Union learners take first steps

FIFTEEN workers from across the Highlands and Islands – including six from the Western Isles – have begun a two year learning journey with an induction to begin the Certificate of Higher Education in Inverness this week.

The pilot programme, a partnership between Scottish Union Learning and The open University in Scotland and is supported by the European Social Fund, aims to give workers who have had no formal qualifications since school an opportunity to gain a higher education qualification to improve their career prospects.

Sylvia O’Grady, Lifelong Learning Manager for Scottish Union Learning, said: “Trade unions highlighted the need for a course like this in the Highlands and Islands, and have supported its development at every stage.

“This pilot embodies the role of unions in helping workers to improve their life chances through education.”

A key objective of the project is that the opportunity is available to all workers, wherever they are located in the Highlands and Islands.

Students on the Certificate to Higher Education Open course will complete four modules at SCQF Level 7, equivalent to an HNC, over two years in what is the first time that Scottish Union Learning has provided a course at this level and across such a wide geographical area.

Khadiha Patel, Project Officer for project partners The Open University, commented: “This pan-Highlands and Islands programme is a really exciting challenge for The Open University and we are ready to use our infrastructure and over forty years experience in delivering innovative learning solutions to ensure the success of the union learners.”

The course will be delivered using online technology supplemented by more traditional methods and resources to help the group support each other in their learning journey.

Participants comprise six students from the Western Isles, two from Orkney, five from Inverness-shire and two from Argyll.

One of the new learners on the course, Susan Simpson, a UNISON member from Inverness, said: “I was so nervous about returning to study, but feel so much more confident.”