The Eastern Bay Chamber of Commerce comprises a network of 210 business decision makers situated throughout the Eastern Bay of Plenty region. Gerard Casey, the Chamber’s CEO, is passionate about the role of these businesses in contributing to a thriving, high-value regional economy. Casey recognises the importance of a skilled workforce to achieving these goals, and to retaining and enhancing the lives of the region’s young people.
In August 2018, the Chamber began an initiative to raise awareness of the importance of literacy and numeracy. It took a pro-active approach across the Eastern Bay, including Edgecumbe, Kawerau, Opotiki and Whakatane, by providing information about the impact that literacy and numeracy can have in the workplace and at the same time presenting employers with an opportunity to access training and development opportunities that could address the issues that result.
Working in partnership with two providers who already work in the literacy and numeracy space in Whakatane, the Chamber arranged a lunch time information session for its members. The two providers who presented at the session were the New Zealand Academic and Learning Institute (NZALI), which delivered an Employer-led Literacy and Numeracy programme with the Whakatane-based Beacon Media Group, and the Eastbay Rural Education Activities Programme (Eastbay REAP), which is located in Whakatane and supports community learning in rural New Zealand.
This initiative provided Chamber members with an opportunity to become familiar with the workplace literacy and numeracy funding options available to them, and how a programme can assist in kickstarting a process of raising literacy and numeracy levels of their employees in order to improve business outcomes.
As a result of this initiative, three businesses responded by working together with NZALI to initiate a Consortium Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy programme. The consortium model allows two or more smaller businesses to ‘pool’ their eligible staff to access the funding. “It’s a great model that allows smaller businesses, especially in regional areas, to access the government funding that’s available,” says Skills Highway Programme Manager, Nicky Murray.
Kiri Carter, one of the owners of consortium member Superior Excavation, is “amazed” at the opportunity the consortium approach offers. Based in Whakatane, Superior Excavation is locally owned and operated by Leigh and Kiri Carter, who provide specialist earthmoving and contracting services across the Bay of Plenty since 2005. Business demands often mean there is limited time for professional development but health and safety has been a key driver for Superior Excavation’s involvement. “We want to invest in our people”, says Kiri, “and support them to take more ownership of health and safety across the business”.
Across the consortium, the members want to understand how better to organise and structure their workplace systems and processes to support and grow the literacy and numeracy needs of their employees. By working with NZALI, these employers will also be looking at how to develop their management and leadership expertise to ensure ongoing sustainability of programme outcomes.
Employees will also be encouraged to access further training through Eastbay REAP as they develop confidence as a result of the programme, thus growing opportunities for further learning at both the employer and employee levels.
The Chamber is already planning further activities, with a Workplace Training and Development presentation later in the year where the businesses who participated in the Consortium will share their experiences of the impact that building literacy and numeracy capability has had on their businesses. The Chamber’s ongoing work has been recognised with a Skills Highway Promotion and Awareness payment.
This Eastern Bay Chamber initiative has enabled a co-ordinated and collaborative approach across sectors, and has enriched the conversation around literacy and numeracy in the workplace in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.