Herbert Parkinson is a Lancashire based fabric manufacturer producing curtain fabric, pillows and duvets for their partner company John Lewis. North Lancs Training Group provide apprenticeship training both in the warehouse and in the administration department and have worked extensively in all departments delivering literacy and numeracy support as well as the nationally recognised essential skills (literacy and numeracy) qualifications.
Success, drive and enthusiasm for literacy and numeracy have been a continuous element of particular individuals at Herbert Parkinson complemented by supportive management and learning development coach. Training is integral to the ethos of the company and this is echoed by their commitment towards progressing all employees in whatever capacity they deem beneficial.
The British Chambers of Commerce director, David Frost, feels education is ‘failing’ many industries and that to remain more competitive apprentices need to improve and demonstrate good maths and English skills. This is a sentiment which has been translated to the employees of Herbert Parkinson and has resulted in a big uptake of individuals wishing to improve their maths and English skills for both the benefit of employment prospects and also personal gain.
Kevin Fielding – Waste Management
In 2009 Kevin completed an NVQ tailored to the specific nature of his job role. This is something that Kevin felt was a particularly positive element of his qualification as it was ‘all’ relevant to the everyday processes he was performing. He gained such a positive experience from his time completing the NVQ that he enquired about other qualifications he could participate in. This marked the beginning of Kevin’s journey to improve his numeracy and literacy skills.
Kevin enjoys a challenge and decided that due to the fact he hadn’t ‘done maths’ for such a long time, he would start by completing a numeracy qualification at level 1. Kevin revelled in the challenge of revisiting topics not covered since leaving school (perhaps a bit longer ago than he’d like to remember) and achieved his level 1 numeracy with such confidence it spurred him on to register for level 2.
Unfortunately, whilst working towards his level 2 numeracy, Kevin had to take time off work due to illness. When he returned to work Kevin felt demotivated towards his numeracy qualification; not only was he finding it difficult but didn’t feel as though he had kept on top of his skills – he felt as though he had forgotten everything he had learnt.
Kevin’s confidence had reached a low level and he was considering giving up! This was not like the Kevin who relished a challenge. With his Skills for Life trainer they discussed why he was feeling so negative and devised a plan of action to keep him on track. Between Kevin, Margaret Rush, the learning and development coach, and his trainer they agreed that weekly or two weekly visits would be carried out with sessions lasting two hours. This isn’t everyone’s idea of fun but it was exactly what Kevin needed to get him back on track and get him motivated once more. This is a striking difference between any other course Kevin had taken part in before; the training was all about him and what he wanted to get out of it.
In December 2010, just a week before Christmas, Kevin sat his level numeracy 2 test, rather tentatively, and got an early gift – he passed!
The story doesn’t end there. Since January 2011 Kevin has achieved both levels 1 and 2 in literacy. Even though Kevin gained a great deal from the numeracy sessions he particularly enjoyed the literacy sessions and often talked about enrolling on a creative writing course after completing his qualifications. Kevin is an individual who truly sees the worth of participating in qualifications post school at whatever stage of life you are at. Herbert Parkinson has also made enquiries about a higher level NVQ for Kevin.
Juned Bangi – Production Operative
Juned is an individual with the qualities and potential to be a team leader. These are the sentiments expressed by Margaret Rush ( learning and development coach) as she enquired about enrolling Juned on to a team leading qualification. She recognised, however, that there were some big hurdles in the way of him achieving this. Although Juned has lived in England for more than twenty years he has never completed any nationally recognised maths or English qualifications. As a team leader Juned would be required to deal with many aspects of a job role involving a high level of communication skills. This is where Juned’s journey began. He is currently completing literacy qualifications to prepare him for the requirements of a more demanding job role which Herbert Parkinson believe he will be able to aspire to. Although Juned doesn’t get as much opportunity to practise his writing skills as often as he’d like, he is still benefitting from the monthly NLTG visits.
Lisa Eddleston - Reception
We all have our fears but not everyone faces them. Lisa’s fear was maths and according to studies 1 in 5 adults has problems understanding basic maths due to the ‘anxiety’ it induces. Sheila Ford from Staffordshire University states that maths anxiety “interferes with working memory, which is the memory you need to do calculations. It’s thought that what happens is that anxious thoughts compete with the memory resources we need to do maths.”
Lisa felt she needed to address her barrier to maths so that she could feel more confident at work but also feel more competent when helping her daughter with her school work. She didn’t want the same anxieties to affect her daughter’s enjoyment of school.
The 1-1 sessions provided by North Lancs Training group were the ideal way in which to encourage Lisa and improve her confidence in her own abilities. Lisa has now gained nationally recognised maths qualifications and, perhaps most importantly for her, belief in her own abilities. Her daughter also loves maths!
This is even more encouraging for industry as Rachel Riley, presenter of TV’s Countdown states “If children are engaged with maths from an early age and enjoy the subject they are far more likely to be successful in it.”
Designs on Success
The popularity of the City and Guilds literacy and numeracy courses is growing at Herbert Parkinson as the improvements in staff can be seen. Two new recruits, Norina Bellusci and Marcin Ras, are following the lead of Juned Bangi in deciding to address their written English skills and it is expected many more will follow suit. It is also fully anticipated that once literacy skills have been improved, numeracy will be next on the agenda.
BT chairman Sir Mike Rake, a supporter of a new organisation, National Numeracy, states “Poor numeracy is the hidden problem that blights the UK economy and ruins individuals’ chances in life.”
Only 44% of Britain’s major companies offer literacy and numeracy tuition so the excellent training ethos of Herbert Parkinson is testament to the value of investing in staff and providing opportunities to further them as individuals and also as the future of British industry.