ULRs: Champions of Equality
The essence of the union learning rep (ULR) role is to:
- Listen to the learning and skills needs of colleagues in a supportive way.
- Enable all colleagues to get into learning by making arrangements with the employer for learning opportunities in the workplace or by signposting learners to outside provision.
- Break down those barriers that get in the way of equality of access to learning for all, including lack of confidence, time available, cost and the effect of previous experiences of learning.
- Promote learning to all sections of the workforce, including all groups of workers, so that their needs are taken into account when learning takes place, and ensuring that learning agreements with employers cover all workers.
- Make learning accessible, relevant and flexible for all learners.
- Create a supportive atmosphere in which all learners feel that they can take part.
The ULR role in promoting equality and diversity is very simple. It begins with:
- Not making assumptions or categorising people
- Not being afraid to talk to people, ask questions, find out what they need
- Getting to know the workplace, through mapping exercises, questionnaires and focus groups
There are a number of issues for learners that ULRs can help to address. In tackling and overcoming these issues for their colleagues at work, ULRs are championing equality:
- Someone with childcare or caring responsibilities may have difficulty staying after work for a class.
- Someone approaching retirement may think that they are too old to learn.
- Black workers generally get access to fewer training opportunities than white workers.
- A migrant worker may not speak enough English to understand Health and Safety instructions or be in a job that doesn’t match their level of qualifications but may not know where to turn for help. People may be unaware of their own learning issues such as dyslexia etc or, if aware of them, feel they would fail at learning as an adult.
- Disabled workers may need access to adapted equipment to fully access their learning.
- Part–time and temporary workers are often left out when training is on offer.
- Shift patterns can make access to training complicated.
- Discrimination and stereotyping may impact on access to training.