Learner of the Year Award
The Scottish Union Learning Board introduced the Scottish Union Learning Learner of the Year Award in 2011, with the aim of recognising the range of learning journeys currently undertaken by learners in the workplace, supported by trade unions.
Glasgow Royal Mail Centre
The recipient of the fourth Learner of the Year Award was Alasdair Maclean, a Communication Workers Union (CWU) member and Postal Worker at the Glasgow Royal Mail Centre in Springburn. Alasdair was chosen as the 2014 Learner of the Year because of his strong commitment to learning, despite his physical difficulties caused by Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“I always wanted to be a postie,” says Alasdair. “My grandfather was a postman and I looked up to him. I worked as a delivery postman for a decade before I was diagnosed with MS. Since the disease meant I was not fit to carry out delivery duties any longer, I was asked to retire at 32 from the Royal Mail. I didn’t want to do that.”
The recipient of the 2013 Learner of the Year Award was Paul Mitchell, a UCATT member at City Building in Glasgow. Paul was nominated by his union because his learning journey embodies how, through an individual’s hard work and with support from trade unions and employers, can change life for the better. Paul was presented with the Learner of the Year Award by Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, at the Scottish Union Learning Conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday 20 November 2013.
Paul began working at City Building in Glasgow in 1994. When being diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury five years ago meant that he could no longer work in painting and decorating, he began working in the offices of RSBi. It soon became apparent to Paul that his literacy skills were not up to scratch, and as an individual with dyslexia, he was apprehensive about learning due to his poor prior experience at school. Paul expressed his interest, as well as his apprehension, to the Learning Centre Manager, who in turn arranged for the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) tutors to speak with him.
Unite the Union
The recipient of the second Learner of the Year Award was Robert Higgins, a cleaner at the FirstBus depot in Blantyre since 2005. Robert is a member of Unite the Union, and earlier this year, he approached his Union Learning Rep, Ewan McLean, in the workplace learning centre for help with his literacy and numeracy skills.
“I never went to school,” Robert said. “I could not read or count and would be lucky to recognise numbers above 15, but there was nothing wrong with my work ... I just remembered the buses I had cleaned by memory instead of filling out a checklist.”
The first recipient of the Learner of the Year Award was Susan Manson, a cleaner at the Morrisons store in Airdrie. Susan was nominated by her union, USDAW, because her story is a powerful example of how union learning is supporting those who never thought learning was for them.
At a recent union-supported ‘Check Out Learning’ campaign day, Susan signed up for a Basic IT course. Susan said, “I always wanted to know more about computers, but I didn’t have the confidence to go to a college by myself. My USDAW Union Learning Reps organised this course in store, which was supported by the Learning Fund through Scottish Union Learning.”