North Otago Consortium: Getting employers together

What does it take to get workplace literacy and numeracy training up in running in Oamaru?

                                                            LITERACY NORTH OTAGO

Local employers will say it takes the energy of Helen Jansen, from Literacy North Otago, to corral them all. It also takes employers, who recognise the need and the benefits of training and enable employees to attend programmes during work time.

Helen is passionate about upskilling adult literacy and numeracy and the impact this has at work. Quite simply, good communication – both oral and written – boosts productivity. Helen actively promotes this among a consortium of employers from across the manufacturing, meat processing, infrastructure and waste management industries.

“Businesses in Oamaru are small and there is not a lot of capacity to train,” says Helen. “It can be hard to get the message out about the benefits of developing employees’ skills, especially communication skills.”

But while there are some barriers, Helen is thinking big. She wants Oamaru to become a learning district, where the enormous benefits of upskilling staff become widely known. 

Consortium leader, the Waitaki Resource Recovery Park, holds the fund for the contract with the Tertiary Education Commission. Supervisor, Rob Jordan said they started the programme after recognising the need to upskill workers. “We had one guy whose attendance and timekeeping was hopeless. He now gets to work an hour early, makes eye contact, talks and wants to engage with others,” says Rob. “His time keeping is fantastic. He’s gone on to do his driver’s licence, sets targets for work and meets them. He’s also now the best health and safety person as he looks at the whole picture.”

Rob has notice a general change in the team after literacy and numeracy training. “Everyone is a bit more bubbly,” says Rob. “If morale improves, customer service improves. There’s still a bit of reluctance from some, but absenteeism has improved dramatically. People have pride in their work and want to be part of it.”

Gillies Metaltech is a manufacturer of cast ferrous fittings, valve systems and special purpose pumps. While their workers are technically qualified, the written communication needed work. “The co-ordinators can all do their job, but we wanted them to write better reports – get all the information across,” says Operations Manger, Noel Ward, who says the reports have improved hugely, and co-ordinators are now taking turns to chair meetings, “They have the confidence to do this.”

With funding and support available, and glowing reports from employers, Oamaru could be on the way to becoming the learning district Helen is aiming for.