Tracy has the White stuff

After a decade of helping her colleagues improve their skills, Usdaw learning rep Tracy White has been named ULR of the year at the union’s organising awards.

Tracey White collects award

When Usdaw started promoting an IT with English course at Tracy White’s Tesco store in York 10 years ago, only one thing was stopping her from enrolling: she wasn’t yet ready to talk about her dyslexia.

So she came up with a creative solution: she volunteered to become a union learning rep (ULR) to make it look like she was attending the course to support the learners while she was in fact improving her English skills on the quiet.

That course turned out to be the beginning of a whole new life for Tracy. It whetted her appetite for more learning and it gave her the confidence to start talking about her dyslexia as she spread the lifelong learning message to colleagues.

While English, maths and IT were most popular when Tracy first became a ULR, these days courses like mental health awareness, autism awareness and Dementia Friends attract the most interest.

Tracey explained:

Mental health is a subject that touches most people: it was a taboo subject 10 years ago but now everybody wants to understand it – we’ve signed up everyone from store managers to people on the shop floor.”

Unions have made a real difference by promoting it as a subject.”

Store managers have completely supported Tracy’s drive to help her colleagues boost their skills. Tracey said:

The buy-in from management has increased year on year.”

Even after a decade of supporting her colleagues on their learning journeys, Tracy still feels the thrill of each learner’s first exam success. Tracy said:

When a learner comes back and says, I’ve passed, what can I learn now? – that really inspires me.”

When she was named Usdaw’s ULR of the Year at the union’s annual organising awards in January, Tracy couldn’t believe it on the night and is still struggling to get her head around that recognition weeks after the ceremony.

Tracey recalls:

When they said I’d won the national award, I was totally shocked – my friend had to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘You’ve just won it!’

I’m honoured to have won but I’m still shocked now: I don’t think it’s sunk in yet!”

Usdaw Project Worker Martyn Warwick says the award recognises a decade of outstanding work on Tracy’s part.

Martyn said:

Tracy has supported new ULRs to build the union team in the workplace and ensure members have access to training, development and support, while continually striving to develop herself as a learner so she can speak to her members from a place of empathy and understanding.”

Tracy is a shining example of what learning and development can do and she puts that into practice with her members – that’s what make Tracy a great ULR.”

This story first appeared in the Summer 2019 Learning Rep – click for more for the full e-magazine.