Literacy and numeracy needed in workplaces

By Tema Hemi

Porirua Council workers were ecstatic to hear that the government will further inject an extra $14.5mil over four years for much needed literacy and numeracy courses with an aim to build productivity and a high-wage economy as part of a more inclusive society. 

One council worker, named Nihan, says, "I'm from Burma.  I come [as a] refugee.  I've worked for the council eleven years now."

Another says, "English is very important. I'm happy with the what we doing with the English on this programme."

40% of New Zealanders do not have the literacy skills they need for home, work and life, according to the OECD's Survey of Adult Skills.   One in five New Zealand adults has trouble reading even the most basic text. 

It's figures like this that the government says it is responding to.  

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, "One of our other challenges is to make sure that those are in work have the training and the skills that, as work evolves, they're able to keep up with the pace of the work environment."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is optimistic many workplaces will take full advantage of this opportunity.

"It will be a lot, it depends on how many employers sign up for it and how many of their employees they sign up for it.  I can't give you a fixed number on that but it will be a significant number."

Porirua Mayor Mike Tana says, "Having people stay in work but gain literacy is so important.  They keep their jobs, their employers are happy with them because they're all good workers."

This is another initiative that has come out of the government's Future of Work Forum. 

For employee Sale Wright it comes as a blessing. 

Wright says, "It's helping me a lot to get my English going, maths as well and now a computer.  I've got kids and a wife at home that can help me out too, but I thank God for the opportunity."

Hipkins says the government is just responding to employers needs. 

"Putting a bigger focus on literacy and numeracy is something employers have told us they want, starting in schools."