This new partnership between The Open University and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC ICTU) opened the doors to learning to a quarter of a million trade union members in Northern Ireland.
The new relationship is embodied in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which was signed by both organisations in The MAC, Belfast on Friday, 17 June at 11am. The Memorandum of Understanding was co-signed by ICTU President Brian Campfield and John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University (OU).
The renewed agreement will operate alongside parallel arrangements with the TUCs in England, Scotland and Wales. This MoU is intended as a broad framework document for collaboration. The parties intend to explore the possibility of working together to develop a long-term strategic relationship, initially in the area of widening participation including progression pathways and access provision. The OU and NIC-ICTU do not intend to displace existing arrangements between the OU and individual unions.
The event was officially opened by Trevor Cooper, Director of Higher Education in the new Department for the Economy which sponsors the learning programmes being managed by The Open University and NIC-ICTU.
Welcoming the initiative, ICTU President Brian Campfield said: “We in the trade union movement hope that our partnership with the OU will continue to be as beneficial for the members of our affiliated trade unions as well as delivering the aims of the Northern Ireland Executive to improve the skills and learning capacities of people in work.
“This is in tune with the long stated policy goals of the Executive, to break out of silos and employ joined-up thinking. With The Open University, the trade unions are joining up some of the activity and a lot of the thinking of two arms-length bodies funded by the Department of the Economy with the aim of expanding the scope of the services we offer to our members and the reach of The Open University to workplaces where they could add a real bonus to the lives of workers and the productivity of their enterprises.”
John D’Arcy, National Director of The Open University said: “The Open University is delighted to formally launch its partnership with ICTU. We have been working with ICTU for over ten years, providing access to higher education to trades union members who wish to develop their skills and increase their career opportunities.
We understand the commitment and dedication of students who juggle their career with their studies - around 75% of our students are currently working. That is why part-time higher education that The Open University delivers is crucial to enable individuals to achieve their potential, and even more crucial to meet the upskilling and reskilling priorities of the Department for the Economy. We look forward to doing this further in partnership with ICTU for many more years to come.”