With rigorous health and safety compliance requirements and work in dangerous situations, the construction industry requires employees with well-developed literacy, numeracy and critical thinking skills.
Dominion Constructors General Manager, Robert Gibbes, says: “We’ve got hazards that change every day and if our people aren’t able to read and write, or have communication difficulties, then one they’re not as confident, but two they’re also at risk.”
Dominion found a large number of its employees had underlying literacy, language and numeracy skill gaps that needed to be addressed so that all employees could stay safe, genuinely engage in company growth and fully understand business initiatives.
Dominion introduced an on-site training programme through provider Education Unlimited. The training encompassed a wide range of core skills including health and safety, money management, communication and numeracy.
The provider came on-site four days a week, from 7.00 am to 9.30 am, tailoring the training to individuals, who were put in groups or received one-on-one attention. Tina Rose, Director of Education Unlimited, says the early morning time slot was critical to its success: “I learnt early on that once the work day has started it’s pretty difficult to get people off their jobs and into a training session – in construction terminology, concrete waits for no man!”
“Overall, the results have been amazing,” says Robert. Employees have gained a sense of pride in themselves and are more engaged in their work. “At this year’s prizegiving, you could really see the pride in the employees and their families.”
From the beginning of training employees knew they would work on a project, which they would present to management at the end of the course. These projects brought all the elements of the training together in a practical way. One project saw employees come up with a programme for how they could educate and encourage others to report near misses and try to remove hazards altogether.
“Reporting of near misses is critical on a construction site as it indicates a hazard that could stick around and cause something more serious,” says Robert. “The training was a big part of empowering our guys to solve this real problem.”
“Our company is better off as result of the efforts of the teams that have been educated and empowered to get on and solve business problems,” says Robert. Dominion Constructors’ owner company, Russell Group, was recognised for this successful initiative with the Skills Highway Award for 2014, as well as the MSA Safety Leadership Award for 2014.