Many members would like to improve their skills and confidence in some area of English, maths and ICT. We have developed a range of free courses to meet these needs.

Our courses include Dealing with Paperwork, Money Matters, Making the Most of the Internet, Your Skills, Your Future and more. We also promote functional maths and English which are short courses leading to qualifications at level 2 which is equivalent to GCSE A-C.

Our courses can help you:

  • develop self-confidence;
  • teach you about yourself;
  • become more active and involved around issues that concern you;
  • tackle change and uncertainty at work;
  • progress your career;
  • learn for fun and personal development.

Many courses are free and you may be entitled to time off work to attend them. They are designed to be friendly and informal, with practical exercises – and no long lectures or exams!

Our learning opportunities include the award-winning Return to Learn programme – aimed at members who want to get back into learning – and Skills for Life – aiming to get you up to speed with everyday English and practical maths, to Open University courses.

UNISON has a network of learning representatives across the union, they can offer guidance and signpost you to local courses UNISON may be running.

Booking and attending courses

Short course: Return to Learn

Return to Learn is a course designed for adults that may have been away from learning for some time. Members from all walks of life and work backgrounds have benefited from Return to Learn.

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Short course: Women’s Lives

If you are someone who wants to get back into education but have been put off in the past because it all seemed too difficult then Women’s Lives is ideal.

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Other development opportunities

UNISON can also offer advice and support on other training and development opportunities available for members. This includes key training in core english, maths and IT skills.

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Our partnerships

UNISON works with employers to run learning programmes for members in a variety of subject areas, from informal workshops on areas of interest to members through to IT, reading and maths courses for continuing professional development.

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Weekend workshops

Coping with Change

This workshop will help you:

  • understand change and how it affects you
  • look positively and proactively at change
  • develop and practise some skills for coping with change
  • make a positive contribution to change at work
  • set your own personal action plan for change

Making a Difference

Making a Difference is particularly relevant for people who have already done some learning with UNISON. This workshop will help you:

  • identify the issues that affect you in your daily life
  • recognise the contributions that you make within a team
  • discuss the role of the ‘activist’
  • identify you personal goals and become more involved in issues that you feel strongly about
  • evaluate the guidance and support provided by UNISON

One-day workshops

Your skills, your future

Are you feeling stuck in your current job? Explore what skills you have, how to make the most of them and how to develop new skills. Whether you want to learn for work or in your personal life, this workshop is for you.

Making the most of the Internet

Do you have some experience of using a computer but would like some tips to make the most of the internet? Session one covers searching the internet, favourites and email and attachments. Session two includes tips for staying safe online, computer spring cleaning and using the internet to save money.

Facing change together

Are things changing at work? This session will look at practical ways that we, as UNISON members, can help and support each other during times of change or uncertainty. You will find out about the relevance of working together and ways the union can help and advise.

Booking and attending courses



When you start representing UNISON in any official capacity there are courses available to help you carry out your role with confidence and offer the best possible support to members.

Activist Training pathways

We offer a range of courses from getting started as a union representative to developing your branch and building the union.

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New reps – where to get support

Our reps and activists need support and information, help and advice: even more so if you’re new to the role. That is why we provide specific union support for new reps, stewards, activists and branch officers.

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Finding time

Information for reps on your right to take time off from work to undertake union duties and training, and time-management guidelines for how to make the most effective use of your time.

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Branch development

The branch development plan is a key tool in delivering the organising agenda at branch level, recruiting new members and building a stronger union. Here are some handy tips on how to achieve the bigger, stronger union we all want.

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Recruiting members

Recruiting is important: the more of us there are, the louder our voice and the stronger we are in defence of each other. We know there are many potential UNISON members working in providing public services: but how do we get them to join? Our quick guides, FAQs and resources will help.

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Negotiating and bargaining

Most UNISON branch officers, stewards and safety representatives will negotiate with employers at some time – it is how branches can make sure they protect and promote the interests of their members. The keys to success are organisation, preparation and teamwork.

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Political education

Political education helps raise awareness about how we can help challenge attacks on public services, and campaign for greater rights for working people.

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Supporting members

Supporting members means listening to their concerns and helping them to take action, whether that is dealing with their queries and questions, negotiating and bargaining with and for groups of members or representing individuals in formal or informal proceedings.

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Organising collective action

Nothing is more important than winning new members and getting our existing members involved in their union: acting collectively to promote and protect their interests and solve problems at work.

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Union reps and activists need to communicate at all levels in the workplace and beyond: with members, with employers, with service users and the wider community, and with local and national politicians and decision makers.

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Securing recognition in a workplace

Much of the core work of a trade union involves working with employers. Most successful working relationships between unions and employers depend on a clear agreement between the two.

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Become a learning rep or a lifelong learning advisor

UNISON’s union learning representatives (URLs) help other members and colleagues access educational opportunities and move on at work. They have the legal right to take reasonable time off from work to promote workplace learning and development.

If you are interested in education and enjoy helping other people, by becoming a union learning representative you could help encourage your colleagues to return to learning, while expanding your own knowledge and skills at the same time.

UNISON is one of the UK’s largest trade unions, serving more than 1.3 million members. We represent full-time and part-time staff who provide public services, although they may be employed in both the public and private sectors.

We represent members, negotiate and bargain on their behalf, campaign for better working conditions and pay and for public services.