Cargill Enterprise leads the way with literacy and numeracy training

Workplace literacy and numeracy training is helping to make Dunedin’s Cargill Enterprise an even more unique business. But it’s the personal journeys of Cargill employees that hit home.

Set up over 50 years ago, Cargill Enterprise is a business with a social purpose, specialising in timber processing and manufacturing, e-waste decommissioning, food packing and assembly services.

Cargill employs over 80 people who all have disabilities, including learning disabilities, and range from school leavers to retirees. The mother of a 24-year-old says working in Cargill’s food processing division has changed her daughter’s life. “She has a sense of belonging, takes pride in her work and embraces the responsibility that comes with it.”

Each employee has a personal development plan, and for many, this involves reading, writing, and maths. Personal goals include learning to write their own name, use a PC, learn to count, and make a purchase at the $2 shop. "Our desire is that Cargill's is the beginning of people's work journey, not the end. I am constantly looking at what we can do to give our staff members the best chance of moving on to another job,'' says Chief Executive, Geoff Kemp.

Both Kemp and Cargill’s HR manager Heather Wishart grasped the opportunity to be the first business enterprise to apply for Skills Highway funding from the Employer-Led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund. Laura Franklin, from The Good Training Company, says Cargill were delighted that their funding application was accepted, and have been even more delighted with the results. 

There is a new sense of confidence among the 21 employees who have been receiving two hours of face-to-face training each week during work time, and peer support.

The training is having a noticeable impact on the workplace. Geoff Kemp says a priority is to improve people’s quality of life and builds their self-confidence and work skills. When personal goals are met, this brings greater independence and understanding.

Before the training, some didn’t read or write at all and many hadn’t used a computer before - they didn’t know how to use a mouse. One older man, who recently completed the training says he can now read plans on his own, fill out his own forms, and speak up at work. “I love it. I’m learning lots of things. I have learned new words and counting, the computer, and I practice writing every week.” Another man, who is hearing impaired, has learned some sign language and feels he can now interact. And the counting ability of another trainee has improved so much, he could achieve his goal of making an independent purchase at the $2 shop.
Cargill Enterprise takes their commercial viability as seriously as its social responsibility. They have no doubt that the renewed staff morale and competence will make a difference to business performance.
“We have some fantastic relationships with significant businesses such as Air New Zealand, Tuapeka Gold Print and Escea to name a few,” says Geoff. “We take satisfaction in providing top end products and services on time and at competitive commercial rates.”
Cargill are reporting marked improvements in literacy and numeracy skills. Confidence and engagement have increased, with more workers willing to speak up. Health and safety reporting is on the rise, together with the digital literacy, and competence with technology and measuring. Time management and attendance have also significantly improved.
But perhaps the stark difference is the overwhelming sense of pride, most evident when certificates are awarded and milestones met. It means such a lot to achieve something you didn’t previously know you were capable of.  Says one Cargill employee, “I’ve learnt more than I’ve ever done.”