colleagues talking in a group

By Rob Jaques, Professional Officer, Voice

Our most recent membership figures tell us that 34% of Voice’s membership is aged between 18 and 29, and such a dynamic group deserves to have its voice heard.

We’re keen to make sure that we give our young members a voice, both in their workplace and within their union. So, Voice, like many other unions, must work hard to engage, attract and keep young members.

We’re aware of the challenges faced by unions in engaging with young members, and in March, I attended a focus group with colleagues from other unions, including Community, and GFTU, to share some insights into these challenges.

This proved to be a valuable starting point for a project on youth engagement. Over the coming months, fellow Professional Officer Cameron Mitchell and I will be looking at how we can improve our engagement with younger members. This will include, as a starting point, some surveys.

So, if you’re aged between 18 and 29, keep an eye on your inbox!

We all know how important union membership is, and we all have a responsibility to both engage and recruit young members. Often, the best people to support and engage young members are their colleagues who experience the same highs, lows, successes and challenges on a daily basis. It’s down to all of us to make sure the next generation experiences the same support and opportunity as previous generations.

Trade unions, as modern, forward-thinking organisations, have a vital role to play in this, just as they have for hundreds of years, and Voice is no different. As the only union to represent workers from all areas and stages of the education sector, we are uniquely placed to offer a holistic approach to youth engagement in education.

Declining union membership

In his article, ‘Servicing or Organising (or both)?’, in the April/May 2020 Your Voice, Vice President Chris Wilson quoted figures on the decline of union membership:

‘All unions – “professional” or “political”, “moderate” or “militant” – are facing long-term decline. In the late 1970s, trade unions organised more than 50% of all workers. Today, it’s closer to 20%.'

Recent research by the TUC suggests that a decline in youth membership goes some way towards explaining this trend. Trade union membership among young workers (20–29) is 14.1%, falling by almost half to 7.5% in the private sector. It’s important to remember that, according to government statistics (Trade Union Membership, UK 1995- 2019: Statistical Bulletin (pdf), education remains the industry with the highest density (although this is due largely to the public sector). It’s important for us to understand where we fit in this trend.

As we know, 34% per cent of Voice members are aged between 18 and 29. This may look like a very high, healthy figure. However, a large percentage of those members are students or newly qualified, with discounted membership fees. Just 5.8% of our young members are working.

Your ideas

We know that increasing this figure isn’t as simple as just sharing our content on social media so, as a member-led organisation, we want to hear your ideas for engaging young members. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student member, an NQT, or are approaching retirement – your voice matters and we want to hear it!

Contact us

You can contact us using the subject title ‘Youth Engagement’.

Added 20 November 2020: Coronavirus has shown why young workers need unions

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