Real-life scenarios pave the way to increased confidence

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

A recent graduation was a chance for steel processing and distribution company Steel & Tube to acknowledge the achievements of 12 staff members who completed a workplace literacy and numeracy course. This was funded by the Tertiary Education Commission via the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund.

Steel and tube graduation July 2020.

The learners persevered to successfully complete seven months of training, despite the programme being put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As a result of the course, each of the learners have grown in confidence at work, within their families and in their communities.

Hear from the learners in this video:

Meeting a need

Steel & Tube were looking to lift the capability of their team, so they worked with learning provider Edvance to plan two bespoke workplace literacy and numeracy programmes, run concurrently with general staff and team leaders.

The programme aimed to:

enhance everyone’s understanding of their role in maintaining workplace health and safety;
improve understanding of workplace documentation;
improve communication with clients and within the team, and
lift problem-solving and leadership skills.

Delivering the programme

All session content and documentation was directly related to actual workplace situations and issues. This made the learning relevant and immediately applicable. The training brought together members from different teams and they enjoyed learning about the different areas and exchanging ideas to support each other.

“There was humour and lots of laughter, creating a great learning atmosphere,” commented Edvance tutor Edna.

Throughout the programme, especially through the COVID-19 disruptions, the support and commitment of management to the programmes’ continuance was crucial.


At the graduation, learners shared personal reflections. Key themes that emerged were leadership, cultural diversity, communication, improved English language skills and opportunities.

Steel & Tube’s chief executive and human resources manager attended the graduation and were encouraged by these stories of achievement.

In their feedback 100% of the learners said they had achieved both their personal and the programme goals. They believed they were better equipped to motivate their teams and solve problems and communicate well with their teams.

“Edvance were open to any adaptions required that covered both the professional and personal growth of learners. The programme content was relevant and included real life scenarios. The supervisors have been implementing what they have learned which is great to see. There has been growth in confidence and great awareness around health and safety within the team.

“Both the CEO & general manager were quite impressed with the speeches and all the learning that took place. We would definitely recommend the programme as we are able to see the value the programme has added and the long-term benefits.” – Manager, Steel & Tube.

The training has been so successful that a new programme has already been launched at the Hamilton site and more are planned for Auckland.

An amended version of this case study was first published by Edvance.

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Bespoke training leads to personal growth at HEB Construction

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

HEB Construction worked with training provider Upskills to successfully increase staff literacy, numeracy and communication skills.

Upskills consultancy developed a tailored training course for HEB Construction (HEB) employees to help solve literacy and numeracy issues in the workplace.

“Along with meeting the required outcomes, an additional result was that teamwork and communication among staff members increased phenomenally,” says Lesley Southwick, HEB learning and development manager.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) provided funding for the course.

Getting funding

HEB Construction is a construction and infrastructure company with over 1,000 staff. They design and build infrastructure projects across New Zealand.

Communications training provider Upskills were asked to develop an employer-led workplace literacy and numeracy programme by HEB’s learning and development manager.

Upskills analysed HEB’s requirements and obtained funding for the course through the TEC’s Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund for employers.

Designing the training

Upskills worked with HEB management to develop an action plan and prepare a training course. HEB wanted training for staff members who had learning difficulties or needed extra help with communication. Staff were surveyed and their abilities assessed.

The training was designed to deliver the following outcomes for staff:

  • better understanding of health and safety guidelines
  • increased opportunities for apprenticeships in trades and concrete construction
  • more confidence and success in their jobs and training.

Delivering the training

Upskills delivered the bespoke Safer People Communication course to 60 staff members in HEB branches across the country. Tutors worked with small groups organised by literacy levels determined by the TEC literacy and numeracy adult assessment tool.

Each staff member had one-on-one conversations with tutors to develop their individual learning plans.

Group sessions focused on personal career goals and values discussions along with team building exercises. The delivery of the training involved work-related problem solving exercises where team members interacted with each other and the tutor.

Positive impacts of the training

By improving literacy, numeracy and communication skills in the workplace, HEB have seen a positive growth in staff confidence, apprenticeship participation and achievement, and an increase in teamwork and communication.

“Better comprehension of health and safety documents makes the workplace a safer place for all employees. The measuring and speaking skills learned will allow these staff to pass on knowledge and skills to others in their teams,” says Lesley.

Upskills director Holly Patterson says Safer People has had real impact in different parts of the business. “The managers have been blown away by the innovation from these men and the empowerment that it’s meant for them,” says Holly. “Participants have grown in their confidence to put forward ideas and put themselves out there.”

More staff are taking up apprenticeship training via industry training organisation Connexis, assisted by the Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF).

The course exceeded expectations and definitely increased staff confidence and ability in the workplace.

Where to next?

HEB are planning refresher courses for ongoing staff support and team building. Staff members who need additional support are encouraged to use resources such as Pathways Awarua, which supports adult learners to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

About Skills Highway

Skills Highway is an opportunity for employers to work with learning providers to provide bespoke training courses for their employees that address literacy and numeracy issues in the workforce.

HEB were highly commended in the Innovation category of the 2019 Skills Highway Champion Awards and were a finalist in the Skills Highway category at the 2020 Diversity Awards.

Visit the Skills Highway website to see if a workplace literacy and numeracy course could benefit your business.

Find out more

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The Gatekeeper – Jimmy Rogers

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

When Jimmy left his whanau and home in Kaikohe to work at the Wynyard Edge Alliance (WEA) on the 36th America’s Cup construction site in Auckland, his life headed in a stronger direction. Despite leaving his wife, daughter and mokopuna behind in Northland, he has never felt so positive and on the right track.

The WEA ‘My Edge’ Core Skills Tuesday group. From left JP (Jason Pakura), Jimmy Rogers, Heather Jeffrey, Ngarangi Gemmell and Ofira (Fila).

Jimmy, who is the Gate Keeper on Gate 4 at WEA’s construction site at Hamer Street, on Auckland’s Wynyard Point, and 10 of his colleagues have just completed the My Edge education course. Seven of them have gained the ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’ edubit qualification – a qualification that will help Jimmy with future employment opportunities.

Jimmy says before his brother suggested he came down to Auckland, to work with contract labour hire company National Personnel Ltd (NPL) for WEA, he hadn’t worked for more than 13 years and was going down a negative path.

“I had been angry for 30 years , ever since my two best mates were killed by a drunk driver and I was left physically and mentally scarred.”

Jimmy explains that while he survived, he struggled to deal with the loss. For years, he would drive past the cemetery where his ‘bros’ were buried, and he would talk to them as he drove by. It took him to such a dark and angry place that his mother finally had to intervene and she told him enough was enough.

Not long after the dressing down by his mother, he went to Auckland and started working at WEA and in his own words, he started to mellow.

Like his brother, he has ended up proudly working for WEA. As part of the team, Jimmy says he feels a true sense of belonging and purpose. He is the one who tells people where to go, and how to keep safe – including the bosses.

Little did anyone know, about eight months after he started the job, everything would come to a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the alert level four restrictions.

Jimmy was sent back to Northland by his bosses to spend the lockdown period with his family. All construction ceased, and Auckland’s Viaduct became a ghost town, until work could start again at level three.

While Jimmy was spending some quality time with his whanau, he was looking forward to the lockdown being lifted and getting back to work. He was also looking forward to his graduation of the My Edge course, which had been postponed.

The purpose of My Edge course, delivered by Education Unlimited (EU), was to instill respect, understanding and an acknowledgement for the importance of health and safety on site, amongst teams, and to relate it to each participant’s role.

Health and safety was a big part of Jimmy’s presentation at the end of the My Edge course. His key focus was to get better walkways around the site so people can keep safe wherever they go.

My Edge also helped build self-worth and boost self-esteem and confidence in each and every one of the people who participated.

Eleven people completed the 25-hour training programme, seven of which have been awarded the micro credential edubit ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’. Training was held at the construction site in two groups, once a week from 6.30 to 9am with breakfast provided by the Alliance partners.

The Level 1, 5 credit edubit formally recognises people’s increased ability to complete critical health and safety documents; speak up with confidence at toolbox meetings and in their own personal worlds; and to understand and talk about the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015).

Jimmy stressed how much more confident he feels to speak up at toolbox meetings as a result of the course. He wants to progress this newfound confidence one day by talking on the marae back home. He has never really been afraid to make himself known, but it’s what he has to say that matters to him now.

His younger brother is one of the main kaikōrero (orators) at the marae in Omanaia where Jimmy’s mother’s side of the family come from. Now, Jimmy is preparing to step up and become more involved.

Jimmy’s whanau is very special to him and it has been hard being away for so long. However, at this point in time, Auckland is where the work is. He goes home every third weekend and says that his bosses are pretty much pushing him in to the car at 2pm because he is “starting to get grumpy”.

Jimmy says he feels a huge sense of pride in completing the My Edge course and gaining the ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’ edubit qualification. He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course to others, and if there is an opportunity to enrol on another course, he will definitely ‘jump on’.

What Jimmy really want to stress to is that these programmes (and qualifications) offer so much more than just new tools and skills for the people learning. The knowledge gained can be shared so many times over with whanau, friends and other workmates.

Some of his Jimmy’s workmates from the Pacific Islands participated in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) version of the course. Jimmy is stoked that they had done the course, because now they can better understand what he is saying. According to Jimmy, this is great for everyday conversations, and just as importantly, for everyone’s safety.

Written by Nikki Simmons, on behalf of Education Unlimited, with input from Tina Rose.

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Onyx Capital Ltd – committed to growing staff in Whangarei

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Kiwifruit and berries are the lifeblood of Whangarei’s Onyx Capital Ltd. And staff are also blossoming at the family-owned business, which employs 60 year-round staff and reaches about 170 workers at peak season.

Onyx owners, the Malley family, are committed to employing and upskilling local kiwis. Training, they say, is the key to keeping employees in the team, together with encouraging career progression into supervisory and management roles. Onyx offers a number of employee training programmes – from core skills, to emerging and developing leaders. Education Unlimited delivers these programmes, which are funded through the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund.

Tina Rose, Director of Education Unlimited, says tailoring the programmes to individual needs is essential for people to connect and engage with learning. “The progamme helped some to get a learner’s licence, move to their restricted or have the confidence and capability to get a full licence,” she said. A couple of trainees had dyslexia challenges, so a specialist tutor assisted them with reading and understanding of workplace documents. The leadership programme focuses on workplace policies; dealing with difficult conversations; the difference between being in the team and leading a team; and effective communication.

Onyx HR Manager, Michelle Clayton, says the career development approach is a real boost for employees. “The company identified a need to develop our existing employees to be the future Supervisors, QCs and specialists, so we worked on creating clear career pathways. We started the programmes as we wanted to develop them. We wanted them to come to work, feel valued, understand about health and safety and our expectations of what ‘being a good employee’ actually means.

Michelle says there is a misconception that orchard work is unskilled, but it includes computerised growing and highly technical machinery use, through to managing Health and Safety and food safety in a modern packhouse.

The core skills that underpin productive working, such as being reliable, being healthy, organised and having a positive team attitude in the orchard are a training focus. Workers are also encouraged to understand conflict resolution, active listening, and are developing the skills and confidence to enable conversations with management.

“For orchard workers on a management trajectory, it can be challenging to change from working in a team one day to the next day leading a team as their supervisor or QC!” says Michelle. “The Developing Leaders’ course challenges participants to grapple with aspects of leadership, including conflict resolution, understanding workplace policies, and motivating teams to achieve set targets.”

Michelle says employees who are keen to advance on to supervisory or management roles know the training will teach them how to improve their performance and drive their teams. “They develop the skills and knowledge to participate in management meetings, and they understand the impact of workers performance on the business and its productivity.”

The training brings workers from different parts of the business together – they get to know each other and learn the different aspects of the business. However, fitting the training into the busy working day has been a challenge. Onyx worked around this by paying workers to attend training sessions at the end of the day and by providing them with dinner.

And the benefits to the business? Michelle says there is a noticeable change to how people are working. Workers have blossomed as a result of the Core Skills programme, they feel valued and invested in. “And those in the management programmes are more confident when dealing with the next level up – it’s great to see them now contributing in meetings They share their ideas, can challenge in an appropriate way. They are much better at identifying issues, developing solutions and being able to deal with any performance issues.”

In general, employees are more aware of the expectations and standards of the company, says Michelle. “The Malleys have strong family values. People know what is expected, and it’s fair. The employees value the culture of the workplace – and understand being a good productive worker is so much more than just having great skills. It’s being a participating member of the team.”

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Connecting cultures, growing businesses with English Language Partners NZ

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

“Productive businesses need staff who can communicate confidently in English,” says English Language Partners (ELPNZ) Chief Executive, Nicola Sutton. “Communication is the key to understanding instructions, engaging with colleagues and customers, and reducing workplace accidents.”

ELPNZ provides English language training for New Zealand migrants and refugees. The 22 ELPNZ centres across the country provide training programmes in homes, communities and workplaces. English language training for our multicultural workforce is a growing focus.

Migrants from all over the world are contributing to every industry, and employers are seeing the benefits of supporting their staff through ELPNZ programmes. Training is tailored for specific businesses, and the results are universally positive – more confident, engaged staff and more efficient, productive workplaces.

Korean born, Auckland-based building apprentice Joseph Lee says his ELPNZ course has made a huge difference. “I couldn’t speak English very well. I really wanted to learn, but I couldn’t get much of a chance. I have to work and I have a family. I needed money.”

Joseph attended a weekly course, designed in partnership with Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) and ELPNZ, tailored for building apprentices, who were mainly from China, Taiwan and Korea.

James Langford, from BCITO, says they are looking into working with ELPNZ on future projects. “I think just talking in English in the classroom has given the apprentices confidence.” He says previously they were scared to make a mistake, “but now they’re prepared to stick their neck out and say what they think.”

Joseph says he is now much more confident at work, as he learned all about building terminology. “I recommend the course, as long as they really want to speak English and to be a New Zealander. If they are eager to learn. My boss is happy.”

David Phillips, from Palmerston North’s Steelfort Engineering, sponsored employee Sudhi Edamuttath Subramanyan on a 10-week ELPNZ course, and noticed a marked difference. “It is an investment because ultimately, we will benefit too,” says David. “We wanted to give him every opportunity to succeed.”

Sudhi says he appreciates having an encouraging work environment and being supported ‘as a human being’. “I love it there.”

While Sudhi had four years’ experience as a welder in Kerala, South India, he had no qualification to help him get a job. Sudhi has now completed a welding course with the support of Steelfort Engineering. “I was very shy when I started, but now I try to speak English as much as I can, and I am not afraid to ask questions,” says Sudhi. “I am now a team leader.”

Justin Dado is also a team leader, of the housekeeping team at Auckland’s YMCA, which comprises five different nationalities and deals with visitors from all corners of the globe. “You’ve really got to get in there,” says Justin. “People are people. It doesn’t matter where they are from. You just need to engage, and doing that will reveal just how much we are all alike.”

When Justin first moved to Auckland, he was struck by its cultural diversity. “Growing up in the Philippines, I only ever had to live, learn and grow with Filipino culture, without worrying too much about how other cultures operated,” says Justin. “Auckland was a big change. The fact that so many people co-existed in the same place completely boggled my mind.”

Together with advancing English skills, ELPNZ programmes involve broader cultural learning about working in New Zealand. The YMCA housekeeping team attended a tailor-made ELPNZ course once a week over eight weeks, which addressed the norms of kiwi work and hospitality culture, and identified similar and differing values that staff members had. “In Filipino work culture, you are there to serve the customer,” says Justin. “You are not really expected to engage beyond that. However, here there is more of an expectation of friendly interaction.”

ELPNZ Auckland Central manager, Eve Price, says for a lot of the staff, practising small talk was quite a daunting exercise. “Engaging with people didn’t come quite as easily as it might for Kiwis.”
Paul Brockie, owner of Nelson insulation company Absolute Energy, would agree. Having supported five Burmese (Myanmar Chin) staff through ELPNZ training in Nelson, he says communicating with customers is the most important thing. “They learn how to relate to people in a New Zealand culture; to not be shy when you meet someone new,” says Paul, who is delighted at the results of the ELPNZ course, which was two hours a week over four months. “They have had a really tough life so every opportunity they have to better themselves, they take.”

Installation installer, Johnsy Johnsy, can now confidently greet homeowners in English. “I introduce myself with my name and my partner’s name. I say ‘We’re from Absolute Energy and we’ve come to install your insulation. It’s good for me. I’m better than before,” says Johnsy, who has settled in Nelson with his wife and two-year-old daughter. “Even when people talk fast now, I can understand.”

Johnsy’s partner on installation jobs is also usually Myanmar Chin. They can be heard singing gospel songs from home in the company van, but once on site they now switch to English.

Tony Fitzwater, from ELPNZ in Nelson, says there was a noticeable increase in participation as the course went on. “They treasure it,” says Tony. “They note the improvement in their language and their ability to function better in the workplace. They can understand directions and instructions and can communicate back to their supervisors and their peers.”

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