Careerforce chief executive Jane Wenman believes it is important that both employees and employers are open to continuous learning and upskilling.
“We live in a fast-changing world where new practices are being developed, new technologies are being invented and new discoveries are made. We need to be able to keep up and adapt quickly.”
Fonterra HR director of global operations Rachael Regan-Paterson says the company has a “strong commitment” to lifelong learning.
“As an organisation, you’re only as good as your people are.”
She urges other companies to take upskilling seriously.
“Every organisation in New Zealand needs to be looking at their learning budget and asking themselves if they’re setting themselves up to succeed in the future,” she says.
“For Fonterra, as the world goes into a different way of working, we are setting a really strong platform to succeed. We need to be looking at ways to adapt and letting our staff know that yes, there will be changes but you’ll be coming with us.”
Wenman says that training ensures organisations have “high-performing and contributing” staff.
For staff, training can lead to higher pay, more confidence, and a better understanding of the employee’s role, their organisation and the people they support, she says.
“In a professional and personal sense, I think upskilling brings a person a sense of pride that comes from having new knowledge and skills.”
Necessary business cost
Wenman says good employers are “forward thinkers” who know that investing in education is a necessary business cost.
“It’s never wise to allow things to become stagnant, which is why it’s important for employers to provide ongoing training or opportunities to upskill to their staff. Upskilling can help people to expand their knowledge, develop new skills or improve their existing skills.”
Regan-Paterson says that training and learning is a “significant investment” for Fonterra.
Technical training for staff to meet health and safety and food safety compliance was important.
“It is more than that though. Having knowledgeable employees who are open to learning; they are motivated. They want to continue in their careers.”
Staff at all levels of the organisation have the chance to upskill, she says.
“As we progress in life, not just in our careers, we need to show that we don’t stop learning. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25, 45 or 65, having an open mindset and being willing to learn is really important.”
Pete Castle worked in the media industry for 37 years before joining Fonterra.
The blender operator at Te Rapa says it was a “big adjustment” switching careers.
“When you’ve been in your field for three decades, you’re the one people come to with questions. Joining Fonterra, I knew nothing.”
Castle started on the packing line before moving into the cream cheese plant, and says he leapt at the chance to undertake the DairyCraft programme offered by the company.
“I wanted to understand what was happening around me. It’s made me more comfortable at what I’m doing at work.”
Upskilling is more than just learning the technical skills required for the job, he says.
“As well as learning more about my job, I earn while I learn and I get a pay rise at the end of it. I have the support of a coach at work. It was a no-brainer to upskill.”
Wenman urged employers to look at different ways of learning that would suit their staff, be they in-house training, apprenticeships, or paper-based or online learning through external providers.
“I think it’s crucial that we remove as many barriers as we can for staff to upskill and learn. We need to investigate how best we can support upskilling them without taking away too much from their personal time.”
Say ‘cheese’: a lesson in upskilling
The fast moving world of photography has driven home the importance of upskilling for Whangarei-based business owner Sarah Marshall. By Rebekah Fraser.
For photographer Sarah Marshall, upskilling is an important business expense.
“The photography industry is so fast-paced with technology and creativity; I have come to realise that not keeping up will be far more costly to business than the cost of upskilling itself.”
Marshall began her business, Sarah Marshall Photography, after completing a small business management course in 2011.
“As a full-time mother, I appreciated the opportunity to study business and put together a business plan in my hometown. The skills and knowledge I learned from the course have been the foundation of my business ever since.”
Since starting her business she has completed a course on studio lighting and takes part in less formal areas of education, including workshops with other photographers.
“We get together to share and learn from each other. We teach and talk about creative ideas, technical and gear advice and business skills.”
Marshall also takes part in online education to keep up to date.
“Online networking is generally ‘community over competition’ and fellow photographers are often an open book when our colleagues need help or advice,” she says.
As well as providing technical learning, upskilling offered networking benefits.
“Being a self-employed photographer means that you are mostly by yourself working on your business, apart from what seems like the brief time with clients behind the camera. It can feel like 80 percent of running a photography business happens in front of a screen.”
She says upskilling also provided personal growth, as well as professional skills.
“I found I came back from a workshop feeling refreshed, energised and inspired to be creative, improve my pricing or add new products and services. It is also just nice to be around creative business owners who speak the same language and are a joy to spend time with.”
Marshall says she is grateful for online learning options for upskilling.
“I think we are lucky to have online education at our fingertips as well as local short courses so we can run a successful business as well as be with family.”