The Labour Exchange celebrates its 'Better Me' graduates

The Better Me training programme has created a better, safer, much more positive working environment for The Labour Exchange as witnessed at a recent graduation ceremony for 20 workers.

“Companies have a business and moral imperative to do this sort of stuff,” says Managing Director, David Devereux. “In tough times we don’t have the resources to train and when things pick up we’re ‘busy as’ and don’t have time to think about it. We need to stop, take stock, rise above the mayhem and think about the values and the vision of the company.”

The Labour Exchange supplies casual labourers, skilled labourers, leading hands, hammer-hands, traffic controllers and gatemen to Auckland’s Construction and Civil Industries. With workers based on sites right across Auckland, planning for the programme had to be well thought out. Having secured funding from the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) workplace literacy fund, Devereux teamed up with Tina Rose, from Education Unlimited

They coined the programme title, wanting a positive connotation: “It’s all about becoming a better person, a ‘better me’”, and began planning how to get the first 20 workers from separate sites to training on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons in the company van. “You brought your whole selves to it,” said Tina Rose to graduates at the ceremony.

The benefits of Better Me are multiple. The knowledge and skills gained by workers were applied to company improvement projects. At graduation, two groups of workers presented their concepts about how to improve Toolbox meetings and staff inductions.

Toolbox meetings could be revolutionised by technology, said the first group, as they presented the case to develop and introduce a new app. “The ‘Good Bastards Toolbox Talk App’ has the ability to revolutionise Toolbox meetings,” said one worker. “Information would come from the Hazard Board that currently staff don’t read. Meeting minutes can also be uploaded into the app and staff can read them and acknowledge that they have.” The app could also be used for equipment-refresher training, and health and safety reporting.

Devereux said he was blown away by the idea. While the group acknowledged further work would need to be done to plan and cost the app project, the seed has been planted.

The second group investigated staff induction and considered how to identify skills and knowledge about specific jobs and sites.  They created the “Good Bastards Checklists for new workers”; job site and employee induction; and revised Toolbox checklist.

Providing relevant and important information and ensuring new workers were safe was their aim. Asking questions saves lives, they said, as does wearing PPE and reading the safety board. “Ticking off” the checklist would make it easy to see what has been done or understood. It would also help supervisors recognise gaps in knowledge or understanding about how sites are run and where things are, such as the first aid box and specialist machinery and equipment.

“It’s a good one and brings transparency,” said Devereux after the presentation. He learned that management were not always getting important information back to the teams on site. “We need to get info back to you quick smart. I’m proud of you guys for doing the programme and having the balls and guts to say when things are not working.”

The HR team at The Labour Exchange has already noticed the difference Better Me has made. “It’s amazing to see the impact it’s had on the boys. Watching them grow and develop over the course of Better Me was awesome.” Caleb Jasmat and Courtenay Hurt-Suwan noted better engagement and communication, increased confidence, better understanding about completing time sheets, improved participation in Toolbox meetings, and more willingness from workers to work more hours.

At the end of the ceremony, Devereux congratulated graduates on having the courage to step up and devote time and energy. “I’ve seen first-hand the confidence they’ve got – it means a lot to me.”

It was time to round of the evening with graduation certificates, gifts of hoodies from The Labour Exchange, beanies from Education Unlimited, and a large roast dinner with families.