Capable NZ collaborates with Cadbury crew

Some Cadbury staff attended their final morning tea at the Dunedin institution today, then swapped their work clothes for gowns and headed off to Otago Polytechnic’s graduation ceremony at the Dunedin Town Hall.

A process of looking back has enabled a significant cohort of Cadbury workers to look forward once the Dunedin factory closes its doors.

Capable NZ, a school within Otago Polytechnic, has worked closely with 31 Cadbury employees over the past year.

Twenty-two staff have completed their qualification and the balance are on track for a December graduation.

Qualifications include Masters in Professional Practice, Bachelor of Applied Management, Bachelor and Diplomas in Engineering, and Diplomas and Certificates in Business Administration.

Leanne Dewes finishes as front line leader of Cadbury’s enrobed starch team this Friday.

But instead of donning white overalls, she’ll put on a gown and, along with a posse of family members, head to the Dunedin Town Hall and celebrate graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Management from Otago Polytechnic.

Leanne describes her transformative learning experience in one word: “Huge.”

Although she plans to take a holiday, “just to get my head around things”, the 41-year-old says she’s in a good space.

“I’ve got a qualification that has given me the confidence to go out and find a job that I want to do – probably in managing and leading people.”

Valuing the prior learning of individuals who want to become qualified, and supporting the workplaces that employ them, Capable NZ measures an employee’s existing capability, gained through years of work and life experience, against an actual qualification and gives academic credit for what they already know.

As Programme Leader of Capable NZ’s undergraduate progammes, Glenys Ker met Cadbury’s staff, both collectively and individually, to explain the process, as well as encourage people to feel confident about the depth and breadth of their prior learning.

The results of the collaboration mean the future is somewhat brighter than it may have seemed when redundancies became apparent last year.

“This closure has been massively difficult for many people. I’m not attempting to diminish their experiences, but some people have come out the other side with qualifications – and that’s a powerful thing.

“The leaders at Cadbury’s helped them work through this transitional process – even while they themselves were experiencing it.”

Capable NZ utilises an Independent Learning Pathway approach, an intensely learner-centred and highly reflective process through which the learner undertakes a set of activities designed to help them make explicit their learning from experience. Learners also identify any gaps they may have in knowledge or skill areas, for which they take responsibility to address. 

In the ILP approach, the learner compiles a portfolio which identifies relevant experience and the learnings from that experience and prepares case studies of their practice. 

The learner’s portfolio and case studies are central to the assessment process which is undertaken by two assessors -- one an academic and the other a practitioner in the field.  The assessment process includes a professional conversation in which the learner articulates their knowledge and capabilities relevant to their degree.

“This closure has been massively challenging for many people and to have so many people come out the other side with a qualification that’s a powerful thing,” Glenys says.

“The leaders at Cadbury helped staff work through this transitional process – even while they themselves were experiencing it.”

Jo Stroud, Mondelez New Zealand’s Dunedin-based HR consultant, says the firm looked at how to translate skills and experiences into national qualifications that other businesses would recognise for its staff, including Otago Polytechnic’s Capable NZ school.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve only worked in a factory’. They didn’t understand what they had actually learned over the years.

“People have commented that gaining a qualification has given them more credibility – that they have up-to-date, transferable skills.”

Andrew Smaill (above, left) is one example.

The International Freight Manager for Mondelez New Zealand, Andrew will finish a 12-year chapter with the firm on Thursday 29 March after which he’ll begin a fixed-term “supply chain” position at a Dunedin health diagnostic company.

Rewind a year, when news of redundancies broke: “The first word that came to mind was shock,” Andrew (52) recalls.

“Once redundancies were announced, we collectively looked at options. Capable NZ entered the picture fairly early in the piece and it gave us something to focus on.

“It is a very reflective process,” says Andrew, who has completed a Bachelor of Applied Management.

“I have to remind myself that this degree wasn’t achieved only recently. In fact, it’s a culmination of 30 years of hard graft.

“It has opened my eyes to the idea that further education is a good thing. I’m keen to do more in the future as I get a bit of a buzz from it,” says Andrew, who can’t make this week’s Otago Polytechnic graduation ceremony (instead he will graduate in November).

“I feel the degree will open doors. You just have to look at job sites such as Seek and read all the vacancies that require a tertiary qualification. Now that I have ticked that box I have more confidence.”

David Bettis (above, right) agees.

“You forget how far you’ve come. If you’ve been in an industry for 20 years, you will have built up an enormous range of skills that you perhaps take for granted.”

David (40), a reliability engineer with Cadbury since 2010, is graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (electrical) and will thus enjoy a final morning tea at the firm this week before he celebrates receiving his qualification.

“I finish here on Friday and start a new role as a lecturer in engineering (electrical pre-trade, levels 1-3) at Otago Polytechnic on Monday. It’s very exciting.

“it has always been an ambition of mine to do an engineering degree. And now I have.

“I approached it like a work project, really. I set goals and knocked them over one by one. It worked for me.”