Virtual delegate training continues

October 1, 2020

COVID-19 has forced changes to how NZNO conducts its delegate training.

A delegate education review had revealed that members/delegates wanted a “blended” approach to their training – both face-to-face and online. The COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing requirements focused our energies on that virtual delivery in an immediate and constructive way. Given these uncertain times and the fact we don’t know when there might be another disruption to “business as usual”, it makes sense to keep developing our online education, alongside face-to-face delivery.

After the initial set up and development costs, online training is more cost effective than face-to-face delivery as there are no associated travel or accommodation costs. We haven’t yet come across a member without internet access and some kind of device, so the accessibility factor has enormous potential. Members based in areas far from NZNO offices, who may have struggled in the past to access face-to-face education, can easily access sessions online.

Members who are based in areas far from NZNO offices who may have struggled in the past to access face-to-face education, can easily access sessions online.

It’s still early days regarding member engagement – it’s hard to know if a member is having a “lightbulb moment” when you are looking at them down a screen! However, we hope the increased accessibility for more of our members leads to more engagement with NZNO in general.

We would like to stress to our members and their employers that access to union education is a legal right for all union members, not just delegates. This legal right is enshrined in employment relations education leave (EREL). Like other unions, NZNO prioritises delegates for EREL training. However, we would encourage members with a desire to learn more about NZNO, and unions in general, to contact us, as there may be an opportunity to join our introductory Foundations training course.

Some members who come to training are new to NZNO and are unaware of our structure and what the role of the delegate entails and lack an awareness about unions in general. We have recently launched an online pre-training course for members to complete before attending our face-to-face Foundations seminar. The course gives them a fuller understanding of the role of a delegate and how NZNO fits together. Having this knowledge before attending the face-to-face seminar means everyone is on a more level playing field, so we can maximise our time together.

Another benefit of online courses is members can use any electronic device to access and complete them in their own time and revisit the course as many times as they choose.

We are currently developing more generalised member courses, along with specific bargaining courses, which will be accessible through the NZNO website. When a delegate or member has completed a course, this is recorded on our database, so we know who has completed what courses.

It is hard to beat face-to-face delivery of training – just being in the same location together, sharing our stories, our challenges (and kai!), and collectively finding solutions to our workplace issues. But with smaller groups, it is possible to get good interaction and engagement via Zoom. Once members understand they’re expected to contribute, rather than passively watch, things can get reasonably lively! Also, the “breakout room function” in Zoom is the virtual 21st century version of the “discuss in small groups”. These break-out rooms have been successful in encouraging quieter members to open up a little. While it is still relatively early days in our delivery of online education, so far the feedback has been positive.

For ourselves, it is a buzz to learn a new skill. Delivering training via Zoom in some ways feels like “starting over” as an educator and that’s an exciting process. Face-to-face training with a good supplementary dose of online delivery certainly keeps the job interesting.

Face-to-face training will remain our “bread and butter” for training delivery nationwide. But we are in the process of supplementing this with shorter online modules on specific union-related topics. These will range from the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to understanding the bargaining and disciplinary processes.