When the Covid crisis hit, the GMB initially offered their learning opportunities online. But project staff, the union learning representative and tutors quickly noticed a decrease in people signing up. They knew they had to adjust.
They agreed that a blended learning approach was needed. They started by adapting the courses that were so successfully delivered in a classroom before Covid-19. They made these courses available through a mixture of online resources and live streamed tutor-led sessions. This has proved tremendously popular and the numbers of learners engaging with the programme have returned to normal.
The tutor had to adjust, and the project funded some specialist equipment and training to facilitate this change. But tutor Sarah Bridgeman knows that it was worth it. She says:
“The learners have reported that they enjoy the courses as much as before. They like what they learn as well as appreciating that they can learn in work time, freeing their busy home lives up. They've gained a lot of confidence as a result. Some have said they would seek to sort out more work issues themselves where appropriate, instead of waiting for someone to help them”
“Our learners say that they've gained so much confidence in IT and this has made a huge difference to other areas in their life, such as home budgeting.”
The project also runs a very popular session on communication and confidence. English conversation learners have all reported that their conversational skills have improved hugely. They now feel more confident in social situations. This has had a notable effect in terms of morale in the workplace.
The programme has transformed the workforce there in so many different ways and will continue to do so despite the limitations since Covid struck.
It hasn't always been as easy for Panasonic workers to engage in learning.
Mark Pearce, the GMB Union Learning Rep (ULR) at Panasonic for over 2 years, says that, over time, management team have engaged more and more with the learning programme. So much so that they have allocated space in the factory for a new learning centre.
Mark knows how important the role of the ULR is. He says:
“The benefits to the employer are clear and they were quick to recognise that. Although, the most rewarding part for me is seeing people grow and develop. There have been so many examples of colleagues from the shop floor who now go home and learn with their families. Thanks to our programme, one of our learners was going home and helping her grandchildren with their schoolwork during lockdown and they will continue to learn together as a family."
Mark has worked tirelessly to help over a hundred colleagues get learning opportunities. And many of these learners go on to further learning. For example, 78 employees have gained enough confidence with their IT skills to sign up to a separate GMB online learning portal and undertaking online courses independently at home. Confidence in IT skills will be vital for all workers as the way we work and learn will change post-Covid.
He says, “The thing is people don’t stop after the first course. We are also offering higher level vocational courses through the WULF programme. And many of our learners on the early courses are now involved in gaining higher qualifications and potentially progressing to new job opportunities."
Panasonic recognises the achievements of Mark and the GMB learning team. Lynne Haines, the HR lead working with the GMB, says:
"The support we have received from the GMB WULF Project has provided a positive response from our employees. We hope that this activity can be continued as it has a very positive outcome on staff morale as they are gaining skills and confidence in their abilities."
"This is a great example of how an already successful workplace learning project adapted quickly to the challenges presented by Covid-19. The programme has not only continued for the workers at Panasonic but it has grown and will continue to do so."
Wherever you work in Wales you can apply to be part of a WULF learning project. Take a look at how you can get WULF training during Coronavirus.
Want to help your colleagues learn? Consider becoming a Union Learning Rep - read about what ULRs do and talk to your branch secretary.