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GMB National Lifelong Learning


GMB's core purpose is that every member should have the opportunity to discover and develop their talents and that is why having members accessing lifelong learning is part of their membership benefits.

Historically the founder of GMB, Will Thorne was assisted by his colleague and GMB's co-founder Eleanor Marx to improve his reading and writing more than a century ago.

From the very first the union took education seriously. It contested elections for School Boards - to get working people involved in education - even before it fought council and parliamentary elections. It ran night schools for Gas Workers who came to the class room straight from the furnaces, after 12 and 18 18 hour shifts; and it sponsored Socialist Sunday Schools for their children. The union taught its members the skills and the ideas they needed.

If Thorne was the first beneficiary, then hundreds of thousands of others have been helped with the insights and techniques needed to improve their own lives and to build the union, itself. Today, this need is as vital - and as liberating - as it ever was.

GMB is acting to bring it into the modern age, to inform and shape our 21st century union. This webpage is dedicated to making education available to each and every GMB member in all 9 regions.

Welcome to the National Lifelong Learning Funding offer page. The Ruskin College Offer and the GMB National Lifelong Learning Offer is available to all members of the GMB irrespective of where their regional membership is situated. 

If you are viewing this page and you are a Yorkshire & North Derbyshire Regional member please click the link below and it will take you to your own regional learning fund:

For more information about GMB’s Lifelong Learning Offer please contact

The education of GMB members is a building block of workplace organisation. As such, it is not a luxury but a necessity for a healthy, thriving union. Lifelong learning for GMB is a core GMB business.

National Lifelong Learning Committee Members Details

GMB Congress 2015 motion 74 which was passed by the delegates in attendance required the GMB union to create a national lifelong learning committee to develop strategies so that Lifelong Learning became a member’s benefit as part of their subscriptions. So on 1 August 2016 the first meeting took place at National office and 9 delegates were elected from within their regions to attend and carry out a 2 year term of office.

The regional delegate’s names are as follows:

David Wallace, Chair - Yorkshire & North Derbyshire Region

Melanie Bartlett, Deputy Chair - London Region

Mike Wilson – Wales & South West Region

Agnieska Zamonski – Southern Region

Kevin Flanagan – North West & Irish Region

Joanne Hepworth – Northern Region

Tommy Breslin – Scotland Region

Gilda Richards – Birmingham Region

Philip Soper – Midlands & East Coast Region

Motion 61 was agreed at Congress 2016 and now forms a significant part of the agenda for the committee to act and deliver on. You can view both motion 74 and motion 61 below.

Educational Discounts for GMB Members

Birkbeck, University of London

Birkbeck, London’s part-time evening university, offers 10% off all accredited Birkbeck courses (certificates, undergraduate and postgraduate) for union members as long as the course of study is at a level that is not lower than or equivalent to any existing qualifications already held. You can view their prospectus here and download an application form here. Forms must be signed by your Union Learning Rep or your region’s Education Officer.

The National Extension College

The NEC offers a 10% discount on the cost of their courses. NEC is a pioneering distance learning provider which can offer anything from GCSE’s to childcare courses. To find out what courses are on offer please click here.

University of Wolverhampton

University of Wolverhampton offers a 10% discount on tuition fees to new students who are full members of a union affiliated to the TUC (Unionlearn fee discount Terms and Conditions). Their prospectus can be found here.

The Open University 

The Open University offers free courses to all workers resident in England with a household income of less than £25,000. Links to the courses available can be found in this webpage.

Ruskin College

The GMB Ruskin Scholarship Fund is aimed at members who wish to pursue a course of higher education with Ruskin College. GMB members who become students will be supported with a one year award of up to £1000 to help offset against some of the costs of participating in a course of study with Ruskin. Applications for studies related to the trade union movement are especially favorable, especially Ruskin College’s BA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies or their MA in Global Labour and Social Change.

You can find their prospectus here, find out if you’re eligible here and download an application form here.

Ruskin College also has a limited amount of scholarships available for trade union members. Further details can be obtained by calling 01865 759600 or emailing Your region can also help you apply for a scholarship, please get in touch with them for further details of application (details here).

General trade union education is offered at the college too, and accredited by the TUC. Most courses are already offered by GMB as part of rep training, but Ruskin College also offers courses in employment law which are completely free to GMB members. You can find more information here. Accredited union and safety representatives have a legal right to reasonable time off with pay to attend courses approved by the TUC or their union.

TUC Courses

TUC offer courses across the country through UnionLearn. To find out which course are available in your region, please click here. Theses are all free for postholders.

TUC also offers bursaries for those wishing to undertake education related to industrial relations. The TUC Educational Trust can provide bursaries for the Keele Certificate in Industrial Relations and for a range of part-time industrial relations postgraduate courses. The Trust also offers two bursaries of £800 each to enable trade union members to visit a European Union country to study an aspect of trade unionism, industrial relations, training or employment. Full details of bursaries and the courses they can be used for can be found here.

For details of TUC courses that are available online contact Craig Hawkins on 020 7079 6947 or email

Members Lifelong Learning Case Study Area

Welcome to the lifelong learning case study area, in this section of this web page you will find inspirational examples of GMB members who have benefited as part of their membership subscriptions through the vehicle of lifelong learning and have chosen to share their stories through this area; so as to encourage members to undertake lifelong learning through their GMB membership and to send a message to none members of the GMB of what they are messing out of by not been in the GMB union.


*Tamer El-Hariry, GMB Union Learning Representative – Midlands & East Coast Region*

Why did you decide to become a ULR?

Initially I wanted to further develop myself. As a union member I realised the Union could offer help to gain new skills. I started with basic English and Maths courses made available to me by the GMB. Through those courses I learnt about further learning that was available to me and the ULR role. I felt that the ULR role offered transferable skills- skills for life that I could take with me to a different role within Nottingham City Homes or further.

What is one of the most positive things about being a ULR?

Helping members access training to learn lifelong skills is really rewarding. I am more up to date and aware about learning opportunities for both myself and members. I’ve developed skills to help identify members learning needs, learned new ways to negotiate and arrange time off on their behalf which is rewarding. Because of the role I am more easily able to keep up to date on funding available to pay for training.

What is one of the most positive things about being a ULR?

Helping members access training to learn lifelong skills is really rewarding. I am more up to date and aware about learning opportunities for both myself and members. I’ve developed skills to help identify members learning needs, learned new ways to negotiate and arrange time off on their behalf which is rewarding. Because of the role I am more easily able to keep up to date on funding available to pay for training.

In your experience, how have you seen learning benefits our members?

My years of experience as a ULR has taught me that accessing training and education through UnionLearn has helped members keep up with the development of new technologies (such as IT Computer skills) within their workplaces.  Being taught new skills has been useful during restructuring exercises – allowing members to more easily transition across into new roles.  It also offers transferable skills for members who for example; have been affected by ill health and had to change roles from shop floor to the office as a result. I have also seen those from disadvantaged backgrounds upskill with the Union’s support and further develop their careers and employability as a result.


*Jaroslaw Frejer. GMB Southern W15 Branch*

How did GMB support you?

I noticed a poster at work advertising English classes. I contacted the GMB Project Worker, we got a group of learners together and she set up a learning circle for us, where we learnt basic English. After that the GMB organised an English language course for us at a local college in Trowbridge.

Would you have been able to undertake this learning without the support of the GMB?

No, because I did not know how to access courses or that there were free learning opportunities available. Language was also a barrier for me.

How has adult learning impacted on your life?

Before I had to ask friends to interpret for me or translate documents. I am now able to converse with my landlord, call my local council, order my car insurance or a drink in a café.

What would you say to other people to encourage them to take up adult learning?

If my English was better, I would be able to gain higher level qualifications, get a promotion at work or even change jobs, understand my rights or integrate better with my local community. It is important to gain new skills and constantly improve yourself. I would not have been able to have the confidence to learn new things without making the first step by attending my English classes, all thanks to the GMB Southern Region. 

*Andrew Wilburn – R55 Branch.*

“I have been a member of the GMB for a number of years and had worked for the same employer for 27 years, when I was issued with my redundancy notice. Having nowhere to turn, knowing that independently I was not confident to apply for jobs as I needed aid with my CV and Qualifications, I turned to my union, GMB.”

“When I contacted my Union, I was put in touch with a member of the Productive Learning Project, Sarah Barnes, who helped me rebuild my CV, and discover what qualifications I would need to gain further employment.”

“I was given aid to applying for my Branches’ Learning Fund, the Regional Learning Fund and the National learning fund. All of which has given me the opportunity to gain my CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) Telehandling Qualification and find another job.”

“Redundancy felt like the end for me after being a loyal employee of 27 years, but it was not the end. My Union picked me up and helped me rebuild my working life. I would like to thank the GMB, in particular my Branch – R55 for everything they have helped me achieve.”

*Tommy Breslin, Tax Driver, Dundee*

Dundee City Council announced in May 2015 that by the end of May 2017 every Taxi Driver in Dundee must have an approved SQA Level 2 Certificate or equivalent in Taxi Driving. They had no plans to put a course on or be involved in the creation of the courses, it would be left to the trade to sort it out.

With over 1200 registered taxi drivers in Dundee that was a large amount of people to put through training.

GMB had only just started a taxi branch in Dundee when this was announced, we had members that faced uncertainty about how they would achieve the qualification and therefore carry on working.
GMB researched different methods of supporting our members in gaining the qualification, we also aimed to support non-union drivers in the area. Unite also represent the trade but between us there was over 1000 drivers not in either union.
Some Taxi firms looked at organising courses but with the aim of making a profit at the expensive of the workers. Dundee & Angus College also looked at delivering the course but again this was expensive for some drivers, many of whom worked part time.

Through Scottish Union Learning, GMB had secured a Learning Fund allocation. GMB utilised this to support the delivery of SQA accredited courses for a number of the drivers. Dundee & Angus College delivered the courses. As the courses were supported by GMB and funded through the Learning Fund, there was no cost to the attendees, other than time.
Locally, GMB had feedback from our members that Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 2:30 would be the best time for course delivery, this would avoid peak working times for the drivers. GMB ensured that the college would accommodate these hours.

The courses were delivered at a Dundee & Angus College campus and covered taxi law, customer service and support for passengers that require assistance.

GMB led the delivery of six courses and subsequently recruited 88 new members. As many of the learners hadn’t undertaken formal learning in many years, GMB organised additional learning support. All GMB members successfully gained the qualification and are therefore, still able to work as Taxi Drivers in the area. 

With so many new members and focussed reps, this was a worthwhile project as GMB supported members to gain a qualification which is now mandatory. The model of support and delivery which GMB organised, ensured the drivers were and are able to continue their employment without being exploited by one of the local taxi firms.


*Adam Serafin, Bristol Health NHS*

Question 1: Please explain as a member of the GMB, how receiving GMB funding has enabled you to progress as a member?

Funding enabled me to progress with my course of study. Improving my own knowledge and helping with my understanding of barriers at work and the effective support team of colleagues around me.

Question 2: Did you find the application process easy to follow and added value to your GMB membership

Yes it was very easy, friendly and a professional process of application.

Question 3: In your own words, please can you tell us your general thoughts of the GMB National Lifelong Learning Fund

Amazing service. It gave me great support in difficult times.

Question 4: Please let us know any additional comments that you would like to make with regards to your experience of the GMB National Lifelong Learning Fund, any support regionally or any support from your branch that you may well have received?

I have been a union member for a few years. This is the first time I have applied for any support from the union. I have received the best support and I am proud to be a member. Thank you



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Additional Resources

GMB Ruskin Scholarship Fund

download pdf120Kb (pdf) - 20 June 2016

Further information on the fund

GMB Ruskin College Scholarship Fund

download pdf355Kb (pdf) - 23 June 2016

Application Form

GMB Members National Lifelong Learning Fund about

download docx35Kb (docx) - 27 October 2016

Information on GMB's National Lifelong Learning fund

GMB National Lifelong Learning Fund Application Form

download docx127Kb (docx) - 27 October 2016

Application form for GMB National Lifelong Learning Fund


download pdf262Kb (pdf) - 10 November 2016



download pdf107Kb (pdf) - 10 November 2016