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Ford nominated for top training award

Ford of Britain has been shortlisted for a National Excellence Award from Business in the Community (BITC) for its skills for life campaign at Ford’s two Dagenham engine plants.

It is one of four companies nominated after receiving a big tick in the 2008 BITC Awards for Excellence which this year focuses on best practice in finding and nurturing talents essential for an organisation.

Ford Dagenham staff are typically middle-aged males, with an average of 17 years’ service, explained Amy Lewis, Ford Dagenham change, learning and development manager. Therefore, they have been out of education a long time and are reluctant to walk into classrooms to learn skills for life.

Lewis said: “We needed to find another approach. Now we have skills coaches who work on the factory floor.

“They are there for employees who want to work further on maths or English. They have short one-to-one lessons of 15-20 minutes once a week.”

She added: “When workers have built up confidence, we suggest to them they can take a national qualification in numeracy or literacy.”

Since the new approach was introduced in spring last year, there have been fewer and less severe accidents, an improvement in quality of work and reduced staff absence.

Most notably, production volumes increased by a third in 2007.

There has also been an increase in workers applying for roles such as group leader and employees are gaining a national qualification.

“This method totally fits with our employees and the manufacturing environment,” said Lewis. “It takes away the stigma of the classroom atmosphere, and removes a lot of barriers in the process.” Around a fifth of the workforce is currently undertaking the programme – 500 employees out of 2,400.

The skills for life programme at Ford Dagenham is currently funded by London Development Agency and Learning Skills Council.

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