A new stationery procurement system, better designed workshop equipment and a more dynamic health and safety induction programme are just some of the benefits of Waste Management NZ Ltd’s workplace literacy and numeracy programme.
Waste Management NZ holds local government contracts for kerbside collection and commercial and general public refuse collection, and works on joint venture projects with local government and other partners. It has more than 1200 staff at various sized sites throughout New Zealand, from Kaikohe to Dunedin.
“Waste Management’s sites offer a variety of skilled and non-skilled job roles, and we have a high number of Pasifika and migrant employees who have English as a second language and may not have completed high school or higher level qualifications,” says National Corporate Services and HR Manager Sharon Scott.
The business wanted to build the communication skills and confidence of this level of its workforce and provide a career pathway, so developed a workplace literacy and numeracy project called ‘Skills First’, partnering with training provider Upskills.
“Health and safety is a huge part of what we do and part of the drive to roll out Skills First was related to this. We’re an organisation working in a high-risk industry – our drivers and labourers need to understand and act on information we give them to get home safely,” says Sharon.
Skills First also opens doors, she says. “If I’ve not had such a good experience at school, then jumping into a first line management course is not really an option but something like this is a lovely segue into a learning pathway. We want our employees to know we will invest in their present and their future, and for that message to spread out into the community.”
After anecdotal feedback that some of the sites and supervisors were experiencing difficulties related to literacy and numeracy, Waste Management opted to work with Upskills to develop a solution that could be rolled out across the country. Tutors visited depots to understand the workplace literacy and numeracy demands of each role and site.
“The site supervisors and managers understand where gaps in literacy and numeracy are impacting on customer communication, quality of service and, importantly, health and safety. It gave us the chance to tailor the goals of the programme to suit the needs of each site within the framework of Skills First.”