How the Future Ready: Money Confidence course made a tangible difference for Van Den Brink Poultry’s Pacific employees


Financial literacy may not be essential for day-to-day work at a chicken processing plant, but as the team at Van Den Brink Poultry found, it can make a real difference in people’s lives – and flow through to their work.  

After putting a pilot group of Pacific production and logistics workers through the Future Ready: Money Confidence course, the management team at Van Den Brink Poultry has seen a change in their approach to money and their general confidence. For a team of people who have had limited opportunities for education and learning, it was a game-changer. 

Limited education, real-life impacts 

Van Den Brink employs around 250 people in its secondary chicken processing plant in Mt Wellington. The work environment is tough and the wages are relatively low, so the workforce tends to have few formal qualifications.  

“Most of our workforce have had limited education, they haven’t gained qualifications, they’ve often dropped out of school early,” says Ruth Baker. 

Many team members struggle to balance their limited income with the needs of their families, which can be particularly difficult without good budgeting or money management skills. 

As Secondary Processing Manager Stephen Clark explains, this can affect workers not just at home, but also in the workplace. “I know they struggle with money. Nobody tells you they have an issue with money, but you know it’s there.”   

A focus on learning 

Van Den Brink Poultry is always looking for ways to upskill its people to help employees build the skills they need to flourish in and out of the workplace. 

When the HR and operations teams found out about the financial literacy programme, delivered by education provider Upskills, they saw the potential benefits right away. The Future Ready: Money Confidence course is fully government-funded through Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, which made the decision even easier. 

 “It was really about understanding the objectives of the programme. Improving financial literacy for Pasifika people, a core group of our employees. We looked at who would benefit from the programme, and who could share with others. It wasn’t difficult to sell it to the operations team, then we gave them the go-ahead.” 

The management team identified staff who would benefit from the course, then gave them time away from the production and logistics floor to participate. 

Confidence, pride, and changing behaviour   

The course ran over eight weeks, teaching budgeting, money literacy, and goal-setting skills. 

As Ruth Baker explains, the value was clear from the beginning. “Throughout the programme, I’d get weekly updates, which was really great, including comments from the learners, snippets, little gems about what they’d learnt.” 

Ruth and other managers have noticed the difference in staff on the floor – boosted confidence, changed behaviour around money, a deeper understanding of money management and long-term savings goals. 

Staff set savings goals in the programme – a new TV, a car, even a house – and continue to work towards them. A new understanding of concepts like compound interest, savings accounts and financial goal setting seem to be making a difference. 

In one simple example, employees who had previously bought lunch every day were now bringing food from home instead. 

“I’m not going to buy my lunch every day. Even saving one, two, three dollars here and there, at the end of the week it adds up, at the end of the month it adds up, at the end of the year it adds up,” explains course participant Sara. 

Putting learning into practice 

Although business benefits weren’t the primary goal of the programme, Ruth Baker believes that these new skills will flow through to Van Den Brink as well. Better money management could reduce absenteeism, as staff sometimes struggle to get to work because of lack of petrol or vehicle breakdowns they can’t afford to fix. 

It’s also about making people feel that they’re valued by the business and supported in their growth.  

At the end of the programme, the learners had a graduation and presentation event, sharing what they had learned with other staff and management. As Ruth explains, the management team was blown away by the difference in its people. 

“When it all came together at the final graduation it was amazing to see what an impact this had had on these individuals’ lives. To see your employees develop and flourish, to see the pride that develops, there was immense pride in that room. These incredible employees who had come such a long way in such a short time.” 

Learning and growth with Project Ikuna 

The Future Ready: Money Confidence course that made such an impact at Van Den Brink Poultry is part of Project Ikuna, a four-year, MBIE-funded programme designed to help upskill Auckland’s Pacific workforce. It’s aimed at giving people the skills and knowledge they need to adapt to the future of work, particularly after the economic impacts of COVID-19.

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