Educational programme lifts workplace skills and morale
As a tyre shredder at Waste Management, Billy Henry is constantly assessing safety risks throughout the day, and thanks to a workplace literacy and numeracy project called Skills First, he is now more confident in his ability to keep himself and his workers safe.
Henry and his team use heavy, dangerous machinery on a daily basis and need to navigate around large trucks in the yard. His role requires a good grasp on health and safety as well as the protocols and procedures to ensure everyone is kept safe. But this didn’t always come easy to Henry who would sometimes struggle with the written and oral communication aspects of the job.
Henry’s leadership team recognised the support and additional skills he and many of his co-workers could benefit from, and now he is one of more than 150 Waste Management team members to undergo training through Skills First, an award-winning training programme developed in coordination with Upskills, a business with purpose that runs tutor-lead programmes to teach literacy and numeracy in the workplace.
Henry, who is currently undergoing his Skills First training, says, “I never thought I would be where I am today without Upskills. They’ve built my confidence up with learning. Communicating with other people is easier now. I get along better with the other workers.”
The Skills First programme has also had a positive impact on Henry’s family environment “Skills First has helped with my family, we’re happier… I’m spending more time with the kids, talking a bit more. I’m not really much of a reader, but they help me to learn how to read a bit more, which has helped me with my kids.”
Waste Management National Corporate Services and HR Manager Sharon Scott says the programme has been particularly helpful for the high number of Pasifika and migrant employees who have English as a second language and those who may not have completed high school or higher level qualifications.
“We’re an organisation working in a high-risk industry – our drivers and labourers need to understand and act on information we give them to get home safely. Helping our employees with numeracy and literacy skills was a no- brainer for us in terms of mutually benefiting both our employees and the company.”
The programme, which began in 2016, provides 40 hours of training for each participant. In the first year 100 team members took part in the Skills First initiative and a further 75 completed the training in 2017. This year, another 55 staff will go through the programme.
Sarah Balfour, Director and co-founder of Upskills, says, “We have seen so many benefits across the board from this training, with Billy being only one example. It not only improves their performance, saves our clients time and money, but it also empowers individuals both on the job and outside of their work. It’s a great feeling to be building people up and giving them the tools to do their job to the best of their ability.”
Upskills runs tailored educational programmes to deliver high calibre training in the workplace for a range of organisations and businesses, including projects that utilise the Government’s workplace literacy and numeracy fund.