Unite Adult Apprentices in ScotRail

28 Nov

Adult Apprenticeship to SVQ Level 3 and a National Certificate in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering. 

– by Pat McIlvogue

Unite negotiated and organised with ScotRail an apprenticeship programme to facilitate progression paths through the skills grades for our members. This group of members had hit a “glass ceiling” within the employer as they were not accredited as being skilled despite having a huge amount of skills, knowledge & experience. The group were all semi-skilled “B” grade fitters with ScotRail. This apprenticeship will allow them to have the opportunity to move to the skilled “A” grade position within ScotRail or will give them the opportunity to gain skilled employment elsewhere. This progression would not be possible without this qualification.

The Adult Apprenticeship programme was negotiated and arranged by Unite, train drivers’ union Aslef, ScotRail & SEMTA. Prior to the commencement of the apprenticeship, the members undertook an Open College Network accredited “Brush Up Your Skills Course” arranged and delivered by Unite & Aslef through Stow College’s trade union education department. This course gave our members the confidence and skills to undertake the National Certificate studies & the skills to compile the portfolio for the SVQ Level 2 & SVQ Level 3. This everyday skills support was beneficial as a lot of our members had been away from learning for over 20 years prior to commencing the apprenticeship.

All 9 members who under took the apprenticeship programme have completed their studies to SVQ Level 3 and have completed a National Certificate in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering within the last 2 years. They have combined practical knowledge with vocational learning and are now accredited as being skilled. They now have national industry recognized qualifications that will allow them to progress to skilled positions within ScotRail or if they wish gain skilled employment with another employer.

The next step for our group of learners is have their skills utilized within the workplace & to achieve “A” grade status within ScotRail. Having completed the training our members are undertaking CV & interview training provided by Unite, Aslef and Stow College.

In undertaking this apprenticeship programme our members overcame many barriers. Some of these were being away from learning for over 20 to 30 years in some instances, doubt that the employer was committed to the scheme, doubt that the skilled workforce within ScotRail would recognize their apprenticeship as being “pucker”, learning in their own time, attending night school, incorporating learning into their rotating shift patterns and still managing to for fill their substantive role as a “B” Grade Fitter within ScotRail. It is testimony to the groups determination that they have overcame all of the above and completed their Apprenticeship & their National Certificate in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering.

The entire group’s lives have been changed by undertaking union lead learning as they are now more confident & importantly accredited skilled workers. This progression path in learning that Unite & Aslef has created & negotiated has facilitated the opportunity for our members to break that glass ceiling on progression with ScotRail & indeed within all employers within this sector.

This group of adult union learners is particularly exemplary as they were a pilot group around skills utilization within the workplace, that looks to take the skills, knowledge & experience that workers have in a workplace and put them to use. This is matches with the Scottish Government policy of Skills Utilization. It is now hoped that this model can be rolled out across employers and sectors. Our members at ScotRail have now set the paradigm for others to follow.


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