Skills and Training
Riviera Produce Ltd, based near Hayle produces and packs Cornish cauliflowers, spring greens, broccoli, courgettes and cabbages. The produce is then marketed to many of the major supermarkets, wholesalers, retailers and processors across the South West.
Continuing patterns of strong growth the business is looking towards further investment in infrastructure and processing capacity to expand operations. A strong and professional workforce is essential to meet contract requirements and maintain a quality assured product suitable for stringent requirements of the supermarkets.
The company now employs 115 with a significant proportion of staff from countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
A training needs analysis was conducted by the Key Sectors Food and Drink Skills Adviser to identify both the short term and long term skills requirements of staff. Notable gaps in English language were flagged as a priority area in the skills analysis.
Ensuring that staff are working safely, and efficiently, is of primary importance to Management at Riviera. Poor language skills present a real barrier to employees not only in the work place but also within their day to day home life. Simple tasks such as confirming work rotas and booking doctors appointments can be challenging.
With support from the Key Sectors Food & Drink Project, managed by Cornwall Agri-food Council (hosted within Cornwall Development Company) 3 separate providers of English training were invited to make proposals and quote for the delivery of training. This allowed the Management team to consider a range of options and select the proposal which would fit most appropriately with their business requirements.
The Cornwall College Skills for Work team were resultantly chosen to deliver the English training. They were able to start delivery immediately, over the slightly quieter winter months. Cornwall College worked closely with the Management Team at Riviera to develop a tailored course integrating appropriate vocabulary (names of vegetables, health and safety vocabulary) and material contextualised to the work environment.
17 employees self-selected to take part in the training overall. The Entry Level English course was delivered very flexibly with intervals in training when workloads were high or staff were unavailable. To prevent disruption to the working day the training was delivered in the evenings on site so no additional travel was required.
Due to the relatively low language ability levels of the learners the funding (ESF and Skills Funding Agency Co-financed) was used to invest in an interpreter to attend the first 6 sessions. The interpreter supported the learners and made sure instructions were fully understood. This notably reduced anxiety and helped to build confidence amongst the staff.
The training was suspended for 8 weeks whilst requirements of a large contract were met but resumed again in the Spring. The course is now complete and the learners have taken their assessments. Out of the 17 learners to start the course 12 completed the final exam with 10 staff achieving a successful outcome.
Due to the impact of the course and interest from staff the business is currently investigating the opportunities for staff to progress to the Entry Level 2 English Award.
David Simmons, Owner and Manager of Riviera Produce explained ‘the service provided has been ideal. In particular the attention to detail in getting the training designed for the specific requirements of the staff and business has been very valuable. The Management Team have reported improvements in communication skills. A number of the staff have already enquired about taking further lessons. Overall it’s been a very worthwhile activity’.