Work Stories


Student Stories

  • Alan - My journey begins
  • Dennis - My journey so far
  • Kurt - Thank you to my family and adult literacy

Tutor Stories

  • Empowered – Paul MacGregor (Tutor), Literacy Bay of Plenty, Tauranga 

Workplace Stories

  • Click on images below:
The Warehouse Limited (TWL) Sunblade NZ EEO Award - ETEL & Literacy Waitakere  Kaituna Sawmill & Literacy Marlborough, Blenheim  






​Workplace Stories 

Workplace programmes have assisted workers to improve their literacy, numeracy and communication skills for their workplace roles and in their personal lives. Participants increased their understanding of processes in the workplace including decisions and actions impacting on health and safety.

Since completing the programmes, participants have commented on working more confidently in their roles and contributing ideas in team meetings. Participants are now able to calculate percentages and comment that they can assist customers with questions about discounts. Others are helping their children with their homework. 

The Warehouse Limited (TWL) Workplace LLN programme


In 2016, for a third consecutive year, The Warehouse Limited (TWL) Community and Environment Group and Literacy Aotearoa collaborated to provide a 24-hour Workplace Literacy, Language and Numeracy (LLN) programme for TWL staff. The Understanding Words and Numbers programme was delivered to small groups from 23 participating TWL Stores.  A total of 97 Team Members were recruited nationwide with 89 completing the programme. Programme content was tailored to meet the needs and learning styles of participants in order to achieve their learning goals.

Literacy Aotearoa Poupou worked together with TWL Store Leaders (Store Managers, Team Leaders or Supervisors) to discuss potential participants, schedules and suitable venues. The programme was promoted by TWL (through team meetings, brochures/notices/videos that were shared on the TWL facebook site). Team members took part in an initial one-to-one interview with the Poupou programme manager/tutor to identify work and personal goals they hoped to achieve over the 12-week programme. These goals were recorded in an Individualised Learning Plan (ILP). Participants also completed TEC (Tertiary Education Commission) Reading and Numeracy assessments. Results from assessments provided a baseline to enable tracking of learning progress at the end of the programme. In some cases Team Members were assessed against NZQA Unit Standards. Not all participants wanted to complete the Unit Standards. 

The Understanding Words and Numbers programme assisted Team Members to achieve their personal and workplace goals. They enjoyed revising maths problems as applied to store discounts, decimals and fractions as well as practising other basic math principles. They grasped budgeting concepts and applied them in practical ways. As a result they reported becoming quicker and sharper at answering customer queries about discounts on the spot, as well as:  

  • Handling cash transactions more confidently and improving their ability to count back change;
  • Confidently using a feature of the retail management system to price ‘override tickets’;
  • Improved understanding about how to calculate percentages for discounted items.

A number of participants said they can now work out discounts and percentages independently, where previously they had to ask for help.

“Team Members have increased confidence dealing with customers and making decisions at checkouts…”

Team Members also reported improvements in their reading of workplace documents. They could now read information using skimming and scanning techniques, and were better at prioritising ideas and activities.  These improved skills lead to increased confidence for participants, including:

  • Writing applications or business letters as well as notes to their children’s schools. One participant reported being able to write faster without double-checking and hoping that everything was correct. 
  • Ability to transfer thoughts and ideas into written form that make sense and have a positive impact.
  • Recording customer details as a result of improved spelling and punctuation techniques. This has led to participants writing clear handover notes for co-workers to follow up on.
  • In listening, speaking and overall communication skills, participants have improved the way they engage with each other and with information such and Health and Safety documents. 

“My spelling has improved and now I am better with incident forms.” 

Participants now apply reading strategies such as breaking words into syllables (chunking) and clarifying their meaning. This has led to more efficient processes, greater accuracy and fewer misunderstandings. This outcome aligned to the TWL business goals for the programme.

“The whole leadership team is absolutely committed to the programme and can see the benefits from it for our team. We request that we have this programme again and more often”. 
Store Manager

Of significant importance for Team Members was their ability to work through their lack of self-confidence and learn to trust in their own abilities. The communication activities resonated with participants as they worked together practising written and spoken communication.  Despite being shy, one Team Member is now more confident to ask questions about things when feeling unsure, and will now ask management for help when needed, instead of trying to do it alone and possibly getting it wrong.

"I can now help my children with their school work such as fractions and percentages.”


Sunblade Workplace Health & Safety Programme 

Managers at Sunblade New Zealand (Penrose, Auckland) understand the importance of safety in the workplace. They sought to improve employees’ understanding of workplace safety and health. 

A Workplace Literacy Needs Analysis was conducted by Adult Literacy Tamaki Auckland (ALTA) and Literacy Aotearoa in Haratua (May) 2016 to assess the gap between the literacy levels of the workers and the literacy and language demands of their job role as Installers.  

Results from the analysis indicated key areas for improvement, including: speaking up at meetings and understanding Kiwi English; understanding site drawings, abbreviations and acronyms; and contributing to the ideas board.  

ALTA (with support from Literacy Aotearoa National Office) was engaged to develop a 12-week learning programme with Literacy, Language and Numeracy (LLN) objectives. Programme content aimed to improve employees’ knowledge and understanding of work health and safety issues in line with recent changes to the New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Act 2016.

The programme content was finalised following enrolment of five employees* who identified their own specific personal and work goals to achieve in the 24-hour course.

Pre and post assessments using the TEC Learning Progressions* demonstrated LLN gains for all participants. Participants also demonstrated that they had achieved the company’s goal, ‘to be conversant in health and safety’. 

The Sunblade NZ General Manager Ryder Senior commented on some of the gains made, reporting that employees were: “asking questions themselves rather than through a colleague with better English”; “making improvements in the quality of their ideas”; and had “improved confidence in literacy and language for work life”. 

At the same time employees reported learning new skills, gaining better understanding of workplace documents and the health and safety aspects of what is involved in their workplace tasks. They also gained an awareness of how to speak effectively and practised asking questions and summarising main points, as well as ways of contributing ideas and suggestions for identifying hazards while on the job. They felt more confident communicating with others at work and with their own workplace practice.  
The goals of the company and the participants in the Workplace Health and Safety programme were achieved, with improvement in participants’ literacy skills and communication capabilities actively demonstrated and obvious to other personnel at Sunblade. The company has gained further knowledge about the importance of LLN issues and their impact on business. Management have acknowledged the benefits of improved productivity as a result of upskilling employees, as well as meeting legislative requirements. 

*Four participants completed the programme  
*TEC: Tertiary Education Commission Learning Progressions with reading speaking, listening, communicating and writing strands.


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EEO Diversity Awards – Literacy  Waitakere

ETEL and Literacy Waitakere staff 
with MP Hon. Louise Upston at the EEO Awards Night

ETEL - A Workplace Literacy client of Literacy Waitakere – received the ‘Highly Commended’ award for the ‘ETEL Transformation’ workplace Literacy Programme in the Skills Highway section of the 2015 Equal Employment Opportunity Trust Diversity Awards. In 2013, tutors from Literacy Waitakere canvassed businesses in the Rosebank Peninsula, an industrial suburb in Avondale, Auckland. This led to a conversation with Karen Massey, Quality Manager with ETEL (a business that specialises in the design and manufacture of distribution transformers).  ETEL has over 200 employees and is in a growth phase. Karen had already identified language, literacy and communication issues in the workplace and was considering possible solutions. The company acknowledges that they are experts in building transformers but are not experts in education. 

Literacy Waitakere Manager Jane Gilmour and Programme Supervisor Janet Fournier met with ETEL managers, asking the managers to articulate the business outcomes they wanted. These included better communication between supervisors and staff and lower absenteeism. One manager talked about the high ‘re-work’ rate, and lack of worker understanding of quality standards and how it saves the company money to do it right first time. “We have to get them to realise what it means to produce a quality transformer.”

Funding for the programme was initially accessed via the TEC Employer-Led Fund.Workers participated in initial assessment and identified personal and work goals that focussed on communication, literacy and numeracy, understanding kiwi English and helping children with homework. Many did not have the confidence or the language to speak to others in the workplace and had trouble understanding instructions and workplace documents.  At Karen’s request, Janet rewrote a number of Health and Safety documents for the company, to make them more accessible to workers.

Groups were organised in collaboration with the company.  Teams of workers trained together so the impact on work flow was reduced during their absence from the ‘shop floor’, and team cohesion and productivity were improved. 
Jane Gilmour, Literacy Waitakere Manager says, “Karen has been vital to programme success.  She is the literacy champion, she gets them to their session every week, makes sure they go … she is the key person. Without her support it wouldn’t have been such a success.”

Workers have said that they are now confident in reading in the workplace and now understand the information on their payslips including taxes and deductions and percentages. 
They are contributing to team meetings and asking questions. Most workers demonstrated gains on the TEC Assessment Tool.  Some have been promoted to new roles.
The workers’ commitment to the programme and their own learning have been acknowledged during certificate presentations at full staff meetings.  During these presentations workers have impressed their colleagues by talking about their learning. 
The company continues to reflect on the needs of those in their workplace and has committed to using Literacy Waitakere in delivering ongoing specific programmes at their own cost. 


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Literally life-changing - Literacy Marlborough, Blenheim

Workplace roles are increasingly complex with a focus on safety standards and operating procedures.  Some employees struggle with reading critical health and safety memos, as was the case for some workers at the Kaituna Sawmill near Blenheim.  

"There is a certain expectation that when people come to a job they are able to read and write but it just isn't the case. We take it for granted."   Darrell O’Brien, Kaituna Sawmill Site Manager

(photo: Derek Flynn)

Supported by Literacy Marlborough and the mill, the men spent one hour a week learning with a tutor.  The learning that took place has had an impact on the whole workplace, with employees now openly talking about their literacy skills and encouraging others to take part in learning programmes.  

“People feel it's too embarrassing to talk about. Some guys thought they couldn't learn, some thought this was their lot and they were made this way.  If I hadn't learned to read and write I would still be an angry old man.”

Read the full article by Heather Simpson, Marlborough Express   

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