Monday, 27 May 2013
My Generation: Joining the Intergenerational Dots
Life has been fairly frantic recently and whilst I've been keen to follow-up on the focus on Amazon et al and the thread that tax status and the omnipetence of multinationals there's been little time to sit down and get my thoughts together.
In the interim though just a brief note on a wholly worthwhile morning spent making the connection between differing parts of the UK's labour movement. On behalf of The Age & Employment Network (TAEN) which is now part of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) I was asked to chair a panel session (entitled My Generation) during the residential event for new National Union of Students (NUS) further education (FE) sabbatical officers.
TAEN is just ending a year-long European project seeking to generate good practice in the intergenerational engagement in civic and political life. To round off this project TAEN (www.taen.org.uk) was able to make a link with the NUS on the basis of exploring how differeing age groups, within the context of education and/or employment, could benefit from greater engagement with civil society institutions like the NUS and workplace trade unions.
I was particularly pleased to discover that the panel was to include the newly elected NUS President Toni Pearce (second from left above) who makes history as the first President to come from an FE background and who doesn't hold a degree. On a personal note, having sprung from Ruskin College in the early 90's as someone else without a first degree, and spent a significant period of my teaching career in this sector with adult learners, Toni's election is a welcome break from the usual suspects who tread a well worn path via the NUS into political life or that of the quancocracy or similar.
Also joining the panel was the indomitable Dot Gibson of the National Pensions Convention (http://npcuk.org/) (middle of picture above) and it was a genuine honour to share a platform with someone who has spent a significant part of their life fighting so hard for the rights of others. Unbeknown to Dot she now has a starring role in Ken Loach's new film, the Spirit of '45 - and you are thoroughly recommended to see it: http://www.thespiritof45.com/.
Also joining us was Keith Frost (last on right above) who has worked for TAEN and was joining Dot in providing for the panel discussion an historical perspective on the changing nature of work and of the differing contributions that older workers and learners can bring to bodies like the NUS.
The debate itself was thought provoking and on a personal note I have to say how rewarding it is to be able to hear from speakers representing age groups quite distinct from those of the mainstream TU officers and activists that my day-to-day work involves. The views expressed represented a genuine commitment to bring together student groups from diverse backgrounds in the different FE institutions the students were drawn from. All of those who spoke understood that the challenge of being an FE student can be just as difficult for those who are 'mature', part-time and carers.
The contributions of Dot and Keith helped underline the need for these sabbatical officers to tap into an additional, experienced body of support for the work of the NUS from older, and non-traditional leaners. In concluding the session Toni reinforced a message that was distinct in her election campaign, which was to re-energise the work in the NUS in FE and help bring the distinct voice of this often marginalised group of learners to the forefront of the union's work. I have no doubt that she will work hard at doing this, and I wish her, and the new NUS sabbatical officers in FE all the very best in meeting this goal.