'Dysgu' - WULF project newsletter

We've launched a regular newsletter to update you on the progress of PCS' 2011-14 Wales Union Learning Fund project, 'Defining Skills in Wales'.

'DYSGU' no. 6 (Winter 2012/13)

PCS’ WULF 2013-16 bid goes in

PCS’ bid for the next round of WULF funding finally went in at the end of October to be assessed. If the bid is successful, it will give PCS a new three year project extending WULF by two years (the current project is due to end in March 2014), and give workers across Wales more opportunities and support to face the on-going challenges facing the public sector.

The new project essentially will have three strands:

  1. A continued commitment to work with the Welsh Government to provide essential skills screenings, assessment and on-going support for those who need it.
  2. To provide convenient learning opportunities for workers, in their communities or in locations that are easier to access, especially if there are issues over transport and caring responsibilities
  3. Provision of ‘pop-up’ learning resources both in the workplace and in community venues and a commitment to widen support across the country, including additional project workers to cover parts of the country.

A more detailed copy of the project proposal is available from stevedon@pcs.org.uk.

Thanks to everyone who promoted our online Survey Monkey WULF bid questionnaire. We had an amazing 332 responses in a fortnight. This provided some essential evidence for the project bid. Thanks again.
We should have a decision on whether or not the bid has been successful in the New Year, but at the very least we hope to make an announcement at the PCS Wales ULR Conference in March.

WULF visits Welsh Government in Llandudno Junction

The PCS WULF team will be in the Welsh Government offices in Llandudno Junction early in the New Year, promoting the project, adult learning and the services that PCS offer.

Among the other learning organisations attending will be the Open University and Coleg Glyndwr. Also supporting the event will be Careers Wales and Thomsons Solicitors. Staff will have the opportunity to attend information sessions with Thomsons, where they will get details of the legal benefits that PCS offer.

The event is part of PCS Wales’ on-going commitment to support branches in promoting learning and the union, across Wales.

PCS ULRs out in force at Ewloe

Even though there were financial constraints which meant a limit on attendees, PCS had by far the biggest delegation at this year’s Wales TUC ULR conference in Ewloe, North Wales.

Delegates went to a range of workshops including Social media, Essential skills, negotiation skills and the Equality Act 2010.

Feedback on the conference has been positive and a third of PCS delegates who responded to our own survey said they thought the conference was ‘Excellent’, with 41.7% stating it was ‘Very Good’ and 25% ‘Fairly Good’.

SPELL and PCS visit Newport City Museum

The South West Wales Partnership on Education and Lifelong Learning (SPELL) is a union led group that meets on a regular basis in West Wales, to share best ideas, organise events across the area and to promote learning opportunities.

The group also hosts training sessions and organises away days for union representatives and other interested parties. SPELL’s December meeting was held in Newport City Museum, and attendees were given a tour of their current gallery exhibition ‘Glad tidings of struggle and strife – A history of protest Christmas cards’.

The exhibition is based on the collection of Christmas cards, primarily political, owned by former MP Llew Smith and his late wife Pam. exhibition includes a few PCS Christmas cards, and PCS BLC for the
Swansea Pension Centre, Fran Gosby and PCS WULF Officer Steve Donoghue were at the meeting and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until January 12th 2013, and is a must for anyone with an interest in political satire, art or the development of the Labour movement over the last century or so.

More information on the exhibition can be found on the Newport City Council website at the link below. A book, published to coincide with the exhibition is available at the museum shop, and elsewhere. The museum also commissioned 13 artists to design a series of Christmas cards, also available at the museum.

Anyone in or around Newport over the coming weeks should pop into the museum, on John Frost Square, as this is an excellent and entertaining exhibition.

Also at the Newport City Museum:
'Newport County AFC – 100 Years of Football' is also on display on the Museum Mezzanine until 26 January 2013.

Essential Skills

The second group of PCS ULRs will be having their essential skills screening training in Transport House in December. This follows on from the successful course run in Swansea back in July, where an initial tranche of 10 West Wales based ULR’s were trained by Wales TUCs’ Anne Jenkins in how to use the online screening tool.

PCS WULF officer Steve Donoghue says “the current WULF project has a target of 500 ES screenings, and so far we have only managed to scratch the surface. At the end of the last reporting quarter we had hit about 50 screenings.

With the possibility of an additional 400 screenings needed (if our recent WULF bid is successful) we have quite a task ahead. However I firmly believe that with the network of committed and hardworking ULR’s we have, and the on-going support of organisations including Wales TUC, we can reach these targets.”

PCS WULF manager, Jayne Smith agreed that the targets are achievable. She also said that “we must also remember that a lot of groundwork has had to be done before the screenings could start in earnest. This includes the ES screening courses that we are currently rolling out across Wales. We are looking forward to setting up the next course in North Wales early in 2013.”

ULR’s should contact Steve or Jayne for support and advice in setting up ES screening programs in their workplaces.

PCS WULF Essential Skills screening targets
Project: Defining skills in Wales 2011-2014. Target: 500
Project: GALW (Gaining Accessible Learning in Wales) 2013-2016. Target: 400
Total: 900.

PCS Essential Skills Handbook

Unfortunately there has been a delay in the printing of the new PCS Essential Skills handbook for ULRs. We hope that the issues will be resolved and that the handbook will be available for distribution to ULR’s at the Winter ULR forum meetings.

If you have anything you’d like to include in future WULF newsletters, please send it to stevedon@pcs.org.uk. It can be anything: reports of learning events in your workplace, what you’ve got coming up in the months ahead, or some suggestions to make other PCS led learning events go with a bang. Photos will be especially helpful. – STEVE

A Welsh language version of the project flyer has just gone to print. This has been done following requests from members and reps across Wales, for information on the project to be available to members whose preferred language is Welsh. Thanks to Gareth Williams of the HMRC Welsh Language unit for his help with the translation.
Diolch Gareth!

ULR Forum meetings – Winter 2013

The next round of ULR forum meetings will be held early in 2013. The dates shown are provisional at the moment, but because of the need for some reps to book time off in advance, we feel it is important we try and get dates out to you as soon as we can. If the forum dates/venues are changed for any reason, we will let you know.

North Wales Forum

  • Chair: Jane Speed
  • Date: Tuesday, January 29th 2013
  • Venue: HMRC, Plas Gororau, Ellice Way, Wrexham Technology Park, Wrexham LL13 7YY
  • Time: 10.00 – 15.00

South Wales Forum

  • Chair: Sue Watkins
  • Date: Tuesday February 19th 2013
  • Venue: PCS Board room, 2nd floor, Transport House, 1 Cathedral Road, Cardiff CF11 9HA
  • Time: 10.00 – 15.00

West Wales Forum

  • Chair: Penny Griffiths
  • Date: Thursday, February 14th 2013
  • Venue: 3rd floor conference room, HMRC Ty Nant, 180 High Street, Swansea SA1 5AP
  • Time: 10.00 – 15.00

Steve will be working with forum chairs/vice chairs over the coming weeks to set up the agenda for each meeting. If there are any issues you would like to see on the agenda contact stevedon@pcs.org.uk, and/or your forum chair.

PCS Wales ULR Conference 2013

By now most ULRs will be aware that next year’s ULR conference will be held in Transport House, in Cardiff on March 6th and 7th. Steve and Jayne are working on the conference itinerary and part of the agenda for the Jan/Feb ULR forum meetings will be looking at the conference, and in particular the workshop element.

Workshops are traditional parts of ULR conferences, but it is often very difficult to get the balance right between offering workshops that are beneficial, without going into too much detail or complexity. Among the items that we are looking at for the 2013 conference are the UnionLearn Climbing Frame and GALW (the 2013-16 WULF project, if the bid has been successful). We are also working with ACT training to set up workshops with an Essential Skills element, based on the conference theme.

Thursday 7th march is World Book Day, and our initial thoughts are that the theme for the 2013 conference should be based on books and/or reading. At the last round of forum meetings it was suggested that we get an author, possibly one that has released a quick reads book, to attend the conference and give a talk. We have put the feelers out on this, looking initially at a sports author (because of the Olympics/Paralympics etc.) but nothing has been confirmed as yet.

Last year’s conference was a resounding success, with a range of speakers who both entertained and educated delegates. It is going to be a difficult act to follow.

Some of the new PCS speakers this year will be Jackie McWilliams, ULF officer for the Ministry of Defence group and Kim Burridge, Director of PCS LEEPS.

Like me, I’m sure you are all looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say at the conference, and you will have an opportunity to be part of the planning process at the forum meetings in the New Year. If, however, you can’t make the forum meetings, or you have something to suggest beforehand, please get in touch - email: stevedon@pcs.org.uk or telephone: 07929 030164.

Network of Excellence meetings in February

Have you booked your place yet? Sharing information and good ideas; talking through problems; learning new skills and meeting new contacts. Yes, it’s a Network meeting! Meetings start at 10.30 with tea and coffee from 10am and finish no later than 4pm. Bring your lunch, though venues often have a cafe in or nearby.

  • Tues 5 Feb Aberystwyth
  • Wed 6 Feb Port Talbot
  • Fri 8 Feb Caerphilly – at the Leisure Centre
  • Tues 12 Feb Brecon – at Neuadd Brycheiniog
  • Wed 13 Feb Caernarfon

Meetings are informal, friendly and importantly – useful! Book your place by contacting Bernice Waugh bwaugh@tuc.org.uk. PCS regional office will No longer be able to fund T&S claims for Network meetings.

The December edition of Net News is now available from Bernice and has information on a range of opportunities including e-notes for union reps, Quick Reads, Swansea University’s BA in Humanities preparation course, the Careers Wales database, and Children and their rights. Contact stevedon@pcs.org.uk and he will pass your details on to Bernice.

HMRC and Defence Sector group ULRs meet up to defend the right to learn

On December 10th/11th ULRs and BLCs in the Revenue & Customs and Defence Sector groups attended a 2 day conference organised by PCS ULF officers. The conference was held in the Eastbourne Centre and looked at a range of issues facing union learning. Despite issues of ‘difference’ brought on by devolution, Welsh ULR’s felt at home and included in the issues discussed. Welsh and Scottish ULR’s were however given an opportunity to network as devolved nations in the last session of the conference. The Welsh contingent consisted of Catherine Bevan and Kathy Bracy (R&C West Wales), Steve Ryan (R&C North Wales), Michelle McGlyn and Richard Evans (R&C South Wales) Mark Casling (RAF St Athan) and Steve Donoghue (PCS WULF Officer). Catherine Bevan’s report of her Eastbourne adventure is below.

Part of the conference looked at how ULR’s can continue to provide staff with the support, advice and information, with the government’s proposed cuts in facilities time and an increased emphasis on productivity and the need for staff to meet targets.

The general consensus seemed to be that ULR’s needed to think about new and innovative ways to deliver the learning message, to supplement what they already do. Management are aware of the benefits of working with ULRs. They provide a valuable and cost neutral service to departments and business units across the country. Criticisms of Civil Service Learning’s’ prospectus, and delivery methodology, mean that ULR’s will continue to play a pivotal role in learning across the service. To close day 1, delegates had a group photograph, underlining the unions ‘don’t rip up our rights’ campaign.

The Conference was held in the UNITE owned Eastbourne Centre. As well as conference facilities, it also boasts excellent hotel facilities and is the ideal location for a short or long stay.

My Eastbourne Adventure - by Catherine Bevan (Branch Learning Co-ordinator, HMRC West Wales Network)

Despite leaving home at 05.55 I only arrived at Eastbourne train station at 13.17 due to problems with flooding somewhere on the line. Although I had missed lunch I had a tour (by rail) of vast swathes of S.E. England. Having never heard of Winnersh Triangle prior to my coach trip to Windsor (01/12/12) I went past it twice in my travels to/from this event.

I entered the conference centre after a brisk walk with only a short detour to the tourist information centre for a map to go with Google’s written instructions. Using the map the instructions suddenly made sense. Definitely an “eureka” moment. I arrived towards the tail-end of Anthony Ristic’s talk – he is quite right – We have got to publicise our successes to all (members, non-members and management alike). Not just work based successes but the ones that impact on our communities

To that end I now “blow my own trumpet” about successes outside of HMRC (from NetNews summaries I have issued in Ty Nant):
1) One member’s daughter is interested in the free online engineering course from MIT.
2) Someone in DMB has a son working in engineering – that company is going to take up the article “June 2013 – Engineering Apprentices wanted. Have you, or do you know of, any companies who have engineering apprentices who would benefit from a two week work experience in Europe next June? This is a European funded project which does not require any financial input from the participating companies.”

Conference followed the usual format of speakers, activities and feedback sessions. Over the 2 days activities were titled:
1) Where are you up to?
2) Communicating with members in a hostile environment.
3) Count me in, &
4) What happens next? (A phrase which always brings Emlyn Hughes to mind)
Each activity was 45-60 mins followed by 30 mins of feedback – all of the feedback was very similar – proving that as branches it doesn’t matter where in the UK you are, the same problems crop up and are overcome in comparable ways.

I learned we really need to “map” the membership and make sure they have told us how they want to get info from PCS nationally as well as by local reps. We also need to know how we can get messages across in future if barriers are put up.

What about a T-shirt with an appropriate slogan on it or bookmarks given away at book swaps?

We need to know why staff aren’t members but whilst we should empathise and understand their viewpoint(s) we need to be prepared to counter any arguments or know who is best suited to approach that person at a later date. After all circumstances may change and although X may say no, the next time you ask they may be more amenable. But as ULR’s in Wales especially we MUST remember we have to support ALL staff, including non-members, with our help with courses funded via WULF as this is public money. We also need to get this message, about what PCS is doing for all staff not just members. These may be talking points that get non-members interested in joining or ordinary members to become interested in rep posts (thus becoming more pro-active).

Did you know that in Oracle there is a “competition” around the PCS ‘Count Me In’ campaign whereby if the members provide e-mail addresses or mobile numbers they could win £150 in vouchers?
Did you know that “gold” badges are available for members who have been in the union for 25 years not just for long serving reps – we need to identify these members and get the badges sent to us so we can hand them out at our AGMs.

Action points – work on new-member desk drop packs – such as pen pictures of the reps, basic descriptions of the various roles of the BEC, benefits of belonging to PCS and if possible try to negotiate local discounts for members (benefits our members and local businesses alike).

One of the Scottish reps seemed disappointed that the conference didn’t cover how to refresh L@W day events etc and I agreed with him. As a learning event I would have preferred more emphasis on learning related problems and solutions/best practice. I do however; understand that these events are there to keep reps informed of major challenges/changes to procedures etc so we can inform the members in advance of any requests for support from the GEC/NEC.

Whilst I may not have got any ideas about how to do this or that re learning events I did pass on some info to fellow ULR’s in England. Firstly I mentioned Networks of Excellence, which if the ladies I spoke to get more info they could ask for these to be set up in England.
Secondly, some branches didn’t have 100 clubs to help pay for learning or conference related expenses. They said we don’t have enough people interested – I told them this happened here in W. Wales and we joined the S. Wales 800 club instead. Dudley & Wolverhampton seem very willing to do this.

'Don't Rip Up Our Rights' protest

On November 30th, PCS members across the country took time out to protest to show the government that they are no longer prepared to sit back and let the government destroy the rights that have taken decades to win. If government plans go ahead, we will see reduced annual leave entitlement, loss of privilege days, reduced sick leave including 3 unpaid ‘waiting days’ at the start of any sick period and a loss of flexible working.

The protest involved members holding up red cards as was done in Eastbourne above. Reports from across Wales show that the protest was well supported. Colleagues in the DfT also took a days strike action on issues including protecting the rights of DVLA’s shared service centre staff.  

'DYSGU' no. 5 (Autumn 2012) 

August ULR forum meetings

The meetings held across Wales in August were well supported with over 50 people attending over the three days. Notes of each forum will be issued shortly. One of the highlights was the awarding of the PCS Wales ULR of the year award shield to Jane Huxley and Laura Westwood of HMRC at the Wrexham meeting by Chris Hall and Jayne Smith (below).

Further information from the fora is contained in this newsletter.

WULF project bids 2013

The Welsh Government and Wales TUC have confirmed that there will be a round of WULF funding bids this autumn. The prospectus is due to be published in September, but it is important that we have the groundwork ready so that bid(s) can be submitted in time. One of the conference workshops was future WULF funding, and a lot of good ideas came from those workshops. This will be part of the agenda for the above ULR forum meetings and I would encourage you all to think about how we can supplement the existing project, with a view to providing more support to our members across Wales. Put on your thinking caps...

Wrexham Learning at Work Day

PCS HMRC Wrexham are holding their 'Learning at Work' day on 5 September. Events will include meditation, wellbeing, operational delivery profession and ‘digging up the past – a display on historical artefacts’. Staff at HMRC Wrexham also have access to a stock of books, on loan from Glyndwr University Library. PCS ULR’s host lunchtime sessions for staff to return any books they’ve loaned and to take out more!

Essential Skills Update

A training course for Swansea based ULR’s was trialled there in July, with the help of Anne Jenkins of Wales TUC, utilising the netbooks that the project has bought to deliver screenings in the workplace over the coming months. The training was well received and a great success. A number of branches/offices are keen to be involved with the screening programme and have expressed an interest. We hope to roll this out across all of Wales.

Anne and Angela from Wales TUC have organised two ESiW update seminars, that will be held in Wrexham and Bridgend in October as follows:

  • North Wales – 24th October at Ramada Plaza, Wrexham LL13 7YH
  • South Wales – 30th October at Waterton Centre for Business Development, Waterton Industrial Estate, Bridgend CF31 3WT

Registration for both events will be at 10.00am for a 10.30 start and both will finish by 4pm. Applications to attend these events need to be cleared with the PCS Wales office due to funding restrictions.

The project has also produced an ES handbook. PDF and Word versions are available now, but thanks to support from ACT training, it will shortly be published and hard copies made available to all ULR’s in Wales.

Adult Learners' Week

We have had very few reports in on events held during ALW and at Learning at Work days. As mentioned in one of the recent project updates, this information is important as it provides evidence to the Welsh Government on the good work being done by PCS, and helps support future funding bids. What we need is:

  • What events you have held
  • When and where the event was held
  • How many participated
  • Which other organisations attended
  • How much involvement did management have
  • Any other details you may have.

Photographs of events will also be appreciated as they will help make newsletters, like this one, look more interesting!

Wales TUC ULR Conference 2012

PCS ULR’s should by now have had their invitations to attend this event. PCS has always been well represented at the Wales TUC ULR conference, but for funding reasons, we will be limiting the attendees this year. All applications will need to be sent to Wales TUC via the Survey Monkey by the closing date of 21st September. Applicants will be told as soon as possible after this date if they have secured a place.

This year's conference will be held on November 15th/16th at the St David’s Village Hotel in Ewloe, North Wales.

The Climbing Frame

At the recent West and South Wales PCS ULR fora, Linsey Imms from Wales TUC gave attendees a presentation on the Climbing Frame. The Climbing Frame is a web based ‘tool’, designed by UNIONLEARN that ULRs can use to help make their ULR role easier by giving them somewhere to record the work they do with individual learners. It is totally confidential and is continually developing. Linsey has agreed to run some workshops at the next PCS ULR conference in March 2013. The latest Climbing Frame newsletter can be found here.

A Future that Works

'A Future that Works' is a TUC campaign aimed to show that austerity isn’t working, that spending cuts threaten a lost decade, that we need to invest in jobs and growth and that we need to defend public services. Join us in London on 20 October to show your support. The more people we can get on the street, the stronger our message will be. PCS Wales is arranging coaches from across Wales so that members, their families and friends, can support this event. Please contact Sian Boyles on sianbo@pcs.org.uk for details.

Network of Excellence

The next round of Wales TUC Networks of Excellence will be held in September.

  • Thursday 6th: Newport
  • Friday 7th: Swansea
  • Tuesday 11th: Newtown
  • Wednesday 12th: Wrexham

Agendas for each meeting have now been issued by Bernice, and if you haven’t already booked your place, contact Bernice on bwaugh@tuc.org.uk or ffon/tel: 07917 415601.

How WULF has helped... Mair Evans, from the Wales Audit Office:

'In order to improve my career prospects I have been looking to develop new skills in IT audit as well as maintaining my existing financial audit and accountancy skills.

'To do this I investigated a qualification “Certified Information Security Manager” (CISM), which is an internationally recognised qualification for information security management professionals. The study method was self tuition, a revision course and an examination, but as this was costly I looked around to see if there was any support available and I became aware of the Wales Union Learning Fund project through my PCS Union Secretary/learning co-ordinator and applied for the financial support. I was lucky to be accepted and the WULF funding enabled me to purchase study materials and pay for the examination.

'I have successfully passed the CISM examination this summer (June 2012), which has given me a good understanding of how to assess information security controls in organisations. I now have the means to diversify my career and gain further expertise in IT Audit as opportunities arise, and to feel more confident in my audit skills.'

Thanks to Mair for her insight into how WULF has helped improve her future prospects. If you, or anyone you know, would like to share their learning experience, please contact stevedon@pcs.org.uk.

ULR training reminder

PCS Wales will be holding an ULR Stage 1 course, at Transport House, from September 24th – 27th. Anyone who hasn’t done the stage 1 should contact jaynes@pcs.org.uk and sianbo@pcs.org.uk to book a place. Reps should NOT book a place on any Wales TUC course, without first checking with Jayne.

New flyer

A new flyer has been produced to promote the project. They can be handed to members, left in canteens or common areas. Copies are available from the PCS Wales office.

If you have anything you’d like to include in future WULF newsletters, please send it to stevedon@pcs.org.uk. It can be anything: reports of learning events in your workplace, what you’ve got coming up in the months ahead, or some suggestions to make other PCS-led learning events go with a bang. Photos will be especially helpful. – Steve.

Share PCS:

Visit PCS social sites: