No one left behind: my experience of trade union learning

Health and safety training is vital to the steel sector to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all employees. Across a workforce of 4000 strong, Tata in Port Talbot has seen the importance of upskilling their staff. Through a coordinated effort from Union Learn, Union Reps and management, a pilot scheme of 100 of Tata’s workforce in Port Talbot will not take the well regarded occupational health and safety course know as IOSH.

Adrian Morgan, committed Branch Safety Rep and Union Learning Rep tells us his views on the pilot and adult learning overall.

Today saw the final spaces for IOSH managing safely being filled from ironing and burdening in Port Talbot steelworks. Over the last few weeks, 38 people from the department have all signed up for either IOSH managing or working safely online courses, all fully funded through WULF (Welsh Union Learning Fund).

Steel and slab and other departments within the steelworks, have also signed up to do the same courses and are getting the same amount of interest.

That makes over 70 people so far who not only have a better knowledge and understanding of health and safety in the workplace but will also have gained a transferable skill. In the current climate, these kind of transferable skills will be invaluable to working people because a lot of employers look for them when employing new people or promoting within.

IOSH was the first course I ever took through the union and up until then I was a firm believer in ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Since then I have gained several qualifications, mainly through Lisa Francis (Community’s Learning Organiser for Wales) and I now proudly have a level 3 diploma in occupational health and safety.

However, if you’d seen me in my younger years trying to navigate the education system you would never have thought I would end up such a big advocate for learning and education. I was a nightmare to handle in school, low concentration levels added to high energy levels which didn’t make it easy to sit through lessons.

My prior bad experience of education would put me off at first from signing up to courses. But I’ve learnt that adult learning is nothing like that. It’s a totally different environment from school. I know colleagues who have successfully passed maths and English GCSE’s, all through Welsh Union Learning Funding who wouldn’t have even come close during their school years.

My favourite trade union teacher once said, the difference between learning with me and what you did in school is that we don’t leave anyone behind.

There are so many courses out there and just as important is all the support that’s also available to get you on these courses. But that’s not it, your union will continue that support throughout any course you sign up to right until the end if you need it.

Trade union learning can identify people’s individual needs and get the right help.

So today when I gave Lisa the final names for the IOSH courses I couldn’t help but wonder which one of these people would sign up to more learning opportunities, how many would to progress onto a NEBOSH or NEBOSH diploma course and then becoming a safety professional. Or perhaps they might just try something else and take a new direction in life, supported by their IOSH course and a new found faith in learning and education. Unless you try it one thing is for certain, you never will know.

To find out more about courses available through Community Learn, click here.

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