How long have you been a member of UNISON?
I joined as soon as I started work, aged 17, so about 15 years ago. I first started my working career in the NHS as a nursery nurse at the Southampton General Hospital, and then four years ago I transferred my membership over when I became a Housing Management Assistant for Southampton City Council.
How long have you been a ULR
It will be a year in November. I completed my stage one training in Guildford alongside other new but very keen and enthusiastic ULR’s. I wasn’t ‘active’ in the union before then but almost a year in I am growing in confidence daily and I enjoy the challenges of overcoming new obstacles, as I continue to achieve delivering courses and workshops for the benefit of staff members within my workplace.
What made you take this step?
I have managed to make positive changes for myself and my colleagues both within this role, and in my previous job in the NHS. I worked with HR and Unison stewards on both occasions, and after about six months’ worth of hard work together we conquered our goals. The sense of elation that I got from achieving something for the benefit of myself and others speared me onto finding out more information about how I could help people.
My colleague, Martin Merritt (Southampton District Branch’s Education Officer) who was based in my office before he was seconded full time to the Union Learning fund project, gave me some information about what the role of a ULR was. I wasn’t aware of the roles available in the union until Martin told me. He slowly supporting me with my journey to becoming a ULR. He has been the scaffold to my first year in the role, supporting and encouraging me.
How much of your time do you spend on UNISON activities? Specifically member learning
Honestly, not as much as I would like! It varies, but it is very much a case of making your ULR activities fit with your day to day job. I would say on average a couple of hours a week. It’s a case of making it work for you, organising your time accordingly and being flexible to work around the needs of your 9-5, and the service responsibilities of your employer.
What’s the best thing about being involved in member learning? Any success stories you can tell us about?
I recently supported 2 colleagues who were looking at returning to education. I went along with them to open evenings at a local FE college, to find out about courses in Maths and English. They wouldn’t have even contacted the college if I hadn’t supported them to do so. Furthermore it was unlikely that they would have taken the plunge and attended any interviews either informal or formal without my support. I attended the college with them for their skill tests and interviews, and I hope that they will be enrolling on courses soon. I shall keep working on them until they do!
What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a ULR?
Firstly, I would say, do it because you want to help people, and do it for the right reasons. Do not fill a void in the 9-5 of your current role. You have to actually want to actively source new training and learning experiences and want to learn to how to deliver information sessions for others.
I would say to others don’t worry about not being an expert in everything. You don’t have to have a degree in Maths or anything like that!, or be super intelligent. All you need is passion, a willingness to learn and a friendly face to deliver courses. There is support available in each region, and if you end up running any in depth courses the union has education providers that can advise and support. You don’t necessarily have to come from an educational background because being a ULR is more about helping people to fulfil their potential.
I would suggest to anyone who is interested that they see if there are any ULRs within their branch that they could shadow. After working with a ULR for a few hours you will have a snapshot of the role and will be better informed as to making a decision on if this role is right for you. If its not, there are lots of other ways you can get involved with the union.
What plans do you have for member learning in your branch right now?
In October I am delivering my first block of the Reading Ahead Challenge lunch and learn workshop. The group will be using the Quick reads series of books, and we will all read the same book each week, and get together to talk about them on a Wednesday lunchtime. There will be a few quick fire quizzes and games with a light lunch included. I’m really looking forward to it, and if we get this off the ground in my office I hope to be able to run a group in other offices within the council. Being a ULR is such a positive thing and I simply love it.