Initially there was some reluctance among staff at Porirua City Council to attend literacy and numeracy courses – after all, the courses were voluntary.

However, with some positive encouragement from the Council, morning tea laid on, and the support of a supervisor, people soon grabbed the opportunity.

The opportunity came after being approached by training provider Capital Training to provide the courses. The Council recognised they had a great opportunity to upskill some of their workers so they were better placed to complete paper work, engage with colleagues, contribute ideas, and to gain computer skills.

The staff relished the opportunity to improve their reading, writing and communication as well as their digital skills, as it proved useful not only at work but in their personal lives.

As staff member Iaone says, “I used to just watch the kids on the computer and I’m now able to join them – but their fingers are really fast!”

Parks Operations Manager, Julian Emeny says it is about investing in their people.

“I see the pride and passion they have in looking after the city – keeping it sparkling. It’s their backyard. It’s meaningful. They put their heart in to it. We want to create opportunities for personal development and growth. If you focus on the person, they feel valued and you get better customer service.”

And now more workplaces will be able to follow Porirua City Council’s lead after today’s announcement that new funding of $14.5 million over four years will enable the Government to contribute nearly $45 million to the employer-led workplace literacy and numeracy fund between 2019 and 2022.

Education Minister Chris Hipkin says we need to do a lot more to lift adult literacy and numeracy, particularly in lower-skilled occupations.

“But we also know people have busy lives and that a lack of time is the most common reason they in are not participating in training.

“Increasing resources for on-the-job literacy and numeracy training is a practical way of opening more doors and supporting New Zealand businesses and workers for the future of work,” says Hipkins.

The employer-led literacy and numeracy fund is administered by Tertiary Education Commission and is open to organisations with generally lower-skilled employees or staff. Typically, the organisations hire specialist trainers to deliver approved courses as flexibly as needed.

For 2019 so far, 64 employers have received funding, some of whom have more than one contract, helping approximately 3,500 learners. The new funding would be expected to help up to 1500 additional workers.

The Industry Training Federation warmly welcomes this “much needed boost”.

“Adult literacy issues in our working population are well evidenced through international studies over several years and we have only been scratching the surface,” says ITF chief executive Josh Williams.

“We can make a huge difference to business productivity and wider wellbeing of our workers through raising the literacy, language and numeracy skills of our working population.

“So this additional resourcing will allow our workplace trainers and specialist literacy providers to reach more people and work with more firms, but it needs to be just the start of a major project to provide these critical foundation skills to workers, through their workplaces.”

Minister Hipkins emphasised the importance of boosting literacy and numeracy, not just in the workplace, but in schools.

“Putting a bigger focus on literacy and numeracy is something employers have told us they want, starting in schools.

“Through the changes we’re making in the NCEA, it’ll be clearer to employers that a learner has met a standardised benchmark, so they can have confidence that the NCEA literacy and numeracy requirements are credible and reliable,” says Hipkins.

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