Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Chris Blog – I wish I knew…

Posted by nsscot

Things I wish I knew before I started as a learner rep

I have been working with ACT as their Learner Representative for just over a year now. When I learnt that I had got the job I was very excited and full of ideas of how I wanted things to work. A year on and I still have that same motivation and feel good feeling when I walk into work every day. Although it hasn’t been as easy as I would have hoped in the beginning. As it was the first job role of its kind it was always going to be hard because no one had ever done it before. Because of this I have written a small report on a few things that I wish I knew about this job role before I had started. Please note that none of this would have affected whether I took on the job in the first place. They are just barriers that I have had to overcome in the job role which I wish I knew I would have had to deal with.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was always going to involve work! However I wasn’t expecting as much work as I have done in the past year. My job involves me visiting 5 of ACT’s centres at least once a month to gather feedback off learners. After every visit I type up a professional report of all the feedback that the learners have given to me. This is to be shown to the decision makers. I then have to book in time and meet with the decision makers to get responses from the feedback that I have gathered. After getting a response I then visit the learners to tell them how their feedback is being dealt with (whether good or bad). This might not seem like a lot, but along with this I am the lead of the Learner Voice Wales every year along with arranging ACT’s Learner Award Ceremonies along with many other tasks. My job can get pretty overwhelming, but I still wouldn’t change it for the world.

The learners are always going to depend on me as it is part of my job role. But I was never prepared for how much the staff would rely on me. Tutors are always asking me to sit with their groups and get that all important feedback. This may be because learners are unwilling to give tutors any areas for improvement due to constantly being in direct line with them. I provide a neutral view and learners are able to trust me with the feedback that they give me. When the feedback is gathered most of the staff are always willing to sit with me and discuss it. I even have staff pushing to have meetings with me! Just seeing positive reactions from staff relating to my job role, makes me realise how important this job role actually is.

Sometimes, when you or the company has a specific structure in place you may be a bit too worried to change it because it is working fine as it is. If you have an idea to make structures work better and smoother then don’t be afraid to share your idea with a manager or fellow member of staff. You may want to trail a new way of doing something first, and if it doesn’t work you can always revert back to the original way. Or if you realise that this new plan works even better you may have just made things easier for other members of staff in the organisation. Remember that there is no such thing as a bad idea.

I always said from the day I started the job that closing the loop was going to be my main aim. This was only after discussing it with my manager. Before this discussion I had no idea why you had to close the loop and why it is so important. I quickly learnt why! Gathering feedback off a learner is one thing, but the learner is always going to be wondering what you have done about it. It is better to put their mind at ease as quickly as you possibly can so that they are not left wondering about it for a long time. Even if it is bad news about the feedback, the learner will always appreciate you taking the time out to close the loop.

Positives relationships are vital across the organisation. If learners develop a trust with you then they will always be more willing to go to your feedback sessions and provide you feedback. Not only this, but they will also not be afraid to speak to you about anything when passing them in a corridor.

Having a learners trust is vital, but keeping a positive relationship with your fellow colleagues is just as important. These are the people that can help and give you guidance if you are ever in need. They also allow you to borrow their learners for a certain length of time. Some members of staff are also having influence over the decisions that are made about their centre or department.

As I stated above, I talk to decision makers in my company regularly to get responses from them to the feedback that I gathered from their learners. A lot of the time, me and the decision maker can disagree on certain types of ideas that the learners have. When I first started the job I was too afraid to say how I felt if one of them was to disagree to a change that I felt would be beneficial. I have changed my attitude and matured a lot since starting the job and I’m no longer afraid to try and state my point. I understand that the decision maker has the final say but I do my best to make sure I show them mine and the learners side of the view.

As Learner Rep, you are always going to push for the decision makers to make the changes you feel appropriate. At times you will be successful, but there are some things that you just cannot change. For example, learners always tell me that they feel that they’re not paid enough. Due to this being a Welsh Government restriction it is not in the hands of our decision makers to change this. Learners will need to be made aware straight away what we can’t do; this saves you and the learners a lot of time.

As a Learner Rep, you will never be on your own. At ACT I have received help from every direction. No matter what the issue, there is always someone on hand to give me guidance or to point me in the right direction. No problem is ever too big or small for them.

Even if you don’t find your training provider/college very helpful, the support from the NUS is out of this world! Any jobs that are set to me by ACT that I feel may be too big for me; I would always turn to the NUS who have given me great guidance on everything. They have also sent me to various places across the UK to gain experience and learn off other people.

Everybody has their own perception of a typical learner at ACT; it’s not a bad thing! I know that I did. But one thing that I have learnt in my year at the job is that learners are not the same. You may have one or two who are the same as you expected, but there are always learners that stick out and are inspiring, you will truly find this when speaking to a group. These are the learners that make you realise how worthwhile the job that you do is.

Just like any other, this job contains barriers. But it is how you overcome these barriers that makes you the person you are and also gives you the experience if these barriers ever pop up again. From my experience I have dealt with learners who have no interest in taking part in my sessions but to only disrupt them and also staff who want to be awkward and not co operate in the manner that they are expected to. You may also have to cancel certain jobs due to being overloaded with work, but this comes naturally and jobs can always be re arranged.

I hope none of these points have worried you. These points are just to make you aware of situations that I was never made aware of purely because it was such a new job role. I can safely say that for every negative there will be a few more positives. I love my job and I find it very rewarding being able to make changes to make our learners happy whilst playing a vital part in helping them achieve their goals.

 Chris Harris ACT Learner Rep and NSoA Leadership Team

Stephanies Blog – Strength

Posted by nsscot

Hi my name is Steph and I have mental health issues. Now that makes me feel uncomfortable saying that because mental health has such a bad press that needs changing. More specifically, in the past and sometimes to this day, I have anxiety and panic attacks.

At the peak of my anxiety, I wouldn’t leave the house and would spend a lot of time in bed. The reason for the title of this blog is twofold; that it is physically exhausting coping with anxiety because it mentally drains you to the point where you do want to stay in bed all day and because it is tiring hiding the problems from other people.

Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room. The only one you can hear. It keeps you from doing the things you want to. And points out your faults. The worst part is you know the voice is probably lying but you can’t stop listening.

I wish every day I could pinpoint why I have felt like this but sometimes we don’t always get the answers we want and I carry on with the following quote ringing in my head, “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it”. I believe in this quote so much that I actually had it commissioned to have on a phone case so I can carry it with me every day.

The thing is with anxiety and panic attacks, it is a very easy issue to hide. I am the girl who walks around with a smile plastered on her face, I am the girl who has a laugh and joke with everyone, I am the girl who helps people out when they need something doing and I am the girl who sits in her room shaking, sweating and feeling like I’m going to die when I’m having a panic attack. Unless you have ever had a panic attack, it really is the hardest thing to explain but I know the more I talk about it, hopefully the more comfortable people will be to ask me questions and talk about it.

 1 in 4 people suffer with mental health issues so chances are you know someone who suffers but you might not actually know it.

I have developed many techniques in the past to help me cope and I am a big believer in quotes which I know is a strange coping mechanism but mental health has taught me that not one single person copes in exactly the same way as another person. And the thing that gave me the strength to write about this, because believe me when I say I am so scared to post this because of changing the way people see me, was actually a blog that I read from Beth Button that said: ‘I will never see it as a problem or negative phase in my life, but a part of me that’s made me who I am today.’ That is exactly how I feel and knowing someone else had similar feelings/thoughts makes you get up and start again. The things that I have coped with in my 23 short years on this planet have made me who I am today, I have the strength to want to be involved with NUS, I have the ability to stand up in front of people and give speeches but most of all, when I fall, I know I am strong enough to cope with it. Even if this blog only gives one person the strength to admit to themselves that they have an issue, then I will have done my job.

 So I will close my blog with this quote from the late, great Nelson Mandela:  “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”’


NSoA LT Member Stephanie Palmer

Siobhans Blog – Finland

Posted by nsscot

I was over the moon when I was picked to go to Finland, the first person from Leeds Apprentice Xchange to go away. It was an amazing experience I did not want to miss. I had heard and looked into their education and just from reading about it I was amazed , so I did not let the opportunity go without a fight! 🙂

We got to visit Helsinki and go sightseeing, it’s such a beautiful place. I met someone from the ministry of education in Finland and heard his views on their progress and plans for the future. I was shocked with how close the connection between the ministry of education and head of the vocational students union was.

We got to see Omnia vocational school and how it is run where we also had a chance to speak to some apprentices. This is a bit of their website in English with the director talking about vocational education in Finland:

The we got taken to the middle of nowhere, were we continued are stay. Here we was introduced to all the members of the student union for Helsinki.  The best way to end our time was to experience how they run they student council meetings, were they vote for who will run what roles for following year. The whole journey was an incredible experience to see how they run their education. It gives us lots of insights and ideas for us to bring back to the National Society of Apprentice, and how we can run things.

I got to meet all the members of student council of Helsinki, the ministry of education, and the head of the Omnia school and lots of apprentices who told me all about their experience and their plans for coming years. I felt like the Queen, that many people came to visit and introduce themselves to us.

I learnt a lot from my journey to Finland, from how amazingly they run their education, how apprenticeships run in their country, how much support they get from teachers and course leaders. Their education is free and they get funded to move and live near city where courses are held, this shocked and took my breath away! This rule did not matter if you weren’t born in Finland but moved over there. It would be the same for them too no matter where you come for. I was overwhelmed with how much support they got from the school. If the sector and job you were training for had no jobs going , they would push and support you to start your own business . To them they want to increase jobs and business in Finland so they invest in young people. This is what they are doing right, and it is truly the right way to go!

For me the things I really likes about the way Finland do education was the support you get from start to beginning, the fact it is all free, the connection between government and unions. Just the structure and how their education system runs I liked as it was wonderful the effort and money they put into it. It was amazing to see how much they get out of it is beautiful to see good young people getting the right education and support they need.

Another thing i was unbelievable shocked by was the shops the schools opened. For example they had a salon open to the public for students doing beauty and hairdressing, for the chefs and bakery’s they had a shop for them. All the shops the public used, and they were very busy! This helps them with experience but money as well to get better things and invest!

Finally, I would like to say it was an experience I fully enjoyed with all my heart! I would happily move to Finland with the people to learn, for me it was the best education I have heard and seen with my eyes! We could learn a lot from them.? Personally I would say if you could go, take the chance and go, it is worth it!


NSoA ILT member 2014 Siobhan Knott

Jakes Blog – Leadership

Posted by nsscot

 I’m a 19 year old apprentice training to become a coach builder in Goole, East Yorkshire. I started when I was 16. I go to college at Doncaster GTA one day a week and also take part in learner voice and joined the leadership team for NSoA.

Before I got the opportunity to join my learner voice at college I struggled with work and expressing myself and dealing with different situations. I often found myself arguing or falling out with other members of staff and struggle to express my opinion or views in a way that wouldn’t cause trouble.

As I got into my course at college I got the opportunity to get involved with learner voice and if I’m honest at first I didn’t think this was something for me. After attending a few meetings and seeing other people I realised this was a great way of getting involved and to be a part of trying to improve things in and out of college. I also learned how to express myself without getting angry or shouting. It’s been really useful learning how to deal with different types of people.

As I got more involved I was asked to attend an NUS conference, the Apprentice Conversation, to learn more about learner voice and was asked to be a part of the NSoA, which has been a brilliant opportunity. It’s helped me grow and become more confident in knowing in what I want to do and be. I have grown up and learnt to take responsibility and can honestly say I am a happier person.

In the last year I have been lucky to be a part of NSoA. This has included a brilliant trip to Finland which was both educational and also fun. Learning loads about the finish education system and been able to bring this back, I also have help to set up the NSoA and help mould what the NSoA should be about as well as meeting loads of unique and different types of people I normally wouldn’t get chance to.

NSoA LT member Jake Ferguson