Te Arapiki Ako
"Towards better teaching & learning"

Sandra Johnson

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Last updated 29 November 2012 15:20 by NZTecAdmin


The Downer journey's actually been quite a long journey into literacy and it’s something that they stumbled across early on. About 10 years ago they set up to deliver some frontline leadership training, and when they sat down to work with the guys discovered that actually writing things on pieces of paper wasn’t going to be the way they could get through. So from there we started as a company to actually shape the way we delivered our frontline training differently, and evolved into 2007 when we started to partner with the Tertiary Education Commission to deliver workplace literacy.

That rich experience you can’t actually go past. It’s about building a culture around literacy rather than just jumping in and saying "We’re going to solve the world". You have to gain quality buy-in from all levels of business in order to actually achieve this.

As you grow into it you discover that actually you want this to be more than an add-on feature to a company – you want it to become part of what we do in business as usual. And to achieve that the word sustainability starts popping up. And it’s all about, what can we take away from this, how can we continue to work with people and support the new employees we have coming through and their families?

That’s actually a catchphrase within the company – ‘the Downer way’ – and we are very strong about the fact that we look after our mates and we support each other through. So our model is that mentoring is a strong part of how we learn in Downer, and actually upskilling those people that are prepared to mentor and giving them the skills to work with other people in the literacy area is quite crucial to the way that we work in literacy.

I think employers have to go into workplace literacy with an open mind. Not thinking that it’s somebody else’s responsibility, but also not expecting it to be an easy inroad into the gains that you can get. Sure there are many benefits, and we’ve seen them around re-work and in our health and safety figures. But at the same end it’s hard work, and you need to actually grow a community around this and work closely with people who know what they’re doing.



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