Usdaw ULRs have been using the skills and knowledge they have developed to support learners at work to help the local community in Beeston, Nottingham, and the Middle Street Learning Centre.
Middle Street is a charity community centre which offers support, informal learning and practical help to the local community. It supports people with learning disabilities, the unemployed, people on benefits – just about anyone who walks through the door.
The Centre offers a range of learning. There are courses around skills like woodwork, art and music and topics like yoga and informal sign language. There are practical skills such as helping people to write CVs, fill in official documents and prepare for interviews. The classes are run by volunteers - teachers/lecturers from local school and also people who have a particular skill that they can share.
The Centre helps people to develop in other ways too. There is a communal garden that is tended by volunteers teaching people about flowers, fruit and vegetables and how to look after gardens. Some of the produce is used in the café and surplus is sold to those working in the garden. The café offers hot and cold food and is staffed by volunteers who learn new skills and build their confidence. It helps people to live independent lives where they can cook for themselves or to seek employment within the hospitality sector.
The Centre has only three staff, one of whom is a lady called Linda. Linda is not a stranger to helping people or to learning; she was one of the Usdaw ULR team at the Tesco Extra store just down the road. A few months earlier, Linda had a chance meeting with her old ULR colleague Jeanette who is still a store ULR.
This sparked an idea as Jeanette explained:
I wondered if there was some way in which I could link the store to the centre, promoting courses and facilities to staff as well as supporting a local initiative.”
We got together and had a chat about how we could link into together and I suggested we ask one or two of the volunteers to attend a Check Out Learning day at the store and talk about the classes there.”
We can share resources and give each other a wider range of options for both vocational and functional learning. Maybe even encouraging Tesco employees to volunteer at the centre”.
We both had our own aims but could achieve them by working together”
For me it was linking Tesco in with the community and giving colleagues more options for learning. For Linda it was about raising the profile of the centre within the community and maybe attracting more volunteers.”
Usdaw Project Worker Neil Chapman said:
Union Learning Reps are not just employees and trade union members, they are also citizens and members of their local communities. So, it’s not surprising that many use their skills and knowledge in pursuit of issues and campaigns outside the workplace.”
This is an on-going project and has made a good start. Linda has created leaflets of the things that were on offer at the centre and a timetable of activities and Jeanette now talks to colleagues and can show them what is on offer. They are working together to promote the courses Usdaw are offering and I am very optimistic that the partnership will work for everyone.”