Delegates at UNISON’s annual conference for union learning reps (ULRs) celebrated the union’s 25th anniversary year with a programme that explored the past, present and future of learning.
General Secretary Dave Prentis spoke about UNISON’s proud history of learning, inherited from the three founder unions and developed and strengthened over the last twenty-five years.
The group heard from Genevieve Clarke of the Reading Agency about how reading for pleasure can address the country’s poor literacy, with one in six adults struggling with reading and writing. Sally Hilton of National Numeracy explained how the organisation can work with UNISON branches to equip workers with the maths skills they need to succeed in their everyday lives at home and at work.
Apprentices from Poole and Exeter local government branches, together with their mentors, explained how they had joined UNISON and become active, speaking about the opportunities and the challenges that apprenticeships can present.
Assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie looked ahead to the challenges that the next twenty-five years will bring. After hearing from Tim Page from the TUC about how unions and learning reps can address the challenges that automation is bringing, and Liz Marr from the Open University about how the way we learn will change, attendees explored how union learning could respond to those challenges.
At the end of the day twenty-five ULRs were honoured for their contributions to workplace learning with certificates presented by UNISON president Margaret McKee.
And UNISON Learning and Organising Services launched a creative writing competition on the theme of Learning: past, present and future to mark the occasion. This is open to all UNISON members and the winning entries will be published in a celebratory pamphlet.
Clair Hawkins, UNISON lead on literacy and numeracy said:
I’m really excited about our new writing competition which we’re launching at UNISON’s ULR conference during TUC’s #literacyworks week. It’s a chance for all UNISON members to get creative and share their stories – the best entries will also get printed in a celebration booklet for all to read. UNISON learning reps do fantastic work to promote and support language and literacy in the workplace all year round and our writing competition is a great way to help them spread the word and get more members involved.
The idea was largely inspired by the work of longstanding UNISON learning rep Donald McCombie, who has organised many activities to encourage creativity and promote lifelong learning within Birmingham UNISON branch.
I have always believed that within the membership of UNISON there lies a vast wealth of creativity. Mostly people are just lacking the opportunity to use their inherent gifts in a written form, be it fact or fiction, storytelling, poem or song.”
The concept of lifelong learning meeting with UNISON learning activities can provide the opportunity to facilitate that creativity for many members.”