Cargill Enterprises visit EWLN fund

Our workplace literacy funding is helping people with learning disabilities

Our workplace literacy funding is helping people with learning disabilities

Last updated 18 May 2017
Last updated 05/18/2017

A group of Dunedin workers with learning disabilities are now being trained in literacy and numeracy with funding through our Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund (EWLN).

Cargill Enterprises in South Dunedin is the first employer to use this funding source to access literacy and numeracy training for 21 of its staff who range in age from school leavers to retirees.

“The EWLN fund has two specific requirements, first that it is used to increase literacy and numeracy of employees and second that it must contribute to workplace productivity,” says Darel Hall, the TEC’s Employer-focused Literacy and Numeracy (Skills Highway) Principal Advisor.

Currently, the EWLN fund provides literacy and numeracy funding for 73 employers nationally. Last year its baseline funding of $4 million was boosted with two allocations of $2 million, and additional funding of $1.5m (2018) and $3m (2019) will further increase its future reach.

Skills Highway provided the necessary boost

When a Dunedin-based literacy and numeracy provider, Laura Franklin, from The Good Training Company, trained two Cargill Enterprises' employees, she got the idea of expanding the programme and contacted the company’s HR manager Heather Wishart.

“Heather wanted to know more and introduced me to the CE Geoff Kemp. They have both been champions of the programme right from the start,” says Laura.

Laura says attending a Skills Highway Forum gave her and Geoff the tools and confidence to put together an application for Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy funding from the TEC.

Darel says, “It was a very good application and was successful.  Cargill Enterprises will need to demonstrate how the literacy and numeracy training has led to increased productivity, for example that staff need less supervision for certain tasks. We are now talking to some other similar employers about applying to the fund.”

A business with a social purpose

Geoff Kemp

Cargill Enterprises CE Geoff Kemp says "Our desire is that Cargill's is the beginning of people's work journey, not the end."

Set up more than 50 years ago, Cargill Enterprises is the trading arm of the Disabled Citizens Society (Otago) Inc.  It describes itself as a business enterprise with a social purpose and specialises in timber processing and manufacturing, e-waste decommissioning, food packing and assembly services.

"Our desire is that Cargill's is the beginning of people's work journey, not the end. I am constantly looking at what we can do to give our staff members the best chance of moving on to another job,'' says CE Geoff Kemp.

As well as helping staff develop practical skills, Cargill Enterprises provides more holistic benefits: all employees have personal development plans and, for some, these include life skills such as using a computer, or improving numeracy and literacy.

Since early this year when Cargill Enterprises registered as a tertiary education organisation, literacy and numeracy has been part of the personal development plan for 21 of its staff. Each receive two hours of face-to-face training every week during work hours from a contracted educator. 

The programme also employs two peer support staff, both of whom have completed workplace literacy and numeracy training previously and also have a learning disability.

TEC pays a visit 

five people outside factory

TEC's Senior Advisor CAtherine Dyhrberg (second from left) with tour guides (from left) Lisa, Colin, Lindsay and Thomo outside Cargill Enterprises.

Recently, Darel Hall and our Youth and Foundation Learning Senior Advisor Catherine Dyhrberg visited Cargill Enterprises as part of their regular round of visits to TEC-funded employers on the South Island east coast.

“Employers really appreciate us showing support for what they are doing and taking an interest. We had a tour of the plant led by four of the staff who are really enjoying the literacy and numeracy training,” says Darel.

“Geoff’s philosophy is that he is not running a sheltered workshop but operating a business. It needs to be commercially viable and, at the same time, provide employment that improves people’s quality of life and builds their self-confidence and work skills.”

A path to independence

Cargill Enterprises receives some funding from the Ministry of Social Development as a service provider and  straddles a delicate line: it is a non-profit entity, yet it needs to operate as a business in order to not only survive, but grow. [1]

“One of our goals is to become independent of external funding. This would give us the ability to have more certainty when planning future ventures and setting employment targets,” Geoff says.

“We have some fantastic relationships with significant businesses such as Air New Zealand, Tuapeka Gold Print and Escea to name a few. We take satisfaction in providing top end products and services on time and at competitive commercial rates.” 

The dignity of work

Tegan weighs food in Cargill's food processing division.

Twenty-four-year old Tegan Howard loves working in Cargill Enterprise’s food processing division.

Her mum Judy Howard says it’s not just about the wages, working at Cargill Enterprise gives her daughter so much more, in fact it’s changed her life. She says Tegan has a sense of belonging, she takes pride in her work and embraces the responsibility that comes with it.

"I would hate to think what would happen to some people if Cargill's wasn't there. I don't know if a lot of people in the community even know what Cargill's does. It's about giving people a chance. That's all anyone wants; to fit in.''

More information

Read more about our Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund.

Read more about our literacy and numeracy work.


[1] The last part of this story is an extract from The Dignity of Work by Shane Gilchrist, first published in the Otago Daily Times.