2009 Skills Highway Award

The Skills Highway Award was introduced in 2009 with the support of the Department of Labour. The Award celebrates workplaces that successfully tackle literacy and numeracy skills development.

The award is part of the annual Equal Employment Opportunities Trust (EEO Trust) 'Work and Life Awards'.

Downer, the inaugural winner

The inaugural winner of the Skills Highway Award was engineering and infrastructure company, Downer.

Downer winner 2009

Downer representative receives award from Tariana Turia.

The company has 3,300 employees across the country. After achieving good results from a 2007 literacy project for foremen and team leaders, Downer developed a programme for frontline workers.

The result was Way2Work, a 4-day programme developed under the Government's upskilling strategy. It started in June 2008 and will have covered nearly 1,000 employees in 39 locations from Kaitaia to Invercargill by the end of 2009.

More than 70% of those doing Way2Work have no school qualifications, but they earn five safety-related unit standards and can add credits to earn a National Certificate in Civil Infrastructure.

The benefits, says Downer General Manager of HR, Chris Meade, include lower staff turnover and less absenteeism. Workplace safety has improved, with a steady decline in incidents as Way2Work was introduced alongside a dedicated safety training programme.

One employee says, "I have learned to stand back and look at a job before going full tilt into it." Another writes: "I'm trying some of the things I've learnt with my kids. I try to get them to point out some dangerous things around our house and on the roads when we go for walks."

Chris Meade says that although Way2Work costs $1,800 per learner, it makes more than just good business sense. "Empowering a workforce of men and women to get the most from life is a great achievement in any terms," she says. "The human side matters."

Video of Downer’s success

Hear the EEO Trust talk about Downer’s success with literacy and numeracy skills development.

Read the award transcript of 2009 award winner: Downer