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Benefits from workplace literacy programmes

Businesses show tangible benefits from workplace literacy programmes

Four New Zealand businesses are showing positive returns on their investment in workplace training programmes.

The businesses, which have placed emphasis on literacy programmes, include three manufacturers – Rotaform Plastics, Jenkin Timber and Formway Furniture – and Sanford, the fishing company.
The results of the workplace training programmes have been released in a new case study document, Voices from Management, compiled by Workbase, the National Centre for Workplace Literacy & Language. Katherine Percy, Chief Executive of Workbase, said the companies, from diverse industry sectors, know that their employees must have the skills, including literacy skills, for their businesses to be successful.

“The case studies show how each of the companies is building a culture of learning in the workplace and how both the individual employees and the company as a whole are benefiting,” said Katherine Percy. “The precise return on investment in training is more difficult to measure, due to the minimal amount of research so far. With Rotaform Plastics, however, the new case study shows that the company’s successful workplace literacy programme has underpinned a dramatic improvement in company performance. During the past year Rotaform’s sales have risen 34 percent, profits have improved by 31 percent and reject rates have fallen by 55 percent.”

Jenkin Timber has achieved a 15 percent decrease in the company’s rate of errors since instigating a workplace literacy programme for eight of its employees just over a year ago. The company has also reported improved staff morale and desire to take extra responsibility. Sanford reports similar benefits. New Zealand’s oldest public company operates a fleet of fishing vessels as well as aquaculture and processing plants throughout the country. Sanford’s marked decrease in documentation error has been matched by an increase in staff confidence and morale. Lower Hutt based Formway Furniture implemented a workplace literacy programme because of increasing demand for quality and the higher health and safety requirements. “Formway wanted to help their employees lift their existing numeracy and literacy levels, including computer literacy, so they could participate fully in the new environment the company was moving into,” said Katherine Percy. The result is that Formway has cut in half the number problems associated with assembly and dispatch and has achieved a higher overall performance.”

The Voices from Management case studies demonstrate that the benefits for both businesses and employees can be clearly identified and described. Companies need to see tangible results from their investments in training now more than ever. These case studies add credibility to the call to invest in literacy skill development and general workforce re-skilling.

The demand for adult literacy and numeracy training has increased with awareness of the benefits to the businesses, employees and to the wider community. The Government’s commitment of $18 million to transform the economy through adult education and training is helping to train the one million adults in New Zealand who have below the minimum literacy competence required for everyday life. This number equates to 50 percent of employees in the manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors throughout New Zealand.

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