Oji Fibre Solutions gains from investing in workplace literacy and numeracy

Oji Fibre Solutions is one of Australasia’s leading producers of market pulp, paper and fibre-based packaging solutions, with more than 1600 employees.

The company’s New Zealand packaging division invests in the training and development of its people through Workplace Literacy and Numeracy training programmes and has been running these programmes in collaboration with Education Unlimited for over two years.

“We invest in training for two reasons”, says Grant Fitzgibbon, Oji Fibre Solutions Group General Manager, Packaging NZ. “There’s the commercial aspect – we want to retain our people and give them skills – and there’s an altruistic aspect. We take our role as a big employer in our local communities seriously. We have an opportunity to enable our employees to learn new skills and give back to their communities through gaining qualifications and increasing their ability to generate more income.”

What kicked off the training was having several employees struggle to complete their National Certificate in Manufacturing qualification. With the support of the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy programme, many of these people now have achieved the Level 2 qualification and are aiming at a Level 3 qualification.

The company is preparing people for the Level 3 Competenz qualification by running a Bridging Programme in which employees further develop their literacy and numeracy skills and learn how to start the process of gathering the information they need for their qualification. “Those who have already completed the programme have come out with portfolios of evidence which they can use and build on when they sign up for their National Certificate in Manufacturing,” says Grant Fitzgibbon.

Ian Jennings, Oji Fibre Solutions Training Advisor, sees the Bridging Programme as a good start for what is required. “It means they will be able to hit the ground running when they sign up for the Level 3 qualification. We need to make sure we are in the right place to support them.”

But it has not just been about the qualification. The company has noticed a change in the way team members participate at work. This view is supported by Trevor Pouwhare, the Facility Manager at the Levin site. “For years people have been wanting to contribute, but didn’t know how to. Now employees who were on the programme have joined the business improvement team. They’ve realised their potential and have gained some mana around the factory. We have also seen a difference in the way people think and act in relation to health and safety, which is very important for all of us.”

Oji Fibre Solutions have now organised business improvement focus groups around project topics to drill down into each issue identified, expand on the extent of the issue and make recommendations for improvements. The photo illustrates a Christchurch project focusing on a consistent approach to new health and safety signage around the site.

The success of the programme has been celebrated with graduation ceremonies across all the participating sites.