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Newtown Based Company the First in Mid – Wales to Take New Pledge

A company based in Newtown has become the first organisation in mid ““ Wales within the Usdaw aegis to take the “Basic Skills Employer Pledge”, responding to the long maintained demands of the Learning Committee on site.

Optimum Contact Solutions, formed from the amalgamation of the Shopdirect and Littlewoods call centres, signed this pledge on the 11th of May. The pledge has been developed as part of the National Strategy to reduce the substantial number of adults in Wales with poor literacy and numeracy skills, and seeks to “help employees with poor basic skills to improve these basic skills.”

Usdaw and Minister Welcome Pledge

The Usdaw Union Learning Rep and Learning Centre Coordinator Phil Roe was delighted at this new development and sees it as an essential part of Usdaw’s work, saying: “We are very pleased. Improving our members terms of conditions of employment is part and parcel of what a trade union is here to do. Promoting learning in the workplace to encourage our members to develop and advance their careers is therefore central to that brief”.

The Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in Wales, Jane Davidson, echoed the Usdaw’s pleasure at the announcement and praised Optimum Contact Solutions for their position at the vanguard. “I am very committed to the Employer Pledge scheme, introduced in 2002 as a key component of our National Basic Skills Strategy, to involve employers in the drive to raise the key skills of the nation,” she said.

“The take-up has been good and so far about 89 employers have signed up representing nearly 124,000 employees in Wales. It is hugely encouraging to see that Optimum Contact Solutions are signing the Basic Skills Employer Pledge, which demonstrates their commitment to improving the basic skills of their employees and I wish them every future success.”

The Glass Ceiling

The site’s learning centre, in supporting the pledge taken by the company, will offer a wide range of self ““ development opportunities. Amongst these are the Usdaw’s “Learning 4 Life”, “Computing for Parents” and “English for the Workplace”; it is hoped that these will ensure that there are real opportunities available for all employees to take advantage of the courses and training on offer.

Ms. Anita McErlane, the Director of the Call Centres, hopes that this will see a greater realisation of the potential of the workforce, encouraging those who do not necessarily already possess the skills or confidence to make the change. “80% of our employees are female,” she said. “We hope signing this pledge will help identify the obstacles that create a glass ceiling and prevent staff taking up advancement opportunities. Individuals with qualifications take up career advancement opportunities almost automatically; we hope that this will encourage those without the skills and confidence to do the same”.

Jethro Marsh

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