For young workers starting work can be very challenging. Zero hours contracts, lack of career prospects, low pay are the all too common experience for young people starting out in the workplace. But like every other worker, young workers can only improve their situation by being collectively organised within a trade union.
Problem is schools don’t teach students about trade unions as they prepare young people for the world of work. Consequently, when young people start work most have no understanding of why joining a trade union could be the best thing they can ever do. Little wonder that just 7% of workers aged 16-24 belong to a trade union.
This is why Unite has developed the Unite in Schools programme. This has seen Unite community coordinators working with regional education officers to identify trade unionists to be trained as schools speakers with skills to engage with pupils aged 14-18. Over 100 schools speakers have been trained so far. The aim of each organised session with young people is to encourage student discussion and active learning. The materials available to help with this are short films, lesson plans and info graphics, a brief history of trade unions and their activities and seven interactive exercises. The response by schools and pupils to sessions already organised has been healthy.
In South Yorkshire, Unite has developed links with Kirk Balk Academy in Hoyland, just outside Barnsley. On Monday 15 December, full-time student and Unite community member Harry Rollin, aged 18, assisted Andy Pearson, Unite regional education officer, with a one-hour session for 14-15 year olds and amongst whom only a handful admitted knowing anything about unions at the start. That had changed quite dramatically after 60 minutes.
“I had sort of heard about unions from press reports about strikes. I didn’t understand until today the actions were about improving pay and workplace rights. I have discovered the history of trade unions and how everyone has a better chance of being properly paid if they join together. It is good that unions fight for maternity rights because you need time off work after having a baby. I see why people join a union,” said Emily Lovell.
“The session was interesting, I liked the video’s and I learnt a lot about unions and why you might need them at work,” said Shannon Powell.
Contact your regional Unite Community co-ordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved with the Unite in Schools programme. If you are a school governor then why not consider getting your school involved?