Tesco Old Swan

Tesco Old Swan, in Liverpool, is a group of five women who demanded the right to learn at work and in succeeding have also helped create a model union learning initiative that has been copied across the retail trade.

When their union, Usdaw, offered help finding basic skills courses at local colleges in 2007, through the Check-out Learning campaign, the five staff at Tesco, Old Swan, instead negotiated space in the store’s training room and had tutors brought in to teach them.

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“We didn’t think it would work,” said Julia Baldwin, their Adult Learners’ Week award nominator and union lifelong learning project worker. “But it did and now we are using it across the sector. It shows that when you listen to the learners you get the best ideas.” The five managed to fit in their ESF-funded learning around shifts and busy lives and have gained qualifications ranging from Entry Level numeracy and literacy to basic Spanish, IT and sign language certificates.

Helen Scahill, one of the five, said: “If I had to go to college I would be nervous working with new people, but I find working with my colleagues they are classmates and you settle a lot easier.” Numerous other Tesco staff have now followed their example and signed-up.