Fisac CGIL training TOOLBOX

If you cannot go into classroom, classroom comes into your home

Video training TOOLBOX
Video training TOOLBOX

Trade Union carries out its mission in an ever-changing world of work, and workers are a part of this change. Every year there are people who leave for retirement or resignation, but others start work. Trade unionists also have this turnover, so the union is constantly trying to recruit new members.

For this reason my TU every year, when we have a certain number of new trade unionists, organizes a training for recruits that we informally call "Toolbox".

This course is very important because it provides with the basic knowledge for a trade unionist, regarding important trade union issues like company bargaining and labor laws.

It's our presentation, the imprinting we give to new trade unionists and union leaders .

The main goals of the training are the following:

  • to provide the trainees with a collection of information useful for carrying out trade unionist's work.
  • to start building a feeling of belonging and trust between the network of trade unionists and the organization to which they belong, the CGIL (Confederation General Italian Labour).

At the beginning of 2020 I thought of a change of the traditional course by improving a structure and inserting it into a training plan of the Fisac CGIL Rome and Lazio.

In January 2019 I attended the Etui Euro Trainer 1 in Brussels. It was important, inside my path as a trainer, to meet Etui.

First of all I learned how European Union training works, and it was a wonderful experience to meet colleagues from other countries. 

ETT1 training by Etui
ETT1 training by Etui
Fisac CGIL training plan 2020-21
Fisac CGIL training plan 2020-21

The ETT1 experience improved my skills on:

- knowledge of European TU structures and their adult education processes;

- multicultural aspects in the field of trade union training;

- functions and structures of the ETUC and ETUI

- put into practice different methodological approaches used in the training of trade unions;

- present a training session outside my country;

- analyze the skills acquired using the self-assessment tools in order to lead to a process of competences validation.

The training plan was valid for a two-year period 2020-2021 (plan) and it was approved by the secretariat and at present the training plan includes 4 sectors.

The main goals of the training are the following:

  • to provide the trainees with a collection of information useful for carrying out trade unionist's work.
  • to start building a feeling of belonging and trust between the network of trade unionists and the organization to which they belong, the CGIL (Confederation General Italian Labour).
  • Toolbox (6 days) for new trade unionists and the company committee of Fisac (bank and insurance sector) CGIL members;
  • Communication (6 days) for the members of the Fisac CGIL General Assemblies;
  • Role (4 days) for the members of the territorial secretariats and the corporate TU secretariats;
  • Gender (3 days) for women trade unionists, with one day for men

In March 2020 we were overwhelmed by the Covid pandemic, like the whole world. I had to continually postpone the start of the courses until September. Then I broke this delay and decided to start with the first block.

The training course "Toolbox" consists of 6 days, which was held on a monthly basis from October 2020 to April 2021.

This is a routine course, which has been repeated for years in the same way, to give the first training to new trade unionists. During the previous years it was held for two days, sometimes just for one day. The old course was shorter than the new one: the programme of the old course just covered the topics of one day of the new editions. The programme of the new edition of the course is richer than the previous one, has more trade union topics.

The goals of the course ''Toolbox'' are the following:

  • giving the basic preparation to new trade unionists necessary for assistance to workers and members;
  • getting knowledge of the structure of the organization - of the CGIL trade union;
  • learning to deal with the companies

The course programme was divided into six days. The training was held once a month, covering the following topics:

1. Identity and belonging, who we are and how we work in CGIL; (program)

2. The tools of a trade unionist; (program)

3. Disciplinary measures (according to the law in force); (program)

4. The tools for individual protection, the system of services in the CGIL; (program)

5. Work-related stress; (program)

6. The current legislation about health and safety protection and the new Covid-19 safety measure (program)

Toolbox first day program
Toolbox first day program

The learners were all new trade unionists and also one trade unionist who was not new, but asked to participate in this training to refresh his preparation on labour laws. The participants on the whole were 40 women and men aged from 35 to 55, who work in banks, insurance companies and supervisory financial authorities.

At the end of the course everyone had to reach a general preparation on:

  • what the labour laws deal, briefly;
  • know the worker's rights and duties;
  • know our CGIL, the TU we belong to. We want them to feel proud to belong to the CGIL, the largest trade union in Europe

Generally the participants reach the objectives or the most part of them. The assessment of what they achieve isn't only completed at the end of the training, but it is understood by their subsequent work. Sometimes those who realize they have gaps in some subjects they have an opportunity to call teachers. In my experience, over the years they called me even just for advice. Trade unionist's life is not easy ...

This training could not be held in the classroom due to Covid's security restrictions.

Therefore, I decided to transfer the classroom to a video conference mode and began making experiments with this technical tool. I asked the learners to help me to evaluate this digital tool- just from the first day.

They were happy to contribute to this innovation.

The GoToMeeting video conference platform was required by my union and it was also purchased because of internal meetings.

I evaluated several tools like electronic whiteboards, skype, etc., but in the end I decided to choose simple tools to support the lessons. The tools were easy, accessible to all. Nobody was supposed to feel uncomfortable.

The biggest problem I faced at this training comparing to a face-to-face course was the loss of attention due to mental tiredness. The first change I made it was the time and duration of the session. It started at 10 to allowing those who worked from home to arrange their children. It ended at 4 pm, but the last hour was dedicated to letting the students to speak-about the last questions and express their final considerations. I broke my speeches more to check the level of understanding, totally missing the non-verbal feedback.

I reduced the exercises because it was much more complicated to organize them: 

the students had to contact with each other by phone or whatsapp or other platform, in order to work in small groups.

Based on these considerations , the used tools were:

• GoToMeeting online platform;
• Learners were divided into virtual classrooms (maximum 18 people);
• Animated descriptive slides to support the explanation;
• Use of Whatsapp among students, and among students and a teacher;
• Use of emails

Regarding the use of slides. In the real classroom courses I always prepare slides with a very little writing, almost all evocative images. This is useful to prevent the students reading slides while I speak, distracting themselves. Too many writing lines reduce the interaction.

Watching Webinars during the pandemic, however, I found it very boring to hear a speaker talking for a long time from a computer video or, worse still, from a smartphone video. I think that's much more boring than being alive due to a lack of the body language. So, I started to make experiments with the help of using slides with progressive appearance of the sentences, appearances moving line by line, sharing the screen and supporting my speech.

To recreate a classroom atmosphere as much as possible, I asked those participants who had a good connection to keep the video on or at least to turn it on while speaking.

All the days were divided into three parts, each with a specific topic, broken up by a coffee break and a lunch break in. It was organized in the following way:

• 10-11: 30 first part

• 11: 30-11: 45 coffee break

• 11: 45-13: 30 second part

• 13: 30-14: 30 lunch break

• 14: 30-16 third part

On the third and fourth days I invited to speak some guests belonging to the legal department and to the CGIL's individual protection services.

For each training day I created a temporary Whatsapp chat to send meeting link, small videos or documents. It was also a method to communicate quickly. The same tool was used among the learners in small groups when I gave a task for small groups, so they had a video call with each other.

The last day was held on 22th April 2021 with the final evaluation of the course. The evaluations were made by a round table, taking the floor. Learners who didn't feel speaking could send their comments by email.

I feel saying that the experimentation went very well, I didn't lose any students for six months, considering that they weren't obliged to participate in the course as the registration was free.

My analysis about the transformation of such a long and complex course into an on-line - course are the following:

  • the real classroom cannot be replaced by a virtual classroom, human interactions beyond the verbal- and socialization between students are lost;
  • a video course was a necessity in order not to stay still for a long time, and it was very useful for keeping in touch and starting training for the recruitment;
  • it's more difficult for a teacher to grasp the tiredness and all the non-verbal signals that are caught in the real classroom;
  • it was easier for students to get distracted and be disturbed at home by children and other things;
  • it's easier for people to join the training from home by web connection, so participation increases;
  • travel expenses are reduced

This experience, at the end of this effort, was significant for me.

I feel like it was a great experience.I have worked for over 20 years in the IT sector of my bank, therefore I have good IT skills. I am very professional at managing with PC, slides, videos. This experience proved it, because I was able to support the other trainer who was concerned about the technical side.

There were many topics and they were varied, so I had to study a lot myself to be prepared on some topics that I knew only superficially. This increased my knowledge, especially in Italian labor laws field.

Before starting the first day of this long training I was worried because it was the first time I created an online course, and nobody knew how it would be perceived by the students. At the same time, I looked forward to this experiment, because the pandemic could not stop the union work, neither I wanted the pandemic to stop the training.

As the course went on, a month after a month, I felt more self-confident and felt satisfied by the feeling that I established an open, reliable atmosphere with the participants.

I could keep them awake not only making them interested in the topic, but with the help of my voice which is not monotonous. I also created an active learning atmosphere by a vivid communication engaging into the topics.

The biggest problem I had it was not being able to see the students physically. Due to the weakness of the internet connection, almost everyone kept the camera off. To avoid missing the classroom carelessness, I often asked questions to get feedback and see if they were awake and interested. I also asked them, when they wanted to speak, to turn on the video.

A couple of times the audio of some short videos I downloaded didn't play. I solved it by sending the students the video or Youtube link by Whatsapp. This messaging was very useful for quick sharing of material.

I suffered a lot from the lack of face-to-face, because talking to squares on a screen, often only with the name if they kept the video off, is very alienating. I understood that it's more difficult to establish a feeling with the students. In addition, you get very tired in the video course and probably, in the future, I'll close the day at 13:30 by organizing the topics in two days and a half - instead of one full day.

I had a difficulty inventing exercises and group work-, it's my weak point. To reinforce it I'm looking for some examples on the web, and also from studying other courses.

I think that basic preparation of a face to face training contents and an online training contents is the same. What changes is the planning of the course times, which must be shorter and more broken. Furthermore, the supporting material is different, because flipcharts, markers and pens must be replaced with digital writings fit to be shared on a screen.

Students are distracted by the stimuli of the environment in which they find themselves, home or work. A teacher must to keep the students active by giving them the floor more often and asking them for feedback.

Although face-to-face trainings are more effective for active learnings, I believe that even after the pandemic, video courses will continue to be used, at least partially.

In this long year of pandemic people - worked a lot from home - and they - found this- way of learning comfortable- despite the isolation. It is also a cheap tool- and this pleases the union as well as the company. I prefer the real classroom, where you can observe a body language and capture people's mood. However, choosing well which topics to cover, it's possible to deal with some topics in video courses.

For this reason I believe that even after the pandemic, video courses will continue to be used, at least partially. I'll try to refine the preparation of the courses with new techniques, to be studied and tested.

The last day of the course, after six months, was engaging. We said goodbye, me and the students, with the hope of seeing each other soon in the real classroom at the end of this terrible pandemic.

Some slides from the whole program: Toolbox 1   Toolbox 2   Toolbox 3   Toolbox 4   Toolbox 5   Toolbox 6