GMB helps IT students put their ideas into action

IT students in Keighley, West Yorkshire, have improved their chances of a successful transition into the world of work by taking part in an exercise to design and make marketing materials for the GMB.

GMB supports young workers gain IT skills

Through a unique partnership between the union and Keighley College, the students were able to create the merchandise by using the onsite Fab Lab –a cutting-edge facility at the college that is equipped with the latest in digital fabrication equipment that allows users to design, cut, build, code, solder and engineer almost anything they can think of.

The exercise was developed by Chris Stott, Head of Business Engagement at Keighley College, and GMB Project Worker Michelle Graham as part of the Improving Productivity Using ICT unit of the students’ IT qualification.

Michelle explains:

We developed this idea that we could use the facilities to give young people some real work experience by designing and making prototypes for GMB merchandise.”

The brief to the students was to produce a range of marketing materials to promote the GMB’s Learning Project, Working Towards Work – with the aim of producing items that would attract more attention than the usual giveaways.

The idea was that involving students in the design would enable them to experience the reality of making something to a design brief, a budget and a timeline – just as they would in a work environment.

The other advantage of the merchandising idea was the range of learning it would involve, including classroom discussions of employment rights and responsibilities and research into the full range of sectors organised by a general union like the GMB.

Michelle says:

I wanted them to learn about the union without me being stood in the front of the room boring them to tears by talking – because frankly, that’s likely what would have happened!”

It was more effective for them to go away and research and get a much better picture of what unions are all about by looking at all the different sectors in the GMB, not just the ones people usually think of, like the NHS.”

Forty students in total were taught how to use the Fab Lab facilities and design software and then worked in groups over a number of weeks to design their materials and make the prototypes.

In addition to improving their IT skills, the students raised their game in English and maths since they were also required to put together PowerPoint presentations that would explain their ideas and show their costings against budget.

Michelle recalls:

We would turn up every so often to check on their progress and you could see they were coming on in leaps and bounds.”

To complete the project, a group of 10 students representing all the different groups then pitched their ideas to a panel that convened at the Fab Lab itself – TUC Regional Secretary Bill Adams, former Selby MP John Grogan (now back in Parliament as MP for Keighley), GMB activist Andy Irvine and Michelle herself.

Michelle said:

All the presentations were really good: the students answered questions from the panel very well and their presentation skills were absolutely brilliant.”

From there we were supposed to pick some of the products but I picked them all: the key rings, trolley coins and pen-holders have been made and gone to various events we have run across the region – everybody knows about them!”

This case study is one of five published in Helping Young People into Work and Training