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Programme to inspire teenagers takes top EEO Trust award

Programme to inspire teenagers into health careers takes top EEO Trust award

A programme that gives secondary-school students hands-on experience of health careers to encourage them into the sector has taken the top prize in the EEO Trust Work & Life Awards 2011.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board won the Supreme Award for Programme Incubator, which engages teenagers with health workers and the jobs they do in a bid to encourage them into the skill-short sector. Students of Māori and Pacific Island heritage are a particular focus, as the DHB wants to build a health workforce more representative of its community.

The programme uses a lively mix of resources, visiting speakers and field trips. Students take part in activities such as listening to each other’s hearts and lungs, taking each other’s blood pressure and handling instruments.

Programme Incubator Manager Wynn Schollum says doctors, nurses and other health workers readily volunteer their services. “The collective approach is what makes it magic.”

Dr Philippa Reed, EEO Trust Chief Executive and one of five Awards judges, says Programme Incubator is an effective way to inspire today’s teenagers to become tomorrow’s health professionals. “The DHB is aware the current talent shortage is only going to worsen, and it’s taken a proactive, teenage-friendly and long-term stance to moulding our future health workforce.”

Hawke’s Bay DHB piloted Programme Incubator in 2007 at decile 1A Flaxmere College; 18 schools in the region plus the New Zealand Correspondence School are now involved. A total of 72 students from last year’s intake are now pursuing health-related tertiary study. The programme has been extended to five other DHBs, involving 16 other schools.

The EEO Trust Work & Life Awards, now in their 14th year, celebrate organisations that actively invest in their businesses by investing in their workforce. The Awards attracted more than 45 entries, and were celebrated by 400 people tonight at an Auckland War Memorial Museum dinner. Hon. Hekia Parata, Minister for Ethnic Affairs and Minister of Women's Affairs, presented the Awards.

Hawke’s Bay DHB took the top award after winning its category, Tomorrow’s Workforce, which celebrates innovative responses to future labour-force challenges.

Highly commended in Tomorrow’s Workforce was accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, for its effective use of social marketing tools in graduate recruitment.

The Skills Highway Award, supported by the Department of Labour, celebrates workplaces that can demonstrate how helping improve their employees’ reading, writing, maths and communication skills has improved business outcomes. The winner was Auckland firm Cardinal Logistics, which backed ambitious expansion plans with an ambitious – and highly successful – investment in staff upskilling. Highly commended was roading and infrastructure company Stevenson Group, which gave its employees tools to lift their communication skills.

The Diversity Award celebrates organisations making the most of their diverse workforces and went to Bupa Care Services for its Personal Best training programme that helps staff see life through residents’ and clients’ eyes. Highly commended in this category was North Harbour yoghurt manufacturer EasiYo Products, where the diversity of the company’s export market is reflected in the diversity of its workforce.

The Work & Life Award celebrates organisations creating environments in which people have flexibility and autonomy to meet their work commitments and their out-of-work responsibilities. The winner is URS New Zealand for an approach that allows staff great independence in managing their workloads. SKYCITY Auckland was highly commended for its Connect service, which helps support the company’s large, multicultural and largely young team.

The Walk the Talk Award goes to a leader who exemplifies excellence in managing a diverse workforce. Kevin Hatley of the Learning Support Centre at Wellington’s Newlands College won for an approach that inspires students and parents – and ensures disabled employees’ talent is not overlooked.

Winners’ stories in more detail

Winner of the Supreme Award and the Tomorrow’s Workforce Award: Hawke’s Bay District Health Board for its Programme Incubator. The Supreme Award recognises all-round impact and innovation, and is chosen from the winners in each category.

Hawke’s Bay DHB’s Programme Incubator is an innovative, hands-on careers programme that aims to inspire secondary school students into health careers at a time when New Zealand faces a severe shortage of health professionals. In Hawke’s Bay, Māori and Pacific Island students are a particular focus in order to create a workforce that better reflects the community, says Programme Incubator Manager Wynn Schollum.

In 2007, the programme was trialled at the decile 1 Flaxmere College in Hastings and has since been extended. For example, last August a paediatrician, a microbiologist and a speech language therapist told students at Havelock North High School about their work. In other sessions, students used medical equipment to listen to each other’s hearts and lungs and take each other’s blood pressure. They also learned how to maintain their own health.

Wynn says that Programme Incubator is a step beyond the usual career guidance approach, which emphasises information. “We bring the experience of work into the students’ learning environment. They are taken through a structured and very engaging process focused on the experience of working in the health sector.”

Stephanie Barrell, from Kamo High School, spent three days with a mobile surgery unit. “The whole experience was beyond anything I could have imagined,” she says. “Nothing could have prepared me for the amazing people I met, things I saw and tasks I was allowed to do before even finishing high school.”

The hands-on approach is working: Last year, 84 per cent of the students who participated in the Hawke’s Bay went on to tertiary study; 65 per cent of them (72 students) are pursuing health-related study programmes.

Health professionals enjoy the opportunity to share their skills and experience, says Wynn. “This programme allows them to role-model their career, share valued experiences and develop student knowledge on personal health issues.”

Highly commended in Tomorrow’s Workforce was professional services firm Deloitte for its engaging and effective use of social networking in graduate recruitment. Through Facebook question-and-answer sessions with staff using live video, graduate video blogs and even a 30-second film festival, prospective employees have been able to get a clear picture of the firm’s culture and its people, leading to improved retention and engagement during the critical first year with the firm.

The Skills Highway Award: Cardinal Logistics. This award celebrates employers who invest in their staff to develop their potential. Cardinal Logistics invested in a package of initiatives around training and cultural change in an effort to improve communication, reduce errors and boost productivity.

In 2009, with Tertiary Education Commission backing, the company launched a literacy and numeracy training programme. A total of 24 staff were tutored one-on-one for an hour each week for 40 weeks, with 40 staff attending in 2010. The results included increasing understanding of workplace forms, improved health and safety, and improving numeracy.

Says Managing Director Tony Gorton: “In the past year, we’ve seen around a 50 per cent decrease in the number of service-related issues within the operation … we’ve seen picking discrepancies, receipting errors and documentation issues go down, and data accuracy and entry improve.”

In addition, customer satisfaction is up, absenteeism is down and staff morale is high. One employee wrote, “I feel better coming to work now, as it has given me more confidence learning new skills.”

Highly commended was Stevenson Group, which services the quarrying, mining, engineering and construction sectors, for its five-day foundation skills programme Stepping Up, developed with training company The Learning Wave. Fifty-two employees took part over 14 weeks last year.

Human Resources Manager Geoff White says the business benefits were apparent after six months, with fewer disciplinary hearings, lower employee turnover and fewer sick days. “Injury rates are also down, and it seems that employees are taking more responsibility for their wellness.”

Participant feedback has been positive. A quarry operator wrote, “I learned about choosing the right language, about looking people in the eye, about being clear about what I say. I learned to step back a bit and just give people a bit of room.”

The Diversity Award, won by Bupa Care Services, recognises organisations that really strive to make the most of their diverse workforce. The company, with 3300 staff working in more than 60 care establishments such as hospitals and rest homes, introduced its training and cultural change programme for all Bupa staff, from the CEO down, in 2009. Personal Best was rolled out with the help of 117 facilitators drawn from all levels of the business – 95 per cent of them non-managers.

The programme involves activities designed to help staff see life through residents’ and customers’ eyes, with an emphasis on meeting their emotional as well as physical needs. The training uses story-telling and personal story boards, with each participant committing to actions that will make a difference to the people they serve.

Before launching Personal Best in New Zealand, Bupa asked a team of local staff to assess it for simplicity, flexibility, ease of delivery and match with local employees. It passed all the tests, particularly in relation to staff and resident diversity. Sylvia Casella, Director of Organisational Development, says its focus on respect for individual needs makes it ideal in diverse environments.

The business benefits have been substantial, with resident satisfaction at 88 per cent, staff satisfaction at 84 per cent and a 15 per cent increase in staff retention, says Sylvia.

Highly commended was EasiYo Products, where going to work is a family affair. Ninety per cent of the production team is Tongan, with 24 of them related to each other. The rest of EasiYo’s 60 employees contribute to the company’s diversity, which is seen as a valuable business asset.

“We send our product around the world, so why not have people from around the world working here?” asks CEO Paul O’Brien. “Our diverse staff give us a better understanding of international markets. For example, a Korean employee has been invaluable in moving product through that market and a Chinese employee has been critical in helping us adapt to the Asian market.

“We’ve aimed to … ensure the flexibility, resourcefulness and innovation associated with a family business … combined with corporate disciplines such as proven metric-based systems, transparent communication and proper development programmes for staff progression.”

EasiYo introduced literacy and numeracy training for production staff last year and is already reaping the benefits, with fewer errors, improved efficiency, productivity and hazard reporting, and staff displaying more confidence.

The Work & Life Award celebrates organisations that create environments in which people enjoy flexibility and autonomy in order to meet work responsibilities and out-of-work commitments. Engineering consultancy URS New Zealand, which has 300 staff in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch, won for its innovative approach.

Staff can take advantage of a range of flexible working options such as flexible start and finish times, which is the most commonly-used provision; compressed weeks of four 10-hour days; tools to work from home; and a flexible leave and compensation policy which includes banked overtime, leave without pay, cash return-to-work incentives for those coming back from maternity leave, unpaid leave and career breaks.

URS employs people from around 30 countries and offers three months of unpaid leave if migrant employees need to return to their home country to resolve family issues.

Debbie Fellows says being a part-time geotechnical engineer for 13 of the 16 years she was worked for URS hasn’t compromised her career progression (12 per cent of URS employees work part-time). “My career has developed significantly while I’ve been working part-time,” says Debbie. “What URS has developed is quite unique; work and life provisions are an inherent part of company culture.”

URS staff stay an average of 5.6 years, which Tony says is “remarkable” given the retention challenges in engineering.

Highly commended was SKYCITY Auckland for its employee support service Connect, created with input from the multicultural company’s 3000 staff to support employees with work and non-work issues. The office is next to the staff cafeteria and employees at any level can drop in between 7am and 9pm, seven days a week, to discuss whatever’s on their mind.

Chris Hackshaw, one of the service’s three staffers, says the central Auckland company wanted to help employees “to manage and resolve issues in a completely safe and confidential environment”. The team gets about 1250 visits a year, the most common queries relating to financial or budgeting advice, hardship loans, referral to professional counselling, help understanding company policies and employee processes, questions about management decisions, and support for those experiencing domestic violence.

The Walk the Talk Award celebrates people who exemplify excellence in their management of a diverse workforce, and this year goes to Kevin Hatley, Head of the Learning Support Centre at Wellington’s Newlands College. The centre has about 30 part-time and full-time staff catering for 42 students with significant disabilities.

Kevin wants to show his disabled students that they have a future in the workforce and has employed three people with disabilities to work as teacher aides. He started seeking out a wider range of teacher aides after realising that the school could hardly ask employers to give its students work experience or jobs if it wasn’t leading the way. “Was it responsible to expect other people to take these students on when we didn’t do it ourselves?” he asks. “No.”

He says that the centre’s trio of teacher aides bring “really good skills, real experience and real knowledge that’s invaluable”. One of them, Evelyn, who uses a wheelchair, says her presence means that “students don’t just see the wheelchair, they see the person. Also, the students in wheelchairs can see that someone who is like them can be a teacher aide, or many other things.”

Awards Judge Chris Meade describes Kevin’s story is “simply humbling. He’s a role model – and by taking on employees who live with disabilities, he also offers hope to the parents of the Learning Support Centre’s students.”


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