A bright future with the UNISON College

Christina McAnea addresses a group of people

The sun has been shining in Brighton, and this week saw the formal launch of UNISON College at UNISON’s National Delegate Conference. One of the key promises of general secretary Christina McAnea’s manifesto, the College brings together the union’s diverse range of member learning and activist training provision in one coherent brand and builds on that to introduce exciting new opportunities to help all our members and activists take the next step in their development. And the launch at Wednesday’s Fringe meeting demonstrated that there’s a real appetite for what UNISON College will bring.

Coming fresh from her barnstorming speech to Conference, Christina spoke of the power of union learning, citing Angela Rayner MP as an example of someone whose learning journey has taken them all the way to the top.

Christina is keen to ensure that every UNISON member has the chance to benefit from UNISON College. ‘This is a really important project for me,’ she said, ‘and it’s a really important project for the union.’

Jon Richards, assistant general secretary, set the scene and explained some of the practical aspects of the College. Mark Winterbotham, Director of IFF Research, shared the results of the survey undertaken earlier this spring. And Teresa Donegan, head of Learning and Organising Services, answered questions from the floor on a range of issues including apprenticeships, revalidation, funding, and functional skills.

The UNISON College aims to bring high quality learning and training opportunities to every UNISON member and activist. And work is already under way.

For example, over the last few months we’ve introduced new member learning courses, such as Excel Level 1 and 2, training for social care managers, Functional Skills English, as well as expanding our programme of advanced discrimination law training for activists, introducing accredited Mental Health First Aid courses for reps, and developing training on negotiating learning agreements.

And we’re piloting a new advice service for members, providing personalised support and guidance to help you find the right course for you to progress, whether that’s in your own development or in your career. Look out for more news on that soon.

UNISON College: what you need to know

UNISON College brings together the learning, education, and training that we provide for UNISON members and activists into one coherent offer.

Building on our long tradition of providing high quality training, it will equip our activists with the confidence, knowledge and expertise they need to advocate for our members, and empower our members to take control of their lives and shape their careers.

What it’s not

UNISON College is not a physical building. The last two years have shown us that we can do amazing things in the most unlikely of settings. You’ll find UNISON College in existing learning centres, regional offices, employers’ facilities, and online.

What’s happened so far?

  • Complete review of all learning and training across the union
  • A survey of 18,000 UNISON members to find out what you want and need from the College
  • New member learning opportunities, including Excel, Caring for Adults, and Attachment in the Early Years, as well as self-guided online training from the Skills Academy
  • … and new activist training courses, including Mental Health First Aid and an expanded programme of advanced discrimination law courses

What’s coming next?

We’ll be offering members a personalised advice and guidance service to help them choose the path that’s right for them. We’ll also be helping members get equal access to funded courses across local colleges.

We’ll continue to expand our programme, and members and activists will be offered new opportunities to undertake accredited training and gain qualifications.

We’ll launch a major campaign to recruit and train thousands more union learning reps. And we’ll be working with branches and regions to negotiate more learning agreements with employers across the union.

How can I help?

  • Support and encourage existing and new learning reps. Make sure there’s mentoring and buddying available and include them in branch committee etc
  • Find out if there’s a learning agreement with your employer (if there isn’t, consider joining us for our Negotiating A Learning Agreement in July!)
  • And, most importantly, spread the word! Many members don’t know about our existing learning programme. We want to make sure they know about the College.

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