South African alkaline battery manufacturer Eveready has implemented an extensive adult basic education and training (Abet) programme at its premises, in Port Elizabeth, to mitigate staff illiteracy and innumeracy.
In 2003, the company realised that fewer than 30% of its workforce were literate and numerate.
Eveready human resources director Charles du Toit says this placed a significant limitation on the company’s ability to implement globally competitive and benchmarked lean manufacturing systems.
The manufacturer subsequently introduced an Abet programme and encouraged all previously disadvantaged employees to participate in it.
Today, 86% of the company’s staff are literate and Du Toit states this has provided a foundation for implementing a range of initiatives, including lean manufacturing and continuous improvement to shop floor processes.
As a result of improving the basic education level of its staff, at least 70 employees are currently participating in learnership programmes that have been put in place, 16 are on apprenticeships and many others are enrolled in graduate or intern programmes.
The Abet courses, which are presented by a local Abet service provider, teach grade one to four literacy and numeracy, including basic reading, writing and counting, as specified by the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa).
“We have educated about 250 employees over a ten-year period through the different Abet phases. Each programme or level takes about a year to complete. The training is extremely practical and includes workplace skills and life skills,” says Du Toit.
Students study for two hours every day after work and, to affirm company and employee commitment, Eveready pays employees for one of these hours.
The programme is certified and approved by Saqa, which also issues certificates to those who complete the course.
The company has constructed a training centre for the programme and at least four of these programmes run concurrently.