Pilot residential course kicks off new era for PCS reps training

PCS reps from across the UK attended an exciting pilot residential trade union education course in Yorkshire in the new year, as big changes to the way we train our reps got under way.

To launch a new era of more ‘holistic’ trade union education for reps and advocates, PCS Academy is publishing its new prospectus this month, setting out all the courses on offer, from bitesize to multi-day.

The key to building the confidence and strength of the union is well-trained reps and an involved, participative, membership.

Unlike many other unions, ours has seen an increased appetite among activists for training. As well as the typically ‘core’ union issues more reps are signing up for our courses in increasingly central workplace topics like sexual harassment, mental health or neurodiversity.

As well as now offering a wider range of course subjects and timescales, PCS has shifted the emphasis of our sessions to include the wider economic, social and political context in which we and our members are working. Our holistic training gives equal weight to campaigning, bargaining and organising, as well as looking as representing our members with a more collective mindset that helps create a ‘union culture’ at work.

The first five-day residential ‘Next Steps’ training, held in January, was organised through a new partnership between the PCS Academy and Northern College in Barnsley.

Northern has been run as an adult education college, with strong links to the labour movement, since 1978 and is housed in the 18th-century stately home Wentworth Castle.

The 12 PCS reps who attended learned a range of organising, negotiating and campaigning skills.

There were sessions on public speaking, labour movement history, bargaining theory and practice, challenging on equalities, leadership, and recruitment techniques.

In line with our new approach, emphasis was attached to the social, political and economic contexts for trade unionism as well as the important practical skills reps need. Click here to read more from reps on the course.

The course has given me ideas of what I can do in terms of recruitment, starting campaigns and getting people on side” - Rhiane Fatinikun, DWP Bolton

The union will now evaluate the success of the pilot, and assess demand for future residential courses.

Education Officer Keith Johnston said that for various reasons it had been several years since PCS had attempted the residential approach.

“We know that going away for a week doesn’t suit everyone’s circumstances, but initial feedback from the pilot is that our students felt it was a great opportunity to focus on learning, away from the ‘usual distractions’, and to network with like-minded reps. They also felt it was a refreshing approach to discuss the wider issues facing trade unions than the shorter ‘core’ courses allow.”

The second ‘Next Steps’ course will be held from Monday 22 to Friday 26 July 2019. Any reps interested should email organising@pcs.org.uk.

Updated 11 Febuary 2019

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