Spotlight on Our TU Provision as a Quality Award Winner12-March-2018
Wales TUC Cymru worked with the Worker's Educational Association as a valued partner over several decades, so what for the future working with the newly named organisation?
Wales TUC Cymru worked with the Worker's Educational Association in Wales as a valued partner over several decades to deliver training to union representatives. Following its recent merger with the YMCA Wales Community College to form Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales (AOC|ALW), Angharad Halpin, (Learning Project Worker at the Wales TUC) met Betty Mason (Trade Union Coordinator AOC|ALW) to catch up with the changes that have been taking place to enable the Worker's Educational Association to evolve into Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales.
Angharad asked Betty about how these changes have impacted on their provision of Trade Union Education across Wales.
"The first merger was between Coleg Harlech in the North and the WEA in the South and led to the forming of WEA Cymru. In terms of staffing at that point, there was one person responsible for Workplace Learning who was based in North Wales and one person based in South Wales looking after Trade Union Education so those two components were clearly split into two different areas."
"Since then, WEA Cymru merged with YMCA Wales Community College and, as a result, the organisation went through a total structural change that saw them emerge as Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales."
That change in structure saw the Workplace Learning portfolio and Trade Union Education unifying and Betty was installed to oversee both areas, as one, for the whole of Wales.
“We have a team in Bangor and a team in Ebbw Vale, two curriculum development officers who look after both regional teams and an admin/trade union assistant who maps and organises all of the Trade Union Activities including WULF and Wales TUC Learning activities” explained Betty, “and in terms of the principles and values that were upheld by the WEA, they remain the same, post-merger, if not, stronger as unifying those two portfolio’s allowed us to see everything much more clearly”.
That clarity of seeing and understanding what each portfolio was doing allowed Betty to implement improvements and develop examples of best practice which could be shared right across the organisation and in that way, improve their ability to be able to raise our standards.Betty was previously a Quality and Curriculum specialist before joining AOC|ALW and was committed to set a standard that both the Workplace and Trade Union Education teams could work to, ensuring that what they teach in the North West is the same as what they teach in the South East of Wales. That consistency in what they deliver in all areas and was vital so they may report to it, have a responsibility to it and finally, audit it.
Betty identified, “There are challenges because of the varying features -across the regions of Wales which require slight adjustment but I am confident that the standards remain the same, regardless of location, content and delivery. I feel confident , that bringing together workplace learning and Trade Union Education and unifying it across Wales, has helped it and given it a bigger profile within the organisation.”
AOC|ALW are now moving quickly to improve their methods of delivering vital digital literacy across Wales, utilising laptops and ensuring that they have access to IT resources. It is evident that Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales has identified the need to respond to both workplace and community. “We’ve needed to move closer to digital literacy delivery and access to vital online toolkits, legal guidance and more general resources that compliment and support the core course information,”said Betty.
It has become vital for Trade Union Education and all its providers to have this element wrapped in their portfolio. Employers are becoming increasingly demanding of digital literacy, essential skills and courses around health and wellbeing so providers such as ALW need to remain responsive to that agenda and keep lines of communication with union and employer open, remaining sensitive to the demands on curriculum.
Betty is proud of her vast experience in Quality and Curriculum and lends her knowledge and passion well to her post, ensuring that she remains close to any Quality and Curriculum groups that surround Workplace and Trade Union Education so that ALW absolutely fall in line with standards. “However,” added Betty, “we need to remain flexible enough for the unions to incorporate change that continues to change right across the board.”
It is apparent that Betty and her team are aware of the changing landscape of work and how that demands providers to be mindful of how they adapt our curriculum and resources in response to that ever moving demand and ensure that delivery of curriculum, methods of testing and assessing what they deliver is appropriate.
AOC|ALW, much like its predecessor WEA, have such a diverse and experienced history in Further Education that specialist areas such as Trade Union and Workplace Education can benefit from being enveloped within an organisation with a wider knowledge. Betty was keen to explain how being part of a wider organisation has its direct benefits to the work that she does.
“Because we are part of AOC|ALW, we are part of that wider Further Education focus and that knowledge allows us to feedback curriculum ‘intelligence’ to the employer because we have gathered the evidence to substantiate the need and desire for that type of learning.”
It is clear that Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales continue to improve and ensure that their activities are set in place to communicate effectively with both Workplace and Unions and have not just maintained the high standards that they have always provided but ensured that they have methods to stay up to date and responsive. It is testament to this that they have, yet again, been awarded with a Wales TUC Quality Award in February. This award is given in recognition of all the work that they put in to ensuring that they meet our standards through a rigorous quality criteria process and remain the quality provider that we require for TUC Education.
Betty not only is candid in her plans for the future but remains grounded in what her main driving force is. “For me, it’s all about ‘what does the learner want’ as it is the learner that is at the centre of all that we do and the core of what we need to consider when we plan to deliver any curriculum. We are committed to providing the best tutors and the best experience for the learner.”