When Downer identified several years ago that around 40 percent of its workforce had literacy and numeracy issues, the company decided to take action.

Knowing that poor literacy would be affecting staff both at work and in their non-working lives, Downer introduced a literacy and numeracy training programme.

Employing around 5000 people across New Zealand, Downer provides services in a wide range of markets including transportation, mining, energy and industrial engineering, utilities, communications and facilities.

Downer kicked off its training back in 2007 with its TeamWorks literacy programme. TeamWorks was offered to 800 team leaders and foremen at 23 regional branches across the country. The business worked with training partner, The Learning Wave, to train Downer’s 11 regional facilitators in foundation skills. This ensured consistency and quality of delivery across all sites.

Over the past eight years, Downer has continued to thoroughly embed literacy and numeracy learning throughout its business.

Downer has reaped huge benefits from the training, including seeing many of its employees achieve higher qualifications. In addition, there has been improved safety, improved employee leadership skills, and increased performance and productivity. Employees now have better maths and writing skills across the board, which helps them more accurately capture and report data need for decision-making.

Janine Wallis Martin, Downer Basic Programme Advisor, says there have been significant positive effects on company culture: “It’s taken us from a culture that sometimes saw people with literacy and numeracy issues as less intelligent, to a culture where we know that everyone has the potential to learn, given a little bit of help.”

Echoing Janine’s sentiment, Fred Craigie, a Supervisor in Downer’s Open Space Management team, highlights the positive impact the training has had on all aspects of employees’ lives: “We’ve seen what it’s done inside and outside of work for a number of people – from career progress to improved family situations.”

Looking to the future, Janine says Downer will continue to focus on literacy and numeracy. “Everything we do, everything we implement now, and any kind of training courses, have literacy and numeracy strategies behind them.”

Downer was recognised for its success with the first Skills Highway Award in 2009.