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Lifelong Learning

Why Learning

"Knowledge is power and knowledge in the minds of working men and women is power in the hands of those who will change the world"

Our heritage

Trade unions have always been vigorous in promoting learning. Take a look at some of the early trade union banners and badges such as "Educate Organise Control".

At a time when education was denied to "working men and women", trade unions recognised that this handicap well served the interests of the ruling class. Women such as Eleanor Marx and Sylvia Pankhurst devoted much time and effort to redress this blatant and accepted social engineering which kept workers firmly in their place.

Ruskin College, Oxford, The National Council Of Labour Colleges, the Workers Education Association and the Open University to name but a few were pioneered by and supported by our movement to give those who the education system and the class structure prevented from pursuing learning a second chance.

Our objectives

The Lifelong Learning Initiative being pursued by UNISON sits well in this story. It brings trade union education slap bang into the 21st century. UNISON's approach to promoting Learning is to make it

  • Accessible to all
  • Inclusive of all And
  • Supportive of all

UNISON's own Open College offers new life chances for people who have traditionally been excluded from learning. Courses are free. Where there is a charge it is to branches - not to you. You can learn about computing, women and work and many more subjects - particularly those relating to current changes in the fields of health and social work.

Visit the UNISON website www.unison.org.uk/active/laos for more information

So, UNISON's Lifelong Learning project offers members the chance of picking up new skills which can lead to better paid jobs and a more fulfilling life. However our commitment to Learning is not limited to work related topics. It can help you to help your children and grand children with their schoolwork and there are also many courses which can be pursued for pure pleasure. Even better there are funds in the form of Individual Learning Accounts Scotland which you can access.

These are all great building blocks for UNISON members but they need to be laid on firm foundations. The most significant people in the whole learning project are the people closest to the members, the people on the ground, the Lifelong Learning Representatives and their UNISON Branch. Being a Learning rep is a "feel good" job.

Learning can literally change lives! UNISON will give you training so that you can help colleagues identify their training needs/ wishes and then source the appropriate course. As a Lifelong Learning Representative you will also receive practical support and lots of encouragement from your colleagues in your UNISON branch and in the Scottish TUC.

Meanwhile UNISON is negotiating Learning Agreements with Employers to facilitate time for you to do the job of a Lifelong Learning Representative (which by law they must) and for members to undertake training.

Our future

The Lifelong Learning initiative offers us some important opportunities. It is one of the most important developments in the union since stewards and safety reps first took to the shop floor. It can

  • Strengthen the union by recruiting new members
  • Produce more activists to support individual members
  • Help us increase membership in sectors where organisation is relatively low

It can make sure that UNISON is seen as THE union for workers in the public sector but also and significantly in the community and voluntary sector And it can help to bring that vision of building a better world a little closer.


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