In response to dramatically declining volumes of mail, New Zealand Post initiated unprecedented organizational change.
Three of the organization’s six metro mailing processing sites - Dunedin, Waikato and Te Puni – and a number of rural processing centres were affected, resulting in either closure or downsizing over a period of time with many long-serving employees affected.
New Zealand Post considered it important to ensure that their employees received formal recognition of the skills they had developed during their service. Over 500 employees worked towards the National Certificate in Employment Skills (Level 1), with a view to remain competitive when seeking other employment in a tight labour market.
Procedures and processes
Award of qualifications occurs through expert practitioners following the process of profiling, resource development, facilitation, formal assessment and awarding of credit.
- Within profiling, candidates usually have an interview to discuss their experiences, understandings and goals. This is to ensure that the candidate is suitable for the RPL process and to help the candidate consciously match their learning from experience to the components of qualifications. Where a large group is to be assessed, the following steps are taken:
- Identification of the requirements of the qualification
- Identification of the work activities and matching of these to ensure qualification components can be achieved
- Resource development is where expert learning and assessment designers use the profiling information to:
- develop assessment support materials where required
- develop candidate and assessor guides.
- Facilitation is the step in which expert facilitators support each candidate to prepare for assessment using the assessment support materials. Candidates can then express their understanding of their knowledge, skills and competences appropriately and understand the requirements for the qualification components. The facilitators take a holistic approach to ensure that all knowledge, skills and competences are valued, explored and expressed. Facilitation can be done on an individual basis or including group work.
- Assessment occurs when assessors use outcomes of qualifications listed on the NZQF and learning outcomes of standards from the Directory of Assessment Standards to measure and validate the informal learning.
- Credit is awarded for recorded success, whether or not it forms part or all of a complete qualification. Learners should be able to carry the credit and transfer it across sectors.
A key element of RPL/RVA is the ability to make consistent judgements about qualification outcomes. The NZQF focuses on three approaches to consistency: establishing expected outcomes of qualifications, then assessing the achievement against criteria, then moderating the assessment.
The assessment approach
The assessment approach needed to recognize the diversity of candidates and their life experiences. Many had only ever worked for New Zealand Post and held no school or workplace qualifications, while others had decided to make mail delivery a lifestyle choice. There were a number of candidates with higher tertiary qualifications, but interestingly, they too were keen to undertake a workplace related qualification.
An assessment technique called ‘walkabout’ was chosen, designed by the assessment organization, for which candidates took assessors on a tour of the workplace and discussed their work and job requirements.
To meet the requirements of the qualification, the assessment process was divided into the following areas:
- Health and safety (undertaken largely through ‘walkabout’ with some documentation required)
- Problem solving (undertaken largely through ‘walkabout’ with specific discussion of examples required)
- Computer skills (undertaken largely through ‘walkabout’ and the future focus section with some documentation required)
- Employment skills (undertaken largely through ‘walkabout’ with some documentation required)
- Communication and teamwork (undertaken largely through ‘walkabout’ with some documentation required)
- Future focus (specific activities required).
The supervisor was also required to provide written verification for all candidates and to follow up in a discussion with the assessor.
‘Walkabout’ was designed to allow candidates to cover the majority of the evidence required. For example, the candidate did a safety briefing for the assessor and then showed the assessor all relevant signs, instructions and hazards, as well as incident reporting documentation, during the walkabout.
Candidates were also required to prepare a personal budget, identify other employment opportunities and develop a training plan to meet personal goals. The Skills Organization prepared a resource booklet to support this and facilitators also assisted candidates to understand what was required.
Outcomes and ways forward
New Zealand Post learning and development specialist Stan Tampeau said that the initiative went far beyond qualifications.
‘It’s about the mana of these people,’ Tampeau said. ‘It’s about the mana of families, the mana of communities and the mana of New Zealand Post.’
The programme was an easy sell, he said, because it offered genuine value. However, integrity was paramount to New Zealand Post.
‘It’s definitely not a rubber-stamp process. The participants understood that they’d got skin in the game. They had to commit, be responsible for evidence collection and working to deadlines,’ Tampeau said.
Out of the candidates, 80 per cent met all the requirements for qualification.
RPL/RVA is used extensively in New Zealand but still faces some challenges. These include the lack of awareness and understanding of the RPL/RVA process by individuals, employers and training providers, the costs and related funding mechanisms associated with RPL and the time taken to collect and collate evidence.
Projects such as this highlight the opportunities available for non-formal and informal learning to be recognized with formal qualifications that enable learners to gain confidence in their skills and expertise and to have evidence of this when seeking employment.
New Zealand Post (Client)
The Skills Organization (industry training organization responsible for the public sector)
Competency International Ltd (a company specializing in competency-based learning and assessment with an emphasis on RPL/RVA)
 In New Zealand, some qualifications have mainly compulsory components and others have a large number of optional components. Where large groups are involved, a standardized set of components is agreed upon.
 These require pre-moderation before use.
 RVA is more commonly called Recognition of Prior Learning or Recognition of Current Competence in New Zealand.
 Maori word for status or standing
 Colloquial New Zealand term for putting effort and commitment into a project