Highlands and Islands
The Highlands and Islands covers some 15,000 square miles, which is more than half of Scotland’s landmass. It includes more than 90 inhabited islands, but accounts for less than 10% of Scotland’s population.
In 2003, Scottish Union Learning established a dedicated Highlands and Islands team based in Inverness, in recognition of the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the predominantly rural, sparsely populated region of the Highlands and Islands in supporting union members in accessing learning.
A priority for the Highlands and Islands team is to encourage Union Learning Reps (ULRs) to work with union members and employers to deliver workplace learning and skills programmes specific to the region, for the benefit of individuals and the economy.
The ULR role is recognised as being the cornerstone of trade union learning. Typically, in the smaller workplaces of the Highlands and Islands, there may be only one ULR, or the ULR may cover several workplaces. Consequently, Scottish Union Learning prioritises support for this crucial role by developing and co-ordinating good practice models of cross-union working and by providing resources for unions, ULRS and learners. For example, Highlands and Islands ULRs have their own dedicated Facebook Group to stay in touch with each other.
Opportunities for support
We work with unions to increase the number of ULRs in the Highlands and Islands and to establish ULR Forums across the region, which provide opportunities for networking and support, and help sustain cross-union working.
In addition, the annual Scottish Union Learning Highlands and Islands ULR Conference brings together ULRs from across the north to share experiences of organising union learning and to learn new skills through themed workshops and discussion.
Scottish Union Learning in the Highlands and Islands works closely with local colleges, learning centres and key partners who understand the demographics of the region and share our aims to overcome the potential barriers to learning. We hold an annual Highlands and Islands Partners’ Meeting to engage with our partners and to provide an update on the work of Scottish Union Learning. (add photo)
In 2015, Scottish Union Learning published the Highlands and Islands News, a 16-page newspaper supplement to celebrate union learning over the four years of the ESF-funded Highlands and Islands learning project.