It’s the season of branch AGMs – an opportunity to look back at the last year and reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. Equally importantly, of course, it’s a time to look forward to the coming year and consider what might help the branch to overcome challenges and build on successes.
Does your branch have an education co-ordinator? If not, here are ten good reasons to consider electing one in 2018.
1. they get new reps trained
The sooner a newly elected steward – or health and safety rep, equality rep, or ULR – gets their induction training, the sooner they’ll be confident, informed and active in their workplace. The branch education co-ordinator plays a vital role in making that happen, by meeting with new reps as soon as possible and getting them signed up for their first course.
2. they support existing reps
UNISON learning isn’t just for that first induction course. Throughout their careers with the union, activists learn, grow and develop. That happens both through experience ‘on the job’ and through formal training.
And it’s the branch education co-ordinator who supports them through that, talking to activists about their training needs, keeping them informed of training opportunities that are open to them and encouraging them to take them up.
3. they co-ordinate mentoring for reps
One of the most effective ways of supporting new reps is by providing them with a named contact who will have a chat with them regularly to find out what support they need and how they are progressing in their role.
This can range from an informal ‘buddy’ scheme to formal mentoring. Either way, the branch education co-ordinator makes sure that this happens.
4. they promote member learning
Member learning can be a powerful organising tool. The branch education co-ordinator can work with the branch lifelong learning co-ordinator and union learning reps to publicise the range of member learning opportunities available.
5. they liaise with organisers on education matters
Each UNISON region has a member of staff who has a lead on education and training, and a committee which oversees training and development in the region. The branch education co-ordinator maintains contact with the regional education organiser to keep up to date and also to arrange branch-based courses where appropriate.
6. they keep records of training
It’s important for branch training records to be kept up to date. This allows the branch to plan future training, to identify gaps, and to ensure that activists have received the training appropriate to their role.
Keeping training records up to date is the role of the branch education co-ordinator.
7. they address local learning needs
All workplaces are different: the issues that members have to deal with will be different, and the learning needs that arise from that will be different too.
If, for example, there’s a reorganisation or outsourcing on the cards, activists might be interested in courses to help them understand and campaign around that. And members might want training to improve their confidence or to polish their CV or interview skills.
Or it might be that members have other learning needs such as numeracy or ESOL.
A branch education co-ordinator can work with the branch lifelong learning co-ordinator and union learning reps to identify and address those needs.
8. they look after the learning budget
A branch education co-ordinator should review branch training needs every autumn and liaise with the branch treasurer in line with regional processes to agree a branch education budget for the year ahead. They will authorise course applications and provide reports to the branch committee about how education funding has been spent. They also play an important part in ensuring that training is accessible to all branch members, for example, by covering the costs of dependant care.
9. they provide a strategic lead on branch learning
Learning comes into UNISON’s Objective One: ‘building capability to meet the current recruiting, organisational and representational challenges’.
An effective, organising branch will be able to identify gaps – the places where there isn’t a rep, or there isn’t a trained rep, or where a trained rep needs further training – and respond by filling those gaps.
Education will form part of that response. And a branch education co-ordinator will use their knowledge of what the needs are, what learning is on offer, and what the branch’s education budget is, to make the best possible use of resources.
10. they keep the branch informed on UNISON learning
From national courses run by UNISON Learning and Organising Services, through comprehensive regional education programmes, to learning events run in and by the branch, there is a huge amount on offer from UNISON learning. It really helps to have someone in the branch who has a responsbility to keep an eye out for what’s available.
Is there someone in your branch who would make a great education co-ordinator? Why not ask them to consider standing for the role?
Photo © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk