At a Northland meat export processing plant, workplace learning has become much more than simply teaching staff how to comprehend task descriptions and meet health and safety compliance standards.
Silver Fern Farms Dargaville site is committed to delivering its staff a “learning for life” programme so that they can tackle the everyday tasks that are stepping stones to accomplishing important life goals. This could mean anything from understanding your pay slip to reading a child’s report or, in one case, filling in the forms needed to get a mortgage approved.
Silver Fern Farms is the largest meat export processor in New Zealand, with a workforce of approximately 7000 at the peak of the season. The company has 19 processing sites strategically located throughout New Zealand.
The Dargaville site is the major employer in the Kaipara region and employs a total workforce of around 300, of which 270 are process operators. The workforce is an ethnic mix of 63 per cent New Zealand Maori, 11 per cent Pasifika, 23 per cent New Zealand European, one per cent Asian and two per cent other.
Plant Manager Lance Warmington says the company has always carried out literacy and numeracy assessments on new staff but until recently has not followed up the results. But an analysis of process issues resulting in product being rejected at rollout stage and staff not delivering critical health and safety aspects within tasks, revealed many of the team couldn’t read important documents or put what they read into context within their day-to-day roles.
Lance began working with Silver Fern Farms National Training Manager Graham Sinclair and Sarah Searle from training provider Primary ITO. After analysing staff literacy and numeracy results, the group decided to apply for an employer-led Workplace Literary Fund from TEC.
The fund was used to employ a NCALNE tutor to support a programme allowing for one-on-one support for trainees provided by mentors, as well as group sessions, which would be available to all staff who wanted to be a part of it.