Increasing participation of young members

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2018 Higher Education Service Group Conference
21 September 2017

The last general election saw thousands of young people registering to vote for the very first time. Youth engagement with politics led to a change in the political landscape. Subsequent debates amongst MPs has shown them that the issues important to them will be taken up by politicians when there is strength in numbers.

While young people often play central and catalysing roles in movements for democracy around the world they tend not to take part in voting at local and general elections, political party activism or trade unions.

Their involvement in the general election has shown that they are ready for change and ready to be involved in making that change. We need to take advantage of this increased interest to engage them in political activity, in the Trade Union movement and in UNISON. We can also influence young people who are still in education. Branches in Higher Education have an advantage over other service groups as we can develop working relationships with the National Union for Students (NUS) in our university. Together we can encourage today’s students to have greater involvement and participation in local and national politics.

One place to start is by increasing youth voter registration.

The importance of getting young people to participate in the political arena by registering their vote should not be underestimated. Young people in Britain are less likely to vote in elections than their older contemporaries but the turnout at the general election showed that this is changing. We must use this opportunity to engage with students, who are our future colleagues, across UK Universities. Through joint campaigning with NUS and UK Universities we managed to get an increase in the number of students registered to vote before the last general election. We need to build on that so young people continue engaging with the political movements in the UK and start to influence our politicians to create a world they want to live in.

We have to find ways to attract young people to our branches too. We need them to become active in our branches.

The policies pursued by UNISON, and in particular our International work, resonates with young people today. We need to let them know what we are about. We need to get the message out to young people working in universities that we recognise their issues and that they can make a difference if they join us. We need to tell them that they can work alongside us to pursue their campaigns and that we will be on hand to encourage, guide and support them.

We need help to get the message to young workers.

This conference calls on the Higher Education Service Group Executive to:

Seek guidance from Young Members Self Organised Group (SOG) at national level on innovative ways to communicate with young colleagues about the advantages of becoming a member of UNISON.

Develop a recruitment strategy for attracting young workers in Higher Education to become UNISON members.

Encourage branches to campaign alongside National Union of Students (NUS) and other organisations to encourage voter registration enabling students to vote in local and national elections.