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Silver Fern Farms – Changing lives with learning

Case Study

New Zealand Diversity Awards, 2016
Entry: Skills Highway Category

Silver Fern Farms – Changing lives with learning

At Silver Fern Farms Dargaville 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.

The literacy challenge

The 300-strong workforce at Dargaville is a cultural mix of 63 per cent New Zealand Māori, 11 per cent Pasifika, 23 per cent New Zealand European, one per cent Asian and two per cent that identify as other. An analysis of health and safety failures and product issues revealed many of the team couldn’t read important documents, or put what they could read into context for their role.

Strategies for success

• Silver Fern Farms Dargaville Plant Manager and the National Training Manager worked with training provider Primary ITO to analyse staff literacy and numeracy results and use those results to apply for an employer-led Workplace Literacy Fund from the Tertiary Education Commission.
• The fund was used to employ a NCALNE tutor to set up the The Akoranga Mauri Ora (Learning for Life) programme, which allowed for group training sessions and one-on-one support for employees, provided by mentors.
• Mentors were chosen and trained – this group included staff, a local bank manager and a retired farmer who volunteered their services.
• A flexible learning programme was able to address topics ranging from health and safety standards to budgeting and understanding your pay slip.

Results and benefits

• Health and safety compliance has improved at the plant, lost-time injuries have decreased year-on-year, strains and sprains have dropped by a third and near-miss reporting has increased.
• Product quality claims have decreased
• Staff have brought whanau members to mentor sessions to increase their understanding of important topics.
• One employee has achieved the goal of buying her own home with support from a mentor.
• An employee found to be dyslexic has been given tools to overcome his learning difficulties, enabling him to undertake a boning apprenticeship.

More about Silver Fern Farms

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.

“Successes to date include an individual with dyslexia on his way to completing a boning apprenticeship.”

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