Our work has made people see the union in a different light

Shaun Sullivan’s involvement in union learning started with a conversation with a member who had returned from maternity leave and was looking for a career boost… and snowballed from there. Now regional learning coordinator for R&C in the North-West, Shaun, 40, has helped put around 500 members through accountancy training over the past decade.

Where do you work and what is your PCS branch?
I work in Graeme & Regian House, and am in HMRC Liverpool branch. I work three days in HMRC, and two doing regional PCS work as branch learning officer and H&S rep.

I’m regional learning coordinator for R&C in the North-West.

How would you encourage someone to become a ULR?
The role often sells itself but I would tell people it’s a very interesting and rewarding job. You often come into contact with members at all levels, as learning and development is something that goes across all grades. It’s great for up-skilling and improving yourself individually. Self-confidence soars and, before you know it, you’ll be speaking to motions at your national conference.

What are the main duties/aims that come with being a ULR?
Giving in-depth one-to-one guidance, funding for training courses for our members, helping them negotiate time off for training and further education, ensuring the department, providers, and managers are meeting their commitments to learners – be it via an apprenticeship course or training for other functional skills. Ensure reasonable adjustments are in place so staff with learning barriers have the opportunities to do courses.

What initiatives have you and other ULRs been doing in your branch and/or workplace?
It started out with one small one-to-one chat I had with a single mum who had just returned from maternity leave and wanted to get her career boosted by doing some accountancy training!

This snowballed into a massive programme and over 10 years we’ve trained over 500 members (stretching from Liverpool to Manchester) in AAT Level 2/3/4 accounting qualifications, and had the course recognised by HMRC. This means staff without degrees can use this course as entry-level requirements for fast-track promotions in tax.

We estimate that, through this initiative, we’ve gained access to well over £1m of funded training for our members.

It’s often been fed back to us that the support from ULRS and the opportunity to do this course has made people see our union in a different light. They felt we’d directly supported them in furthering their career.

Did you have any PCS training for this role?
All my ULR training was done through the TUC.

Can having ULRs in your branch be helpful for recruitment and organising? If so, in what ways?
We’ve been able to offer not only quality information and guidance on learning for members, but also courses and training that our members wanted, and felt was meaningful to their jobs and careers. As it’s fully funded only for members, this means we have attracted in new members and retained even more.

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