ULR Carol Wilkinson talks helping members overcome barriers to learning

How long have you been a member of UNISON?

I  became a UNISON member 14 years ago when I started working in my daughters’ school as both teaching assistant and midday supervisor, when I moved to EDF Energy I transferred my membership and I was able to be more involved with helping our members within our company.

I’m branch Welfare Officer, and recently became the branch deputy chair along with being a steward, I love getting involved and helping people.

How long have you been a ULR

I have only just taken up this role this year and am eager to learn. I attended UNISON’s ULR training in Brighton in April.  I love meeting new people and learning from them as well as finding out the best way to support others.

 What made you take this step?

Since working within the school for all those years I became more interested in learning and would like to carry this forward in helping our members to grow their learning skills.

Also the thought of being able to help people in anyway interests me as I’m very much a people’s person to which seeing somebody thrive gives me a great satisfaction, and hopefully in turn this will help me with my own learning and overcome my own barriers.

Becoming a ULR is out of my comfort zone but the people within UNISON are very welcoming and I hope with great guidance I will thrive in the role.

How much of your time do you spend on UNISON activities? Specifically member learning (if activist are also a steward or H&S rep)

Like I said previously I’m the Branch Welfare Officer and I help people within our branch by sign posting to various different activities also I’m a steward and this can be challenging in itself to help the member to get the correct representation.

What’s the best thing about being involved in member learning? Any success stories you can tell us about?

The best thing for me is to support others who experience barriers to learning. I was diagnosed a couple of years ago as being dyslexic, this has provided me with a lot of understanding and now I can see things in a different light with regards to learning. To be able to learn or try new ways may take me a bit longer than other people but my key is never give up, just keep trying and one day I’ll get there, and who knows what else I’ll learn on the way. I have supported the branch in organising a menopause workshop, a learning stall, and we have also organised a stall and raffle for Women’s History Month. We organised a mental health awareness stall, which was attended by MIND who delivered a talk for branch stewards and then a Q&A session for staff.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a ULR?

If you have a love for learning and a willingness to help others than why not give it a go as you can only do better for others.

I would say the most important part would be to be willing to help and encourage members into learning – you don’t have to be a maths or English genius as your willingness and friendly face will be enough.

I don’t have anybody in the branch that I can learn from with regards to being a ULR but I’ve met some great people on the UNISON ULR training that I can lean on with regards to how I can continue supporting learners.

What plans do you have for member learning in your branch right now?

The training was really useful for ideas on how to get started, so I am going to survey my workplace and find out people’s interests and what they want to learn. I’ll then work on how to support them, whether their desired subject is work related or common interest. To help with this process I will research learning and education resources available in Hove and Worthing areas.

Thinking outside the box I will probably be holding a working lunch of some sort for my first ULR training and hopefully moving on from this time will tell.