How two workers at The Comfort Group are putting their new financial literacy skills to use, at work and home.

Computers and digital technology haven’t been a big part of life for Aisake and Kilifi – until now.  Both men work at The Comfort Group’s Ōtāhuhu manufacturing plant, making bed bases, mattresses and other bedding products. Because their jobs are primarily manual, they haven’t needed to learn sophisticated computer skills or use online tools.  

As the use of digital technology becomes more of an expectation at work and home, that lack of skill started to become a challenge. Being unable to get online or use computer programmes at work meant that they were missing out on useful tools and convenience.   

After taking part in Auckland Unlimited’s Future Ready: Life Online course, they’re feeling much better about their digital competence, and ready to learn more.  

Limited experience, lack of confidence   

Aisake and Kilifi have both worked at The Comfort Group for years. Aisake joined the manufacturing team when he arrived from Samoa 15 years ago and has been building his skills on the floor ever since. Quilter operator Kilifi has been there since 1995.   

Working in manual roles means they haven’t had many opportunities to learn digital skills. While Kilifi remembers being trained to type in 1988, he’s had little experience with technology since. He was able to use the computer to print labels and check cut sizes on the factory floor but didn’t know how to access or use other job functions. At home, he tended to rely on his wife or children to do online tasks.  

Aisake didn’t have an email address before taking the course and felt intimidated by getting online. He explains: “My wife was talking about it, but I thought it was a hard thing to do.”  

Building skills at work and home  

Taking the Future Ready:Life Online course has given Aisake and Kilifi a confidence boost when it comes to computers. The eight-week course, which took a group of 10 workers through email, online banking and other basic digital skills, helped them get over their fear of technology and understand the benefits.   

“Before, I wasn’t thinking about using computers, because I thought what I was doing was the best and I didn’t need to. But the course has introduced me to something that I missed, that I should have learned before,” says Kilifi. 

Learning real-life skills like sending emails and adding attachments, accessing online banking and making payments, and navigating search tools means they no longer need to rely on family to do online tasks. 

Kilifi explains: “My wife and children know how to use the computer. I would ask them ‘Can you do this for me?’, but now we are on the same page. Instead of me asking them, I can do it myself.” 

That new level of understanding is helping Kilifi and Aisake connect with their children, communicate with family overseas – and even build language skills.  

“Before, I never used to use email or talk to someone on the computer. Now I can manage to send and receive email. And thinking about reading and finding a word you don’t know, I used to use a dictionary. Now I can go on the computer for two seconds and get it,” Kilifi says. 

Better skills, better opportunities 

Although the course focused on personal online tasks, the confidence and general skills gained will filter through to the workplace. Being able to navigate an unfamiliar system and find the information they need will be valuable as they move forward.  

Kilifi says that while he used to only use the computer at work one way, he wants to learn more about using the programmes in his job. He’s also keen to study online and work towards a new job.  

Aisake hopes to use his new skills to apply for new roles in the business.  

Both are enthusiastic about the value of the course and keen to encourage others to take it.  

Kilifi puts it like this: “I’m going to encourage them. This is not the end of life, always doing the same thing. You need to go there, study more and upskill. The future is going to be run by technology.” 

New skills, new confidence with Project Ikuna 

Aisake and Kilifi took the Future Ready:Life Online course through Project Ikuna, a four-year, MBIE-funded programme created to upskill Auckland’s Pacific workforce. It’s designed to give people the skills and knowledge they need for the future of work, particularly after the economic impacts of COVID-19. 

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