South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce brokers workplace literacy programmes
Fiona Stevens, the Chamber's Regional Business Partner Manager, has been spreading the word from the Rangitata to the Waitaki Rivers about the Tertiary Education Commission's (TEC) Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund, which provides 25-80 hours of training for workers in any industry.
While the Skills Highway Programme provided a brokerage fee for the Chamber to promote and arrange literacy and numeracy training in workplaces, this was not the driving force.
“With low unemployment and so much business in the region, companies need to retrain their staff to grow their business,” says Fiona. “I talk to them about investing in their own people and training is essential to do this.”Businesses that have invested in this way are already reporting higher productivity, better performance and prouder, safer workplaces – from Carter Holt Harvey to Sanford, NZ Post, Downer, Taylor Preston and many more.
Over a million adults have low literacy and numeracy skills in New Zealand, which can create barriers in work and in life. Literacy and numeracy training helps develop their communication skills and understanding of the job, which includes learning about health and safety.
“This has been huge for other companies,” says Skills Highway Programme Manager, Nicky Murray. “We get numerous reports from employers who talk about changes in the way people think about, report on, and speak up about health and safety incidents and hazards. Growing confidence sees them communicating more effectively and efficiently about these things.”
Fiona takes a proactive approach by contacting businesses directly to talk about how to access the funding, and which of the training programmes would work best with their business. She follows this up with a visit, and takes along a training provider to talk through the programmes in more detail. Fiona is working with Literacy North Otago, who have been running workplace training programmes in their region. They will then refer through to Literacy South Canterbury as tutors become available.
Fiona pitches the training as empowering workers and contributing to business outcomes. The Chamber’s work is starting to gain traction. Recently Fiona had a call from a large company wanting to know more about how to get a training programme underway. “Success would be businesses knocking on our door to put a programme in places,” say Fiona. Well, if that is the case it looks like success is starting to happen.