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Boosting English skills for staff gives Kerry Foods unexpected benefits

When bosses at Burton based Kerry Foods offered their multi-ethnic workforce the chance to improve their English skills they knew it would help with productivity, communications and team work but, what they didn’t expect was the boost to morale it provided along with opportunities for succession planning and promotion.

Staff were given the opportunity to attend weekly 2-hour English classes over a period of 16 weeks with a tutor from Learning Unlimited. The sessions were tailored to the different abilities and interests of the group. This allowed them to achieve the relevant functional skills qualification and personal goals they had set themselves. The first group of 14 learners were awarded certificates for their achievements at a celebration event.

Kerry Foods English Skills Learners and Learning Unlimited Tutor
Kerry Foods English Skills learners and Learning Unlimited Tutor, Emma Brailsford

For Mohammad Mehdi, who moved from Afghanistan 11 years ago, the course has allowed him to achieve an Entry Level 3 qualification which now means he is eligible for promotion to team leader, a job that he has been working towards for some time.

He said: “The course has taught me a lot. I feel my grammar and vocabulary has improved so much. It was hard at first but it got easier as I learnt more. I feel more confident outside of work too. I enjoyed it so much I am hoping to go to college to carry on studying. The fact that I now have the qualifications I need to apply for the team leader job feels great.”

Michael Jagielo has worked in the UK since he moved from Poland 10 years ago and although he had a good level of English he wanted to refresh his skills and brush up on his grammar so he jumped at the chance to attend the lessons.

He said: “I was really pleased when I was offered the chance to do this course. It made me feel like the company value me and is keen to invest in me and see me develop. It has built my confidence and I am really keen to learn at the next level.”

Stephanie Whyman, Training Manager at Kerry Foods said: “When we offered the course to the workforce we wanted to give them the skills we know we need and our customers expect. We also knew there would be additional benefits to the learners outside of work and that was part of the attraction for them. The first group of learners have been incredibly committed and we have already seen how the course has allowed some of the group to apply for promotion. They’ve told us how much they value having the opportunity to develop doing something other than mandatory training too.”

Following the success of the programme, Kerry Foods  and Unite the Union will be working with Learning Unlimited Derby to offer further staff development in English and Maths and apprenticeships to more employees in the future.