‘I feel inspired by it’ – how we’ve taken activist education online

To mark Adult Learners Week, we speak to James Young about training to be a rep during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having joined UNISON nearly three decades ago, James decided to take the plunge a few months ago and become a rep.

“I’ve always believed UNISON was a good organisation to be part of, one with shared goals and really representing those that need it most,” he tells us.

“As a young employee, the stewards I had around me were of great assistance and advice. As my career has progressed I have always maintained the links with union officials and the organisation.”

He decided that he’d combine his interest in representing members, employment law and employees’ rights with management knowledge and experience and “give something back.”

But his planned reps course quickly fell casualty to the global coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures. UNISON Eastern’s learning department flew into action, securing access to TUC Education classes for would-be reps to access online.

“I will always believe in face to face rather than on line. However, the situation and timing has been good for me.

“The course very much follows modules and forums. Questions are set, research is required and opinions along with knowledge tested. You can speak with your tutor and other candidates, share information, progress or difficulties.”

James has managed to avoid any problems with the technology and the distance learning means he’s been able to fit in the course around his work.

“The layout of the course can be a little random but once you get used to navigating the system, it works well.

“I get up early, spend first thing in the morning on the course on a daily basis or as required. I organise my diary around work pressures to ensure I can prioritise union time.”

And there’s support on hand when he needs it.

“I have a great mentor called Emma from the Eastern region. We have weekly conversations. In terms of experience, I have 30 years in local authority and arm’s length companies so understand the processes.”

Of course the big question is, would he recommend the course?

“Yes, I feel inspired by it. I want to be selfless in my assistance and objectives. I have been motivated to such an extent that if job opportunities for full time members of staff within UNISON come up, I would be interested in applying.”

The next online new stewards course starts on 6 July.

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