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Flexibility of Foundation Skills course a big success for CASS

By Fiona West | March 31, 2022

A tailored course in business writing skills has helped to lift the confidence, professionalism and communication standards for a group of diverse team leaders at one Sydney company.

Multicultural community service provider CASS Care approached Navitas Skilled Futures in 2021 about a Foundation Skills for Your Future course to further develop the business writing skills of 14 of its leaders/executive support officers across its entire business.

The 100% satisfaction rate by all participants, and by CASS itself, shows how one program can successfully cater for staff members across a wide range of roles in one organisation, according to Navitas Skilled Futures Academic Team Leader Chen Zhao.

“We had a group of diverse team leaders and executive support officers from all parts of the business, such as child care, aged care, disability services and settlement services,” Chen said.

“Despite their different job descriptions and job requirements, the Foundation Skills training helped every one of them improve the single skillset of business writing, that they could then apply within their own roles and divisions at CASS.”

The Project

Navitas Skilled Futures worked with CASS to design the bespoke course, which was then delivered by a trainer online four hours per week over 20 weeks, made up of a two-hour synchronous trainer session in paid work time and two hours of self-study/homework in participants’ own time.

The aim was to improve awareness and professionalism of business writing skills for all internal and external communications.

“This included things such as writing business reports, formal appraisals for team members, emails to internal and external stakeholders, meeting minutes, submissions to government, grant applications and project planning,” Chen said.

“As there were some participants from finance, we also touched on writing related to reporting on figures and looking at how to translate graphs and tables into concise business reports. There was something for everyone, and the different contexts just helped to reinforce the overall messaging.”

Positive client feedback

CASS Senior Executive Officer Dorothy Hung approached Navitas Skilled Futures about the Foundation Skills course after a similar successful upskilling program the year before for its disability services support workers, who improved their writing skills for case notes and digital skills for online NDIS reporting.

“This particular course was for senior staff in business writing,” Dorothy said.

“At CASS we employ a lot of staff from different cultural backgrounds, especially Chinese and Korean, so English may not be their first language. A lot of these people may have even a tertiary education but then their writing skills may not be up to scratch.

“Because the staff were from different services – some from corporate affairs unit, some from aged care, some from childcare – the staff have different requirements and expectations. We were grateful to Chen and Craig (the trainer) for their flexibility to be able to review the program and make changes accordingly to suit the individual needs of the cohort.”

Dorothy said it was the combination of good planning, excellent training, stability and communication that led to such a positive outcome of 100% satisfaction.

“Navitas working with us in planning and coordinating the whole process, plus the actual high-quality delivery of the training meant we met that goal of having more staff being upskilled to do the work they need to do,” she said.

“For Navitas and CASS we are dealing with a lot of people from non-English speaking backgrounds and I think we do have that same focus in assisting this vulnerable group of people who are skilled, but then because of their English levels they may have some hiccups.

“We’ve been in a good relationship for over 10 years with Navitas. They are very reputable and always follow through the process to the very end. The trainer quality at Navitas is high, and something we appreciate. We are hoping for more collaborations in the future.”

The FSfYF course targeted business writing skills for senior managers across various divisions of CASS Care.

Lessons for Navitas

Chen said the success of this FSfYF course had helped Navitas Skilled Futures plan for similar courses with companies that employ staff across various divisions, and at a range of levels, and from diverse backgrounds.

“In reality many organisations who come to us won’t have a group of people all doing the same job,” he said.

“I think the success of this course shows one program can cater for various team members across a range of divisions within one organisation to improve their skills.

“For CASS, the participants all had reasonably good writing communication skills to start with, but this course took it to the next level of professionalism. The main thing is they’ve gained a better awareness of good writing practices and their own unique writing issues, and they’ve gone away with some tools for continued improvement and greater writing and communication confidence.”

Participant testimonials

Jimmy Song said he gained confidence to write more complex sentences and use a wider variety of English expressions “with less errors”:
“Having discussions on mistakes we made in our writing is the part I enjoyed the most. We all learnt from the mistakes we made in such positive and supportive environment. Some very valuable feedback and comments were also received from the instructor for me to improve my writing in the future, such as learning to use more accurate words to express my ideas and make my writing more concise.”

Leo Li said he cultivated many problems when learning English and there had never been an opportunity before for them to be pointed out or rectified:
“During the course, the shortcomings of my writing were exposed, such as articles, grammar, tenses, and not proofreading. My writing is more professional when I apply the learning from the course into my work. I got more confident to write emails, letters, and reports.”

Kitty Leong said although she had been in Australia for many years, and undertaken tertiary study, her English writing skills were still below the advanced level:  
“I was grateful to be selected to participate in this program, in which I had the chance to improve my writing skills as well as to have a better understanding of English grammar. The 20-week course run by Navitas was fruitful to me. The trainer was patient in explaining how English grammar works and provided constructive feedback when reviewing my writing. When comparing my assignments at the beginning of the class to now, there are improvements on the structure of the writing and less grammatical mistakes.”

Angela Liang said her business report writing skills had significantly improved after the Navitas course:
“The learning journey of 20 weeks provided an insight for me on how to choose an appropriate article and to ensure the subject and verb in a sentence agree with one another in singular or plural form. These are the grammar issues that puzzled me the most and sometimes caused errors in my writing. I gained a better understanding from these lessons. The assignments were great practice and the teacher’s feedback addressed the problems clearly and directly. The program has brushed up my fundamental knowledge of English grammar and drawn my interest to read more. I will take this as a starting point and continue to practise tuning my competence in English writing.”

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