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How one Challenge Champion is helping others

"Managers love it"

Like ULRs across the country, USDAW's Michelle Whitley is helping Home Retail Group staff overcome their mental blocks about maths by taking the National Numeracy Challenge.

"I'm absolutely rubbish at maths - I'm terrified"

USDAW Learning Coordinator, Michelle Whitley, hates maths. It's what makes her the perfect person to become the first National Numeracy Champion for the Home Retail Group call centre in Widnes.

"I'm absolutely rubbish at maths - I'm terrified," she says. "But I've passed all my functional skills tests and know how to brush up whenever I need it and I can tell people about how they can keep revisiting and looking up things they don't understand or struggle with."

Before the Challenge was launched at her workplace, numeracy issues came to the fore only when people approached Michelle because they were in trouble at work.

Staff used to dread coming into work

Customer care staff who needed numeracy skills to help shoppers size curtains or rugs often dreaded coming into work because of the maths part of the job.

But now Michelle has a maths tool with which to support staff in a new way that is comfortable and non-threatening to them. And she doesn't even need a room or learning centre to encourage staff to take the challenge - it can all be done on a laptop or even a smartphone, she points out.

Now Michelle's team of seven ULRs is training to take the message out to the 2,000-plus workers on the Widnes site.

Fewer errors and members gain confidence

Over the last year, retail union USDAW has signed up 22 Challenge Champions like Michelle, to raise awareness through leaflets, posters and social media and help co-workers improve their maths skills through one-to-one and workshop support.

"The National Numeracy Challenge has gone down really well in retail and managers love it," explains USDAW project worker Denise Gordon. "Upskilling the workers kicks off loads of different things; there are fewer errors and members get the confidence to apply internally for better jobs - it's a win-win for all." 

Find out more about Challenge Champions


Original article by Astrid Stubbs, Learning Rep magazine, Autumn 2016. Republished with permission. Read the full article on UnionLearn