This document is also available in Welsh: Cronfa Ddysgu Undebau Cymru (WULF) yn hyrwyddo dysgu yn y gweithle
We have a saying in Welsh- “Gorau arf, arf dysg”. It means the best weapon is knowledge.
The Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) exists to support learning initiatives in unionised workplaces where employers recognise the benefits of working in partnership with unions to up-skill their workforce. It funds a range of projects which are led by different unions to promote workplace learning, reacting and planning for different learning needs within each sector or workplace. WULF is funded by Welsh Government, with 21 projects currently funded until March 2019 and a new 3 year round due to begin in April.
Since its inception in 1999, WULF has received over £13 million from the Welsh Government and this has seen 206 successful and innovative WULF projects to date. Each project is unique, reflecting the different types of workplaces where the union is active. Projects can include support for essential skills, including digital literacy, bespoke courses to meet specific vocational/professional learning needs, redundancy support, help during career or organisational changes and promoting equality, health and wellbeing at work through learning.
Designed to meet the changing demands of Wales at work, the new set of WULF projects will be focused toward career progression and employability, driving up skills in the workforce and supporting leaners to improve their qualifications.
Case Study: Career Development
One of the learners that has benefited from WULF funding is Francisco de Borja Trador Grasa. Francisco is a driver for Wincanton. Based in Magor, south Wales, he’d been a union member in Spain and when he moved to the UK he joined URTU, the truck driver’s union. By under taking several courses through URTU’s WULF project, Francisco is in line for promotion to Transport Manager.
“English is not my first language but, with support from the URTU Learning project, I have completed two distance learning courses. The first was in the Principals of Business Administration and the second in ITQ, both of these were at level two (GCSE A-C Grade equivalent). I am now undertaking a NEBOSH (National Examination Board of Safety and Health) National General Certificate. My employer has seen my willingness to learn and has also put me through training courses. With completion of this current course I am hoping to be promoted to Transport Manager.”
Case Study: Career and Organisational Change
With the assistance of Union Learning Reps WULF has supported thousands of people like Francisco to brush up on their skills and get a promotion, and has also helped support people through career and organisational change.
Laura Westwood worked at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Wrexham, north Wales and was the learning rep for PCS (Public and commercial services union). Laura explained,
“HMRC is moving to regional centres so our office in Wrexham will be closing in 2021. Our jobs will be moving to the nearest regional centre in Liverpool. Everyone has different personal circumstances and the move could mean a lot of extra travelling for some. This means it isn’t going to be a suitable option for everyone, so people are keen to explore other avenues. Many of the staff in Wrexham have been here more than twenty years, coming in straight from school or college. They’ve got a lot of work experience but haven’t always necessarily got any recent qualifications.
With the office closure planned in advance, people have got time to prepare and the union is here to support them and see what we can do for them. My role as union learning rep and branch learning coordinator involves helping colleagues to access courses and qualifications. Taking up learning opportunities and gaining new skills and qualifications to go on your CV gives people more options. It could help them find another job in the local area if they are not able to travel to Liverpool.”
Through WULF, Trade Unions are playing a pivotal role in strengthening relationships between employers and employees and raising motivation and skills levels within the workplace. WULF is ideally placed to support Wales’ Fair Work agenda aimed at developing secure and sustainable jobs with the opportunity for progression. More and better learning and development opportunities will support a more resilient workforce in a changing labour market and unions are ideally placed to help make this policy a reality.
The successful tutor won’t just show the individuals how to use a new piece of work software; they will find that hook that opens up a whole new world to the learner. We once had a learner who didn’t want to engage, but the tutor found out that the learner was interested in pigeon racing. The tutor showed the individual how to set up a spreadsheet to track his pigeons’ times and location and it was light a lightbulb going on for the learner. They could see the benefits in attending class and a wider application to their learning. They were the first in every day after that!
Finding that hook is a key to successful WULF digital learning. Learning should help you use that work software or intranet, but it should also help you engage with social media or do your shopping online, connect with family abroad or find cheaper car insurance or utility bills. It’s about progressing the individual as a whole, not just your usual staff training.
The Wales Trades Union Congress (Wales TUC) is the voice of Wales at work. With 49 member unions, the Wales TUC represents just over 400,000 workers. They campaign for a fair deal at work and for social justice at home and abroad. Trade unions have always led the way in ensuring equal and fair access to learning opportunities in the workplaces. Where this is organised there are clear benefits for the whole workforce.
Gareth Hathway is a Development Officer. His role is to support union lead learning in unionised workplaces across north Wales.
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