Unite ULRs from Grimbsy win award for supporting disadvantaged learners

Sue Kinnaird and Danuta Smoliniec are Union Learning Reps (ULRs) with Unite the Union at Seachill in Grimsby and have been presented the unionlearn ULR of the Year Award for Supporting Disadvantaged Learners at July’s unionlearn Annual Conference at TUC Congress House in London.

Sue wins award at unionlearn conf
Unite ULR Sue Kinnaird collects award from Frances O'Grady and Anne Milton MP @JessHurd

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady and Skills Minister Anne Milton MP presented Sue the award, who collected it on behalf of herself and Danuta, at the annual gathering of learning reps, union officers and education providers.

Sue said:

I’m so proud that I’ve won this award for supporting disadvantaged learners, and I know my work colleague Dana is really proud as well.”

Thirty percent of the workforce are Eastern European, and we’ve also got English speakers who need our help with dyslexia. So we’ve put together, with Unite the Union, an ESOL course that will get them through health and safety, first aid and the skills they need outside the factory.”

One of Sue and Danuta’s proudest achievement as ULRs was when a student who had previously failed her Food Hygiene Level 2, due to her lack of English skills, came back to thank them for their support. She had passed the qualification following the completion of the ESOL course, which enabled her to apply for a different position within the company.

That’s when they knew what they were doing was having a positive impact on their colleagues and making a real difference to the individuals they support and their day to day lives.

Sue and Danuta have worked closely together to overcome not only the barriers of their learners, but also their own barriers. Sue is a self-confessed technophobe, who has a genuine fear of computers and Danuta’s first language is Polish, but together they have been able to overcome these barriers, and support each other, to deliver an ESOL program to both the members and non-members within their workplace - making a real difference to their day to day lives.

Sue and Danuta, along with their Union Learning Organiser, have worked closely with Seachill to identify individuals that would benefit most from ESOL classes. They even managed to secure paid release for learners to attend outside of the individual’s core hours. This was done by the negotiating and signing of a learning agreement, as this was identified as a key barrier to learning.

Some of the individuals identified were unable to pass their basic food hygiene and health and safety training and were at risk of losing their jobs and were referred to Sue and Danuta to complete initial assessments.

Upon completion of initial assessments, some individuals were identified as pre-entry level. This meant Sue and Danuta had to develop their own materials that were relevant to the business and the needs of the individuals, as the materials they were originally using were aimed at a higher level. Working with the companies training department resources and materials were developed, to incorporate key words, instructions, signs and common place objects. These materials were used to complement the Learn with Unite ESOL program which is designed to start at Entry Level 1, working through to Entry Level 3 and then onto English Skills Level 1.

With a high level of underrepresented migrant, low paid workers within the factory, the main priority was to raise the basic level of training/skills within the workforce, but even though there was a lack of funding in the local area for ESOL, the company agreed to support and fund the courses for non-union members, as well as allowing paid release.

Gill Pearson, Regional Learning Manger with Unite NEYH said:

Sue and Danuta have worked tirelessly to put training plans into place and work with the company to ensure these are delivered, in line with other company training. Due to this commitment from the company and the ULRs, individuals have now progressed from pre-entry level and are working through the ESOL program, as well passing their Food Hygiene and Health and Safety training at Level 2”.

Moving forward there is a plan to engage with the local college to support and encourage the ESOL learners through English qualifications up to and including Level 2 as well as maths and ICT, as well as anyone else who wishes to access learning.

Chris Muscroft, NEYH Regional Learning Organiser with Unite, said:

Myself and Unite are really proud of Sue and Dana in winning the award. We have a positive relationship with Seachill that is based around the Learning Agreement which allows Sue and Dana to support workers.”

Katie George, HR Seachill said:

Sue and Dana are doing a great job in the training they are providing to all our employees, not just our Unite members, but it open to everybody who works here.”

Gill said:

Both Sue and Danuta became Union Learning Representatives to offer support and opportunities to their work colleagues, with a view to making a difference in their everyday lives, both in and out of work.

They have both worked tirelessly, in a proactive and constructive manner with their employer, to ensure that they can deliver what they set out to and offer the best opportunities possible to the workforce. Well done in winning this ULR of the Year award!”

Unionlearn Director, Kevin Rowan, said:

The unionlearn Annual Conference celebrates workplace learning and the role of unions in supporting members across the country. Union Learning Reps are vital in promoting learning and skills development, which not only helps workers, but also employers – and the award recognises all their hard work.”

Sue and Dana have done a fantastic job supporting disadvantaged learners at the Seachill factory in Grimsby, and organising ESOL classes for staff. Unionlearn is very pleased to present them with the 2018 ULR Award for Supporting Disadvantaged Learners.”