Literacy center speech gvsu literacy summit final 9 11-12
1Community Literacy Summit9/17/12(History of how we started using Work Keys): Butterball started with Work Keys through the wired grant in 2007. At that time, we profiled the TeamLeader position to determine the skill level needed to be successful in the position. We also askedemployees in team leader, technical and some office positions to take the three Work Keystests(Reading for Information, Locating Information and Applied Math). We explained that the reasonwe were participating with Work Keys was to better align our training programs with their needs andthat this would give us information to be able to do that. We also explained that we wanted to makesure employees selected for positions had the skills they needed to be successful in the position. It wasvery important that we communicate it was in no way punitive.At the time, we had approximately 200 employees. 45 employees completed some or all of the testingand 31 received a National Career Readiness Certificate(NCRC).Following the testing, the operations management team and Human Resources discussed performanceon the job and the work keys scores to see if we saw a correlation between on the job workperformance and work keys scores. In some cases, we as the employer were surprised at the high skilllevel and were able to give some employees additional challenges.The majority of employees were nervous to take the test. Many hadn’t taken a test for many years. Toshow them they weren’t singled out, and that we too were vulnerable the owner of Butterball, MarkPeters and I also took the tests with the first group to see what it felt like. This allowed me anopportunity to much better explain to them what to expect and to better relate to their fears as I thinkwe all have some level of anxiety when it comes to taking a test not to mention 3 hours of testing. Wealso found that after some testing the results acted as a confidence booster, some employees had thereaction of “Oh I’m smarter than I thought”.In 2010, Butterball Farms Inc automated part of our production process which resulted in a reduction of80 positions. To determine which employee positions were eliminated, we reviewed skill level. The newequipment required a different skill level as it was much more technical in nature – less manual labor.Skills that were necessary to be successful in the new positions included more critical thinking skills,team work and communication skills. Understanding the entire line and how adjustments to one pieceof equipment affect the rest of the line and the team was now critical. A much higher technical aptitudewas required. The product moves too fast for the human eye to visually inspect so it’s using andmonitoring equipment to ensure that quality meets expectations and that we are producing perfectproduct every time. We are also looking for people in this position to be more proactive, to learn howto do things on the line and watch others so their level of understanding can increase vs calling someoneelse to figure out and correct problems when they occur. For the new line, we implemented a newposition with the title of technician. Additional requirements for a technician included having a GED orHigh School Diploma, ability to read, speak and write English proficiently and having a NCRC at the silverlevel or higher.
2(Program thru Literacy Center) In 2011, the Literacy Center approached us and asked if we were interested in partnering with them onan ASCET grant. The timing of this was perfect. We also had just rolled out a new initiative to all hourlyand salaried employees. We told them that we continue to believe in giving employees opportunities.However, going forward, we as an organization have to get better every year. So to do that, eachemployee has to improve their skills and what they contribute to the organization every year. No onecan continue to simply do the same thing this year as they did last year. We communicated that eachemployee would be required to demonstrate that by providing information on specific training theytook the previous year and what they are doing differently on the job this year than they were last year.After some discussion with the Literacy Center regarding what our needs were, they put together threesets of classes including Workplace English, Foundational Skills(Work Keys) and Employability Skills(Softskills). The goal of the classes included improving communication on the job, job seeking skills, and toprepare employees to take the Work Keys testing and to earn a National Career Readiness Certificate(NCRC). The goal of the Workplace English class was to improve the speaking, reading and writing skillsof non-native English speaking employees. We believed that these skills would help them to be moreeffective in their current position and be better positioned for promotions.Communication about the specific training offered and why employees should consider investing theirpersonal time was key. The Literacy Center helped us create the talking points which included tying theclasses to our mission statement which is to Enrich Lives. Part of that mission means that we give youopportunities to learn and improve your skills. To get and keep a job today, all employees need to learnnew skills every year so they are able to provide for themselves and their families. We then explainedthe importance of Work Keys and that over 85% of all jobs in the US require skills in these areas. Forpromotion opportunities at BBF, a NCRC would be required. This nationally recognized credential putsapplicants at the top of many employers recruitment lists so it helps them not only here at Butterballbut with other employers as well.The Foundational skills class met weekly, the Workplace English classes met twice a week and theEmployability Skills Class met once every three weeks. All classes involved online work at home orpracticing skills learned during the training. Homework was a key part of the training. We explainedthat one of our guiding principles is to promote continuous learning and innovation. But it was up tothem to take the first step and we challenged them to take it. We provided information about theclasses at employee meetings and had some people sign up immediately. What I found however was toget them to take that step, a lot of individual 1 to 1 communication was needed to give themencouragement and a nudge that this was a good opportunity they should not let slip by. We alsoposted a list of companies in Kent County who prefer Work Keys certified candidates.Some employees knew employees who worked at other companies that used work keys. They becameambassadors for us by talking with other employees and validating that other companies use this alsoand some base your rate of pay on how you score on Work Keys.
3The first step was that the Literacy Center administered an assessment. This determined which classwas best matched to their skill level and needs. Because they were in a class with people they work withwho had similar skills levels, this boosted their confidence that they could do it – learn new skills. Thecost for the class was funded through the Ascet grant. Butterball paid employees at the normal rate ofpay for 50% of their class time to encourage them.We had about 120 employees at this time and 56 employees enrolled in one of the three classes. Forsome, attending the classes was at times difficult or impossible due to their work schedule and if theywere required to work extra hours that day to meet customer expectations.Overall, the result of the training was very positive.(Slide)Results that were immediately noticed by managers of those attending the training wereimproved job skills especially communication and speaking English on the job rather than their nativelanguage which was more comfortable. Not only did their English language skills improve as a result ofthe class but the class was conducted in English and their confidence level of practicing with each otherduring the 13 weeks spilled over to confidence in their position on the plant floor speaking English.Following the class, two of our employees on 3rd shift who previously needed translation at eachemployee communication meeting told us they could understand in English and didn’t need thetranslation anymore. This was a huge success!Another two employees went on to attend additional training of 200 hours with other programs so theycould continue to improve their English skills.There is no doubt in my mind that the training conducted by the Literacy Center gave them theconfidence to continue their education and training and helped to instill continuous learning in them.We try to publically recognize employees who are completing training and gaining a NCRC byrecognizing them at employee meetings, posting information on the bulletin board and publishing theinformation in the employee news letter and on Butterball News Network. It’s important to recognizeand reward the behaviors that you want to see more of.Other success stories from the training program include:One employee who completed the Workplace English class applied for and was hired for a positionoutside of Butterball Farms and was offered a starting wage of $2/hour more per hour, a 27% increase.He told me that he was hired because he was able to complete the application in English and interviewin English. This was a great success for him as well as for our community.Another individual was promoted from a team leader to a supervisor position.Two employees were promoted from an Operator I position to an Operator II position and received a15% increase in payThree employees were promoted to Team Leader positions and received increases of up to 52% increasein their base pay.
4Another employee was promoted first to a Team Leader position and then to a Quality Supervisorposition and received a 35% increase in compensationPromoted to a back-up team leader position.(How we use now:)We now use Work Keys in the hiring process and give preference to applicants who have thecertification. We ask the question on our application – are you work keys certified. In addition, we useit for advancement in the organization. Some employees thought they were too old to learn somethingnew or to take a test, some employees didn’t think they were smart enough to take the classes offeredbut they found they could do it so it has increased employee confidence.(What were the challenges):Some challenges we faced were holding true to our standard. When an individual showed strongperformance on the job, we had supervisors who wanted to promote them and give them a pay increaseprior to receiving the certification. HR had to hold firm on this not happening so it didn’t erode thevalue of the certificate. Another challenge was availability of testing though this has been resolved now.(How Work Keys is used in industry)Works keys is used in industry to establish skill level. It in no way diminishes the value of a GED or HighSchool Diploma but gives employers information on specific skill levels that are required. It is used as atool to recruit people with the right skills into positions(rather than a less formal system or just basingthe decision on what an applicant tells you or how they interview). It’s a very valuable tool that hasincreased success in hiring and promoting people into positions.(Personal stories):What long lasting impact did the Literacy Training have at Butterball?One of our employees who attended the Workplace training class decided not to take the Work Keystest at the time but it planted the seed and he is now seeking his GED and is planning to take the WorkKeys testing following that.Another employee in a team leader role said that as a result of attending the Workplace training classesit helped her do a better job by learning how to better communicate with people, how to be a betterleader.One office employee shared that in the class there was a lot of discussion about how to handle difficultco-workers and difficult situations. The group had a good dialogue about how they could handle asituation like that and Jane challenged them to think about additional more effective ways they woulddo this as well.Another employee who attended the training was very enthusiastic to learn new skills and to try to puthimself into a more secure position to enable him to provide for himself and his growing family. He wasvery diligent about attending the classes and doing his homework. He took the Work Keys tests and
5achieved a NCRC at the bronze level. His goal is to raise his score to a silver level and he retook theLocating Information test which is the only one he is at the bronze level in. He missed being at the silverlevel by 2 points when he retook the test so he is again studying so he can retake the test. He is verydriven to achieve the silver level which was instilled by the Literacy Center – the continual drive tosucceed – not giving up, but studying, retraining and trying again until you are successful.A total of 9 employees who attended the Literacy Center training have been promoted to positions ofincreased responsibility. The training helped improve our employees comprehension which gave themconfidence that they could continue learning.I can’t say enough about how the Literacy Center training helped moved our employees toward ourorganization goals and the confidence that it gave each of them and how it helped us as an organizationtoward our goal of each employee being a continual learner.