Founded in 1956, ETEL specialises in the design and manufacture of distribution transformers. In 2010, ETEL recognised some of its employees could be helped with literacy and numeracy training.

Karen Massey, Quality Assurance Manager, says: “Initially I didn’t actually think we had a problem, but after investigating it further it did become clear that some of our people could be helped with literacy and numeracy training, which would also be good for the business.”

Working with Literacy Waitakere, ETEL applied for the Tertiary Education Commission’s Workplace Literacy funding.

In the first year, ETEL put 70 employees through literacy and numeracy training. Five classes were set up, meeting for two hours each week. Five tutors were chosen based on their expertise with the various skills and the sessions addressed computer literacy, reading and writing, and communication.

The first year was a success, with employees receiving certificates at an official prizegiving and top performers being specifically recognised.

In the second and third years, ETEL decided to fund the training itself with some help from Literacy Waitakere. As the years progressed, training became more targeted to employees’ different needs with specific courses for night shift staff, managers, and supervisors.

Karen says the training has been well worth it and reports positive business outcomes such as reduced absenteeism, increased efficiency, more accurate written communication, increased compliance with health and safety requirements and increased reporting of near misses and accidents.

In particular, Karen says: “We noticed a marked increase in efficiency in two of our departments where around 50 percent of staff attended the training.”

Karen has noticed a definite increase in staff engagement. “We’ve seen a big improvement in the results of our staff engagement survey, which is partly down to our people better understanding the questions and being able to give meaningful answers the business can really use.”

“I think our people also really appreciated being invested in in this way. They’re engaged and excited to go to the classes – they just want to go.”

One example of the positive impact of training that sticks in Karen’s mind took place at a half-year presentation. “I couldn’t believe the difference in one of the guys in particular. Having come here from overseas and speaking English as a second language, he used to be really shy, he wouldn’t say ‘boo to a goose’, and here he was now standing up so proudly presenting to an audience.”

Karen says the training has been helpful in employees’ lives outside of work too, in both big and small ways: “One of our guys has been in New Zealand for 20 years, has a Kiwi wife and so on, but he did have some literacy and numeracy needs. He stood up at the prizegiving and said he could now go to Briscoes and work out what the discount would be!”