Case Study Profile

Newcastle City Local Government Branch – Wendy Aitman


Wendy was delighted when the UNISION Branch secretary Kenny Bell asked her if she would consider a three month secondment release from her job in the Newcastle City Council’s Tourist Information Team to undertake a project with school staff for the union.  This gave Wendy both the chance to use her skills as a trained shop steward and the opportunity train for the role of a ULR, something that immediately appealed to her. Within weeks, the news broke that the regional Bridges to Learning bid to the unionlearn fund had been successful and Wendy was delighted to find herself in the planning team to make sure that the branch secured its involvement. “ it was great to be involved with Bridges to Learning from the very beginning as it meant that we could help shape the vision so that we could help members to get access to learning opportunities that they previously thought were only open to better qualified members of the council’s staff” Wendy worked closely with the Branch Education Secretary to sell the concept of the learning agenda to the manager of Adult Care Services. She found that not only was the concept understood and supported but that it was also something that the manager, Chris Dugdale, was passionate about; to harness the hidden potential of her staff, build their self-confidence, improve their employability and help secure a quality service for the city’s residents. With Jane Yugire soon on board, the City’s Bridges to Learning project has gone from strength to strength ever since. In fact thousands of learners have benefitted from the project, some through informal learning and NVQ qualifications, others through improving their English, maths and IT skills and many more through targeted advice and guidance to help plan their learning. As a result of their success in brokering a learning agreement with the City Council, the workplace was the first to pilot the innovative route to higher education for care assistants, with a cohort of thirteen staff achieving NVQ level 3 and the Open University’s K101 Foundation level qualification, ‘Introduction to Health and Social care’. With the project firmly embedded in the council’s learning infrastructure, Wendy has now been able to take on additional duties and is greatly enjoying her roles as Branch Education Officer and the UNISON Regional Education Chair as well as some part-time lecturing at the TUC Education Centre. “I always wanted to help others into learning and take up the sort of opportunities I have had but I never imagined that being a Bridges to Learning ULR would have such a positive impact on my own confidence and give me such incredible development opportunities too.”
“I always wanted to help others into learning and take up the sort of opportunities I have had but I never imagined that being a Bridges to Learning ULR would have such a positive impact on my own confidence and give me such incredible development opportunities too.” - Wendy

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