In 2007 I set out to build a business with a very specific purpose. This was to deliver professional development and training in an emerging niche education market. In fact, you could say that it was a niche market inside a niche market.
Two things had happened to make this possible. The first was that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) had just developed the first version of a new qualification that would professionalise trades and vocational trainers beginning to embed literacy and numeacy into their education programmes.
The second thing was that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that funds post-high school education in New Zealand had allocated funding to subside this training. This combination of a new compliance requirement plus the funding to subsidise training was the initial business model.
Previously, I had been working as a consultant helping education providers sort out their compliance issues with the NZQA and occasionally writing proposals to help them gain additional funding from the TEC. Before this I had spent time teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in both Japan and New Zealand. As it turned out this background was a pretty good apprenticeship for what was to come.
Adult Literacy Education & Consulting Limited, otherwise known as ALEC, had a farily rough start. We managed to get through the process of registering and accrediting our fledgling organisation with the NZQA only to find that we had been sabotaged. External influences had ensured that our accreditation didn’t extend far enough for us to qualify for the TEC funding we need to make things work.
So we did it any way. We started writing and delivering and rewriting the core content that we did have accreditation for. Without any funding. A year later we managed to get our accreditation extended enough to qualify for the funding we needed. The TEC approved our application. We said goodbye to our old clients from the compliance business, moved home to Taupo and began national delivery of the National Certificate in Adult Literacy Education (Vocational), known to many as the NCALE (Voc) for short.
Flash forward a few years and ALEC now has full domain accreditation for Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (ALNE) up to level 6, and we now have an entire government-mandated, national infrastructure in place for literacy and numeracy.
A few years ago the NZQA usefullly revised the qualification to include and empahsis on numeracy.
Version two of the qualification is a bit more of a mouthful – it’s now the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) which we abbreviate to the NCALNE (Voc).
Competitors have come and gone and we feel that we’ve managed to carve out a space for ourselves in the sector. We’ve worked with some of the smartest people in our industry to deliver training to an incredibly diverse range of people and groups from government sector organisations to Wananga to Institutes of Technology and Polytechs (ITPs), Industry Training Organizations (ITOs), Private Training Establishments (PTEs), as well as companies and businesses.
The content that we work with has changed immensely since we started this work. And we’ve always taken the approach that our delivery needs to be dynamic. As a result our course work has been dynamic – often rewritten several times across a year.
This dynamic and iterative approach is not likely to change. However, we finally feel that we’re at a point now where we can take the best of what we’ve done and make it available for others. What we’ve got is a reallly great system that anyone can use to embed literacy and numeracy into other training and content.
So what’s next then…?