Learning Case Studies

Lynda Carter; Working with Hope37.
Lynda Carter is an Usdaw Union Learning Rep who works with Hope37, a social enterprise for young people in Holywell, North Wales. She talked about the impact the Challenge has had on the volunteers at the project.

How did you work out there was an issue with numeracy at the project?
“I work with Hope37 as part of Usdaw’s community outreach. Many of the young people they come into contact with left education with no formal qualifications. They work as volunteers, helping in the café and with their community projects, including the local food bank. When I first visited the café, I realised quickly that many people there needed to improve their maths skills.”

How did you go about introducing the Challenge?
“I know from my own work how important maths is so I told them about the National Numeracy Challenge. The organisation thought it was such a good idea that they have now incorporated into the training“.

How has using the Challenge made a difference?
“One young woman who volunteers at the café, a single parent with mental health issues, started and completed the National Numeracy Challenge. She now has the confidence to apply to College to do an advanced cake making course.”

“I am happy to say she has a new found confidence and now understands that she was actually good at maths. She has been offered a place to start in September at College. Because of caring for her son, who has learning difficulties, she needs extra support to help her start her course in September. However, her confidence has reached a point where she now understands her options for the future and recognises her own potential. Furthermore, by completing the challenge, this helped to remove barriers to her continuing to study in further education”.

Upskilling ULRs to promote Digital Skills.
With Usdaw’s Get Digital campaign gathering pace, the focus is now on giving our ULRs the skills and confidence to promote digital skills and support learners. The new “USE IT” contains assessment English, Maths, ICT and other subjects.

All these assessments can be carried out in the workplace by ULRs and other reps. Of course ULRs need to be trained on how to use the app. A pilot programme was organised and delivered in the North West for MULRs and ULR coordinators. 8 ULRs attended the session and took part in an interactive training session which aimed to cover the USE IT app, campaigning using social media and staying safe on-line. “The feedback was good for a pilot” says Julia Baldwin the Go Digital project co-coordinator, “and we have lots of information to improve it before we roll it out across the country.”

“I thought the training session overall was done well, and the materials provided were informative and covered all necessary areas. I feel everyone in the session will have come away with confidence going forward and the ability to pass on the knowledge they gained” said Tony Green a ULR at Argos. 

This view was backed up by the feedback from a less experienced colleague, Sue Sowe, a MULR in the North West. “I found it really interesting. I’m not very confident on it but the apps we looked at will be great. I am confident enough to know I will be able to use them; they will be very useful to some of our learners that feel they are too old to learn because they have a fun element whilst also increasing confidence and knowledge. The only thing I found I didn’t fully understand was Twitter but that’s only because I have had no contact with social media. However I think that is just a matter of practice to build my own confidence.” 

The one day course will now be added to the Digital Champion training. Additional units will be added so that the course can also be run over 3 days and be fully accredited.

Wayne Riley, Author.
Usdaw member Wayne Riley, from Asda Wincanton in Doncaster, is set to become a published author and it is his lifelong love of books, learning and writing that has enabled this to happen. Of course the only way to tell this story is in Wayne’s own words.
“Now, we come to a day when a most peculiar thing happened. Jack.C.Phillips was a childhood friend of mine, but despite this we managed to grow up, and, as so often is the case we lost touch. That is until the power of Facebook brought our worlds colliding back together again. Somehow or other we got around to the subject of writing. And, unbeknownst to me Jack was a published author. And not only that, he was involved in a writing group called Camelot. It was at that point, turning green with envy that I happened to mention that I myself dabbled in the art of scribbling. ‘Send us some ov ya stuff old lad an’ I’ll av a look at it for ya,’ was his reply. And, beaming like a smile on holiday I did.

What happened next changed my life forever. Jack actually liked the scribblings I had been secretly doing for the last ten years or so and invited me to join his writing group, Camelot. ‘Blimey!’ was my edited reply. ‘You like my work that much?’ ‘Oh yes,’ he replied, ‘I love it. And so does Mica.’

Mica Rossi was and is an angel from across the water. ‘Ever fancied being published Riley?’ came a message one day from across the pond. ‘It’s my ultimate dream,’ was my reply. ‘In that case my dear Riley I have some exciting news. How would you like to be published? By me.’ ‘You?’ came my edited reply once more.

‘I own Camelot Publishing Company over here in America and I’d like to publish your work. What do you say?’ For edits sake let’s just say I said yes and from that moment on it has been like a dream. My book, 'I Softly Went A Huntin’, came out on 26 November and I also have an exhibition at my local Library in my home town of Conisbrough showcasing some of my artwork and poems that appear in the book.”

Wayne is now helping and supporting his colleagues in the workplace by running creative writing workshops. Watch this space for the next blockbuster.

Betty Partridge, Tesco, Leicestershire (Network Sep/Oct 2015)
Mobile Union Learning Rep Betty Partridge has been promoting learning at her Tesco store in South Wigston, Leicestershire, and surrounding area for the last two years and has built up an excellent rapport with the workforce.

She has made a particular contribution to Usdaw’s equality and diversity work, promoting the agenda and supporting staff. She has just completed a further education qualification and has been recommending these courses to staff via the educational charity the NCFE.

Betty’s skills were used when her colleague Ramilla Mistry signed up to do the equality course, but found it very difficult.

It was an upsetting and frustrating time for Ramilla who struggled to get into the course. Betty realised something as not quite right and offered her help and support.

“She is very proud and at first didn’t want help and I understood that,” said Betty. “But I persevered as I knew when I did the course it gave me an insight into the difficulties some people faced, so I suspected that something was wrong. I eventually persuaded Ramilla to talk about her problems. After further investigation we found out she was dyslexic – a common problem but often an issue many people are unaware of.

“It’s not stopped Ramilla from doing the course but she has taken a break from it at present. Now she understands the condition it has helped her to start and move forward with what she wants to do.”

Mick Power, Sainsbury Rye Park Distributon, Hertfordshire (Network Sep/Oct 2015)
Mick Power is the Usdaw Learning Centre Co-ordinator at the Sainsbury Rye Park distribution site in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, and during the last eight years has helped more than 100 members improve their practical maths skills.

He has also made rapid progress and is now a tutor and teaches maths by making it relevant for members to help them with DIY at home, recipes, gardening, travel,and helping their kids with homework.

“It’s about making maths relevant to people,” said Mick. “It’s not about men in white coats writing complicated formulas on a blackboard. It’s about practical skills and using maths in a way that makes sense to our members.”

But despite his own enthusiasm for Maths, Mick always takes account of a member’s other learning needs. “Sometimes it’s best for people to concentrate on their reading and writing skills before tackling maths. In the early stages we had maths learners who couldn’t really understand the materials we were using. They thought it was a maths problem but I could see it was their English skills that needed improving first.”

There is still plenty of work to do on-site. “I have an agreement to make a presentation to the management team and show them what the learning centre has to offer and the potential benefits for the company. We’ll see where we go from there.”

Morrisons, Scotland (Network Sep/Oct 2015)
Lifelong Learning and Digital Skills training were just what members in Scotland needed when Morrisons embarked on a major restructuring in its stores.

New manager positions involved taking online numeracy and literacy tests and some staff where unsure of their ability to complete the tasks so Area Organiser John Tonner and Project Worker Jill Little-Woodhouse teamed up to support members.

Jill looked at both the Digital Skills required and the English and Maths content of the tests and helped to put together a number of short one-to-one training sessions.

“We offered these to all staff and delivered 31 support sessions for those who asked for it,” said Jill. “The majority, around 70 per cent of these staff were looking to practice all three aspects of the tests – verbal, numerical and online skills. We even put on night classes.”

It was a huge success with nearly 90 per cent of those taking a session saying they really enjoyed it; 85 per cent learned new information with around half learning new skills. Overall 97 per cent said they felt confident about taking the tests.

“As we near the end of the current re-structuring programme, members who attended these sessions have reported to me how invaluable they found them in preparing for the tests,” said John. “This brings to the fore what the union’s learning agenda can do for our members.”

Pam Stanton, Wales (Network Sep/Oct 2015)
Experienced rep Pam Stanton, and now Usdaw’s Project Worker in Wales, is an ideal example of how getting involved in the Union and its learning agenda can turn your life around.

The former Tesco activist started her Union journey in the late ’90s at her Bridgend store, went through all the training courses and ended up on the Union’s Academy Programme – a more confident, knowledgeable and determined rep.

“My first experience of Lifelong Learning was through the Checkout Learning campaign which went down a storm at my store,” said Pam. “The sign language course was very popular and it was then I caught the ‘learning bug’.

“Not long after I went on the Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector course which gave me the skills to deliver a mental health awareness workshop last year. I also signed up for the dementia friends training and can now deliver these sessions to our members in Wales.

“I was lucky enough to be appointed the Project Worker in Wales and I work closely with a great team of mobile and store-based Learning Reps to offer our members the benefit and opportunities Lifelong Learning can deliver.”

Michelle Whitley, Argos, Cheshire (Network Sep/Oct 2015)
Michelle Whitley and her team at the Argos site in Widnes, Cheshire, have worked hard to deliver a thriving learning culture at their site during the last ten years.

However, when she and some of the other advisors noticed they were getting headaches, migraines and eyestrain after lengthy use of the screens Michelle decided to investigate.

Her research uncovered the little known problem of a visual-perceptual disorder variously called Meares-Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity. It’s more simply known as Visual Stress.

“Once I found this out, I contacted The Dyslexia Shop and purchased a Visual Stress Test Kit,” said Michelle. “The test uses different coloured overlays that help to diffuse the whiteness from the page or screen and reduce distortion of words. It allows people to read more quickly without the ill health results. Its aim is to help users be more productive because they can read faster and without stress for longer.”

Helena Dougherty, one of the first people to take the test, suffered from chronic and progressive migraines. Michelle used various combinations of overlays until they found the right mix for Helena. “It really worked for me,” said Helena. “I was amazed by the difference made between using the various overlays and reading without one.”

The learning team and the company co-operated to purchase the equipment and further testing among staff is on-going.

“The cost to the company is minor but the benefit to both the advisor and the company is considerable,” added Michelle. “The Learning Centre is now improving people’s health as well as their skills and knowledge.”

Tesco Bank, Newcastle (Network Sep/Oct 2015)
A hard-working team of Learning Reps have delivered a state-of-the-art learning centre to improve the skills and lives of members at the Tesco Bank site in Newcastle.

Garry Evans, Sarah Woodhouse, Diane Mion and Becky Matues have worked in partnership with the company and site manager Stuart Overend to provide a fully-equipped centre providing courses in IT, Maths, English and other distance learning options.

“The centre called – The Learning Hub – provides a range of opportunities for members,” said Sarah. “It’s deally situated, has a bank of computers and is already providing training and development opportunities across the site.”

Stuart Overend added: “The Hub is a credit to the reps’ team, demonstrating what can be achieved by the Union and company working in partnership. It is a great place for colleagues to come along and gain additional skills.”

Learning Reps Rikki Allen and Kirsteen Cannon from the Glasgow site also came down to support their North Eastern colleagues as did North Eastern Deputy Divisional Officer Cathy Godfrey. “The Learning Hub looks fantastic and is a great way to broaden the offer to our members at Newcastle,” she said.

“It was also great to have the reps here from Scotland as it is important to establish the network so they can support one another, they can see what has been achieved and look to replicate that for our Scottish members. A great job by the reps on site.”

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