The Learning Services team from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) were recently called in by one of their Regional Officers to see if they could help support workers at Fyffes in Coventry – this was an opportunity that Project Worker Karen Plasom knew would result in a fruitful partnership.
Fyffes is a fruit and vegetable importer that employs over 6000 people with offices in 12 countries – but they are best known as Europe’s biggest importer of bananas – they have workers from across Europe and were keen to explore ways to improve English skills at the Coventry site.
Karen takes up the story;
Lukasz Bemka, region 3 FTO (full time officer), asked me to contact Mike Cartledge at Fyffes warehouses in Coventry about learning. We had a meeting with Mike and explained what we could do and the steps we take to achieve the aims of setting up the courses.”
There is a large European workforce on site and Mike wanted to upskill his staff, giving them an opportunity to improve their English skills by bringing classes on site within work hours.”
Lukasz and Karen ran a series of learning promotion days, and they were inundated with willing participants who filled in the on-line LNA, a total of 64 people came forward to register their interest. Over a couple of weeks the union carried out assessments in English and Maths collecting the results which we took back to management.
Lee Kirton, the Workskills manager from Chesterfield College, came to a meeting with Mike and the union at the beginning of April and it was proposed that they started with those who needed the help most of all.
A list of names was compiled for the first class and on the 18th April Sally Lowndes, Functional English tutor, and Karen went to Fyffes to enrol people for the course which is due to start on the 15th May.
Karen explained that;
Mike took us round the factory and Sally looked at the workplace signs and procedures, so these could be incorporated into the lessons. We did ten enrolments on that day and I returned the week after with the list of names to complete the enrolments and see others who were not at work the week before.”
I am looking forward to working with everyone in the near future and see their confidence grow.”
This is just the start at Fyffes for the BFAWU Learning Services team and they are continuing to work with the employer and workforce to ensure that the learning support they are offering bears fruit over the coming months and European workers increase their confidence and ability to communicate with their colleagues.