PrimaryITO brokers a workplace literacy solution for T&G Ltd.

Working with T&G Limited, a global and domestic distributor and marketer of New Zealand horticultural produce, PrimaryITO is the first cab off the rank to take on the new “brokerage” role for Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).

Part of the Skills Highway programme, the new initiative enables ITOs to broker agreements and connections between employers, the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund, and literacy and numeracy training providers. “Brokerage has helped us crystalise a new way of thinking about our service,” says PrimaryITO’s National Manager - Literacy & Numeracy Mike Styles. “We’ve turned literacy and numeracy upside down - it is now a vehicle of engagement. It is a service we can sell.”

For nearly a year, the PrimaryITO team have been encouraging T&G (Turners & Growers) Global to think about the literacy and numeracy needs of their workforce. Although T&G did not view literacy and numeracy as a major workplace issue, they recognised that some workers were unable to study towards qualifications due to language barriers, or because their jobs did not require qualifications. “The kicker for T&G was when we produced the results of the literacy and numeracy profile. Senior managers were surprised at the low levels,” says Mike. 


One hundred and fifty workers across three of the company’s sites had been assessed by PrimaryITO using the assessment tool. Results were presented by age, gender, ethnicity, and across sites. This profiling supports “people power planning”, says Mike, giving companies a better understanding of their workforce. From the information, T&G could decide who could go straight into qualifications and who would be better to start with a workplace literacy programme before progressing on to qualifications. 

Although it is too early to say whether workers will move on to training agreements, Mike says there was a moment of “serendipitous good fortune” when signing up to training after the literacy programme made sense. “We are building in the expectation that it is a pipeline to move people into training.” Working with companies in this way is an exciting opportunity and an investment in the future. “We need to provide a good service to our clients, and training agreements will fall out as a result of the support, advice and guidance. It’s a new process that will open doors that were previously closed.”

In addition to the literacy and numeracy profiling, PrimaryITO offers wider literacy and numeracy support including assisting companies to apply for TEC’s workplace literacy funding, setting up an internal mentoring system, and offering a dyslexia screening service. The brokerage role offers a new way of working and fits well with the culture and work the PrimaryITO has been doing in literacy and numeracy. “We’ve been involved with literacy and numeracy for some time, and I now have the opportunity to promote what we can do to sector groups,” says Mike. The ITO also has two people in the field providing literacy and numeracy support to large employers. Mike says he can try new things and see how they work out.  Connecting workplaces with literacy programmes is taking the longer-term view, “It is an investment, a mechanism for us to engage with larger players”. 

Go here to view a recent news item where Mike Styles talks about workplace literacy.