English Language Partners is one of five national organisations calling for more support to improve workplace English in New Zealand
The organisation assists businesses and migrant staff with their language training needs, and Chief Executive Nicola Sutton says recognising the importance of skilled communication in the workplace is essential to lifting productivity.
“Communication is the key to talking to customers and colleagues, and understanding instructions so that mistakes costing time and money are reduced,” says Ms Sutton. “Workplace safety is also important to manage well.”
Paul Brockie, owner of Nelson-based insulation company Absolute Energy, employs Burmese staff and says they have been great for his company. Mr Brockie was impressed with their skills, but realised their English needed a little work so his customers could have the same confidence.
He enrolled five workers in an English Language Partners’ course to boost their literacy skills and says the workers can now deal more effectively with the paperwork that comes with the job.
Mr Brockie says communication with customers is equally important. “Staff learned how to relate to people in a New Zealand culture; to be able to identify yourself and to let customers know what you’re doing.” Read Absolute Energy’s story.
Good communication is more than just using the right vocabulary, however. Ms Sutton says knowing what’s appropriate and the right tone to use is equally important. “This mix of language and culture can make it challenging for newcomers to ‘fit in’ at work and in their local communities.”
English Language Partners, the Industry Training Federation, Business New Zealand, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and Literacy Aotearoa, have released the workforce literacy call to action: “Stepping up to better working lives”.