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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.


MAHLE Kilmarnock Learning Agreement

24 May

Pat Rafferty Scottish Regional Secretary for Unite signed a learning agreement between Unite the Union & MAHLE Engine Systems on the 23rd May 2011 at the MAHLE Kilmarnock plant.

Regional Secretary Pat Rafferty & Jim English Site Manager Sign Learning Agreement

Unite the Union -Scotland’s largest trade union – is delighted to work with MAHLE a leading global development partner for the automotive and engine industry and one of the biggest employers in Kilmarnock.

The learning agreement will facilitate a joint learning programme between Unite & MAHLE. The learning program will be run by Unite’s Union Learning Representatives (ULR).  The ULRs at the Kilmarnock MAHLE plant that employs’ five hundred and forty seven people will offer opportunities in learning that will enable workers in MAHLE to start a journey in Life Long Learning.

The range of accredited courses that members can undertake will range from all levels of ICT, Languages, Literacy/Numeracy Brush up Your Skills, Pensions, Home Budgeting, British Sign Language, Open University courses, City & Guilds courses etc.

The learning will be delivered within the MAHLE factory; at shift friendly times in an environment the workers are both comfortable and familiar with. This is part of an innovative project by Unite and MAHLE to bring new learning opportunities to the workplace.

Pat Rafferty Unite Regional Secretary said: “I am delighted that our members at MAHLE will now get the opportunity to take part in Unite’s Life Long Learning program thanks to the work of our Union Learning Reps and the agreement negotiated by them and MAHLE management. Hopefully now our members can race forward with their learning”

John Hawkshaw Unite Convenor & Union Learning Rep for the MAHLE Kilmarnock site said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the workforce at MAHLE Kilmarnock to learn new skills or develop the skills they already have through the wide range of education courses and training activities that the Life Long Learning programme provides.”

Alison Bryson MAHLE Human Resource Manager said: “I am very pleased to be involved in introducing Lifelong Learning on the site. I’m a firm believer in a partnership approach with Unions and this joint initiative will result in us offering shift friendly learning delivered on site and will increase both our employees’ skills and their confidence”

Jim English MAHLE Site Manager said: “A key milestone has been jointly agreed through our Lifelong learning program within Mahle Kilmarnock. It is now within the reach of our employees to realise their full potential through embracing this fantastic opportunity”

The ULR’s at MAHLE have within 3 months of their ULR training have had major success in a short period of time. The ULR’s lead by Site Convenor Johnny Hawkshaw have successfully negotiated the setting up of a Lifelong Learning Steering Group that meets fortnightly.The Steering Group oversees the Learning Strategy on site and is made up of Site Convenor, Lead ULR,  Unite Regional Learning Organiser, ULR on rotating basis, Site HR Manager, Site Manager & 2 Production Managers.

The ULR’s have negotiated a Learning Agreement that facilitates an office for Lead ULR Robin Brodie, an on site learning facility for course delivery. The ULR have developed a workplace survey which they have distributed and collected, a result of this was the first ICT course commenced on site at the start of May.

Well done to our 5 ULR’s from Mahle; Johnny Hawshaw Convenor; Robin Brodie Lead ULR, Clare McAvoy, Derek Barcaly & John Kay.

3 of the Best: MAHLE ULR Derek Barclay, Clare McAvoy & Lead ULR Robin Brodie


Unite to a Better Way through Skills Utilisation

14 Apr

Scottish Union Learn will showcase one example of the work Unite has done in Skills Utilisation within the workplace at the STUC Congress. A fringe meeting/reception will be held on Monday, 18th April 2011 at 5.30pm in the Roman Warrior Suite of the Ayr Racecourse.

Ian Gray Adult Apprentice

The meeting will feature a short video demonstrating the contribution that Unite the Union can make to improved skills utilisation in workplaces. Working with ASLEF and ScotRail, Unite has developed, facilitated and supported an Adult Apprenticeship programme for Semi-Skilled workers within ScotRail’s Shields and Corkerhill Depots in Glasgow.

The Adult Apprenticeship programme gives opportunities to members who have worked in the railways for years and have hit a glass ceiling in progressing to A Grade Fitter from B Grade Fitter due to not having completed an apprenticeship. Prior to commencing on the Adult Apprenticeship programme, members undertook a 20 hour Brush Up Your Skills course  delivered by Stow College’s trade union education department on site at the depot. This Brush Up Your Skills course refreshed members skills, enabling them to take on the task of producing a portfolio that is required to evidence their knowledge for their Scottish Vocational Qualification Level 3 (SVQ 3).

Benny McGinlay Adult Apprentice

The programme brings members up to SVQ Level 3 and gives them a National Certificate in Engineering. The programme has been developed in conjunction with SEMTA, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. SEMTA supports UK businesses in achieving global competitiveness through investment in skills. The programme that Unite members are undertaking at ScotRail, is a bespoke development to meet the needs of ScotRail and the daily tasks that A Grade Fitters within the railway are required to perform.

This is another good example of where Unite has identified a learning need of our membership within an employer and developed a programme to meet the needs of both our members and the employer that they work for.

Download flyer for event here.

Negotiating a Learning Agreement

13 Apr

The key to a successful lifelong learning programme is to negotiate a good learning agreement with your employer. A learning agreement commits the union and the employer to work together to improve access to learning and skills for staff. It establishes collective bargaining structures that allow us to negotiate around skills and give our members the best possible opportunities to develop.

A useful principle of collective bargaining is that it should always happen at the highest level possible, so that the maximum amount of people can benefit, and so that good practice becomes standard. Therefore, if you work for a large company with branches across the country, getting a national agreement is a good idea. However, this is not always possible, and sometimes it is necessary to negotiate local agreements at site level. These can be used as pilot schemes before rolling out the agreement to the rest of the organisation.

You can download a copy of a Unite model learning agreement here. It is a simple agreement that calls for the establishment of a Learning Partnership Committee, consisting of union and company representatives.

Typically, this Committee will meet regularly to discuss learning and skills issues, including developing learning surveys, delivering courses and funding learning. Ideally, the Committee should link into other negotiating structures, so that learning and skills becomes a key bargaining issue, and the right to access learning is incorporated in terms and conditions.

A good learning agreement creates a healthy industrial relations environment, and is good for employers too. By working with the union, employers can access training opportunities for staff, and draw on the union’s lifelong learning expertise.

Once you have agreed to a learning agreement, it is often useful to hold a public signing to celebrate the event. You can consider inviting your MP or MSP, or another speaker. The signing of a learning agreement is a good news story, because it is about cooperation between the employer and the union to bring opportunities to members. It is worth getting some publicity for it.

If you would like to negotiate a learning agreement in your workplace, and set up a Learning Partnership Committee, please get in touch. Our negotiators will help you to build a case for a learning agreement.

John Malone: Learning Journey to a Degree

8 Apr

– by Pat McIlvogue

Profile of a Unite union learner: John Malone

John Malone is an ordinary working class family man with all the usual stresses and strains that modern life brings to a family. Having been away from learning for over two decades there was a real apprehension and fear for John to return to learning: Am I too old to learn? Can I spare the time? Can I afford the cost of learning? Can I face returning to an educational institution?

These barriers to learning that existed for John were removed by that fact that all of John’s learning was done within his workplace of Rolls-Royce Inchinnan through a workplace learning programme that is provided by Unite the Union, the Open University and Rolls-Royce.

The Unite the Union lifelong learning programme in Scotland gave the opportunity to return to learning to members in John’s workplace who have been away from learning for many years. The learners like John who attended courses provided by Unite would not have returned to learning due to previous bad experiences at school or college or had been away from learning for so long that they would not have had the confidence to return to a learning environment. The learning that John undertook was brought into his workplace at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan by Unite arranged around their rotating shift patterns, delivered in their workplace in a familiar environment alongside people that they are comfortable with.

John has been part of Unite’s learning programme at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan since early 2007. In that time he has taken part in the following courses: Introduction to Conversational Spanish in 2007 provided by Stow College’s TUC department. This course gave John the confidence to return to the learning environment and gave John the learning bug. John continued learning this time with an ICT course PC Passport. PC Passport was an 18 month course due to John’s shift patterns. PC Passport incorporated Using Computers Stages 1, 2, & 3.  John started PC Passport in August 2007 and completed it in 2009, all the ICT courses that John undertook were delivered in his workplace around his shift pattern by Stow College’s TUC department.

John then undertook European Computer Driving Licence modules from October 2009. Having built up reasonable ICT skills John felt confident enough to embark on a degree in Engineering  with the Open University (BEng) in February 2010. To date John has passed all of his tutor marked assignments- John’s average scoring for the tutor marked assignments was 84%. John also passed his end of year exam with flying colours. These achievements now supplement John’s qualification from his apprenticeship and youth which include City & Guilds in Mechanical Engineering, City & Guilds CNC Basic Programming & City & Guilds Quality Assurance Part 1.

The Open University course that John is undertaking is made up of the usual distance learning with the addition of on site tutorials and support at John’s workplace of Rolls-Royce. This Pathway to a Degree programme is part of Unite, Rolls-Royce and the Open University’s learning programme at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan that facilitates opportunities in learning within the workplace for learners who would not have had them otherwise.

The learning programmes that John has undertaken in the last 3 years have made John a more confident person. They have also facilitated a development in his work role as well as his personal life. John has been empowered through learning to take on additional roles within his workplace team at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan.

John Malone is a living, breathing role model to all that you are never to old to return to learning. John has been an inspiration to others in his workplace to follow his road back into learning. John is now looking to put something back into learning by taking on some part time tutoring. The enthusiasm that John has shown for learning demonstrates that ordinary working people who work unsocial hours can get back into learning despite having been decades away from learning.

John Malone is a role model in learning for Unite the Union and John’s story is being cascaded out to other trade union members not only in Unite but across all trade unions in Scotland to encourage others to get back into learning.

If you to would like to embark on a Learning Journey please contact your local Union Learning Rep or Regional Learning Organiser.