#nyee14 – what have we learned?

If you know anything about the CWU and anything about CWUYouth, you will also know that the weekend just gone saw our 13thNational Youth Education Event – the bringing together of over 60 young CWU activists with the senior leadership of the union for two days of intensive education, information and agitation, with the emphasis very definitely on engagement, enthusiasm and entertainment.

So what have we (or, given this is a personal view, I) learned this year?

We’ve learned that young members – and the branches they come from – are as keen as ever to get active. Numbers were slightly up from last year.We had representatives from all four home nations.Three-quarters of them had never been to a national CWU event before. Some had never been to any CWU event before!

We vet learned that, once again,whatour young membershave in common is far more than the geographical, occupational and demographic factors thatseparate them. And the dominant common factor is that they are young trade unionists.

We’ve learned – or been reminded – that given the right support and opportunity, our young members can do incredible things.From “No way, I am I getting up there to speak” to standing at the lectern with belief and confidence.First time speakers, first time chairs, you could almost see people grow before your eyes.

We’ve learned that not everyone wants to be a senior rep, and that’s fine. Many just want to be able to do what they do at a local or workplace level to the best of their ability. But we’ve learned that we can help people do that irrespective of their ambitions.

For a union that has the drive for proportionality at its heart, we’ve learned that weve made progress but we still have a fair way to go.This year there was a clear imbalance between men and women.We were able to compensate by havingall-female hosts for our workshop sessions (a first for us), as well as ensuring that there were no all-male platforms in our plenary sessions. The support of our national President, Beryl Shepherd and head of education Trish Lavelle was invaluable.And the women who did attend were of outstanding ability.

We’ve learned that our young members have an intense interest in and passion for issues that perhaps do not leap out as the obvious ones.Our sessions on Mental Health and Housingwere overwhelmingly popular and animated– so much so that were considering organising one day conferences on these matters.

We learned that there is a positive legacy from the Scottish referendum.Our “Scotland, the UK and CWU after the vote” Question Time produced considered debate. We had the largest ever contingent from Scotland, and every one of them opted for our workshop on Political Engagement and Voter Registration.We also learned that there is a strong sense of “unfinished business” amongst sections of the community.

We learned thatthere is a coming together between the union’s most senior negotiators and our most junior members. Round table sessions on industrial issues saw intense but open discussion. I lost count of how many people – from both categories – emerged saying “That was really good”.

As is the case every year,the challengenow ata national levelisto ensurewe manage the legacy, harness theenthusiasm, fulfilthe potentialfrom theweekend. That is a mandate that each year’s event renews.But we start on this, the latest iteration of it, today. I thinkthat is the onlyfair and proper wayto repaytheenergy andcommitmentouryoung membershave shown us.

If you want to know more aboutthe National Youth Education Event in particular, an excellent video record of NYEE 2013 is on the front page ofour website,www.cwuyouth.org. Our next big event is the 2015 Youth Conference on 24 January in London. And the NYEE 2015 will take place next October/November, in the Midlands.

A big big “thank you”to my colleagues,our guest contributors and CWU sponsors, without whom they NYEE would not be possible. A fuller, formalreport of the event will be available soon.