Literacy fund supports North Otago businesses

Literacy North Otago, 16/02/16

Nearly $200,000 will help North Otago businesses improve their health and safety status as well as their productivity by maximising employees’ literacy, numeracy and communication skills. 

The Employer-Led Workplace Literacy fund from the Tertiary Education Commission will also create employment in the region because the service provider, Literacy North Otago will engage a suitably qualified individual to administer and tutor the programme.

The minimum qualification for the position is the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational). 

At present six North Otago businesses are collaborating in the programme. The Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust is the lead business, having received the grant. Literacy North Otago has been contracted to deliver the service. 

Photo: Representatives of the businesses taking part in North Otago’s first Employer-Led Workplace Literacy programme met in Oamaru on Monday 15 February:
from left Mike Southby, McConnell Dowell Constructors Ltd,  Glenn Campbell – Whitestone Contracting, Steve Tavendale, Te Pari, Philip van Zijl -  Director of Waitaki District Libraries, Helen Jansen, manager Literacy North Otago, Geoff Proctor -  General Manager Alliance, Pukeuri, Marian Shore, Manager Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust. Missing: Noel Ward, GM. Gillies Metaltech


“We’re now looking for expressions of interest from other businesses in North Otago who are interested in putting together a second group so that we can apply for more funding in June,” said the manager of Literacy North Otago, Helen Jansen. 

“The Employer-Led Workplace Literacy programme is relevant to every business in the country and while I can only deal with North Otago companies, I’m more than happy to tell business leaders in other regions about the workplace literacy provider in their area.”

Ms Jansen said the aim of the collaboration between local businesses, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment and the Tertiary Education Commission was to educate the managers and the business owners about the importance of workplace literacy. 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 will come into effect in April this year is a response to the Pike River mining tragedy. It places the responsibility for occupational health and safety on everyone in the workplace and there are severe penalties for culpable activities and omissions for employers and employees alike. 

Business owners and managers need to be confident that their employees understand the full content of their required health and safety courses and that they can comply with the requirements for regular written reports.
“At McConnell Dowell, everyone has a See-Say-Do notebook they use to record and report hazards, incidents and other risks,” said Mike Southby, Project Manager of the NOIC irrigation project near Oamaru. “However, any system only works if people engage with it – we find that not everyone communicates the issues, so we’re keen to help them feel more confident to do that.

“Our people are our most important resource and their safety is our number one priority. By giving them the opportunity to develop their communication skills, they can work more safely, improve their effectiveness and productivity on the job, and ultimately, feel more satisfied at work.

“As an employer, it’s our obligation to give our people every opportunity to develop the skills they need to do their job and keep safe while they are doing it. McConnell Dowell already runs a fully accredited private training school and supports the literacy and numeracy strategy to ensure our people go Home Without Harm every day. This collaboration allows us to offer it here on a smaller regional project where we probably otherwise wouldn’t be able to offer it, just on the basis of the number of people we employ here.”

Steve Tavendale of Te Pari Products Ltd said, “The work here can be quite repetitive. We manufacture farm animal handling equipment – cattle yards and crushes, sheep yards and the like. We’ve got 30 staff in the workshop  on a production line so their job might be to cut steel for the day or it might be a simple welding task for two or three days. We try and move the guys around the workshop as much as possible but at the end of the day the work’s got to be done and they work in the areas that they’re skilled at. If they have improved confidence in their communication skills, they can have input into those processes and it might be a better way of doing it. 

“We know we’ve got really good staff here and we can’t always offer them job training so the literacy training gives us the ability to offer them some growth and development. The team at Literacy North Otago - they’re fantastic! I think it’s amazing what they can offer there. I think almost anybody who went along there would find something that they could teach them.” 

Helen Jansen said the tutoring takes place wherever best suits the learner. “The tutor can come to your workplace if that’s appropriate and the programmes can be tailored to suit the employer’s workload and timetable. On the other hand the learner might prefer to come to our rooms at 34 Ribble Street, Oamaru.”

Contact Literacy North Otago