into learning in one way or another. They also show to people who have thought about returning to learning what is available. From the learning sessions hopefully our branch and other branches can recruit new activists.”