Stuart has helped university workers build their digital skills

Unite Union Learning Rep Stuart Kinvig is a cleaner and junior caretaker at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston and has been supporting workers at the site improve their digital skills following the signing of a Learning Agreement with the employer.

UNite and UCLan learning agreement
Stuart (holding agreement) at the signing of the Learning Agreement

Stuart recognised that union members on the campus could see learning taking place around them all the time, but often lacked the opportunity to build their own skills. With this in mind Stuart contacted the regional Unite Learning Organiser and agreed that that the best way forward was to ask staff about learning needs.

The feedback was very clear that there was a desire by staff to improve their skills, and Stuart arranged a meeting with the Universities HR Manager who shared his enthusiasm for workplace learning.

One area that was identified was digital skills and Stuart, with the support of management and sister unions on the site, set about organising some courses.

Stuart explained:

I set up a course, calling it “Computers for the Terrified”. This would be tutored by the University and was a real joint effort. I have continued to promote digital skills though a “Soup and Surf” digital awareness day which has led to progression courses so that learners do not feel excluded in today’s world – 90% of leaners are from ethnic minority communities.”

The work around digital skills has resulted in discussions with the university about other courses such as maths and English – which have been agreed to by the university.

As well as supporting campus staff Stuart has negotiated with UCLan HR department the opportunity to widen the offer. This is to allow members of the local Unite community branch to join in with the unions course program, meaning that members have access to their computer suite.

Stuart said:

This is a real step forward and is creating partnerships for learning. The community branch members are not in employment so are happy to be given this opportunity to add value to themselves and build up their skills.”

Stuart become a ULR in the first place as he wanted to support lower level workers who needed extra support – something that can often be forgotten in the academic environment of university.

Stuart said:

I want to create a learning environment where learners feel part of our University and can develop their skills and knowledge to join the learning path with everyone else.”

The fact that they are learning together as work colleagues has helped them. This has given me personal satisfaction when I witness learners enjoying the ICT courses and overcoming their initial fears.”

Becoming a ULR and setting up these courses has also built Stuarts own confidence and skills. In particular working with providers and building partnerships. Stuart explained:

I enjoy working with different providers, something which has given me confidence in my own ability when working with partners that support the project.”

In the future Stuart is keen to build on the success of the computer courses and hopes to “embed learning for all those who would like to develop themselves with the University and the community.”