Your Stories:
Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

"There is a lot of fear and the Challenge helps them get over this - It’s the best resource we’ve ever had for numeracy."

USDAW is a trade union with over 433,000 members across the country. They have been using the National Numeracy Challenge since 2014 to support numeracy in the workplace.

Denise Gordon is an USDAW Project Worker who explains that they got more than they bargained for when they signed up as a partner. 


Do you think there are issues with numeracy in the workplace?

Definitely. It is big issue in retail, especially in the over 30s who left school with no qualifications, got a job in retail and stayed there. Some are working with people who say they don’t know if they are getting the correct change when they go shopping their numeracy is that bad, and others can’t help their kids with their homework. 

Did you need “buy in” from management to organise a numeracy initiative? How did it go?

As a union we don’t need "buy in" as they expect us to do this and understand the importance of numeracy skills. The National Numeracy Challenge has gone down really well in retail and managers love it. At the moment we are signing people up every day in a national supermarket chain –upskilling the workers kicks off loads of different things; there are fewer errors and members get the confidence to apply internally for better jobs- it’s a win-win for all.

Why is it so important to the business your members work for?

A few years ago a large UK food company was losing thousands of pounds in their warehouse because employees working on order fulfilment could not interpret the scales when sending out cheese. As such they were sending out larger portions on a regular basis to cover themselves as they knew nobody would complain about receiving more than they ordered. Management became aware of this and implemented a maths and literacy intervention programme. This saved the company thousands and learners became more motivated and really enjoyed learning. 

Does the Challenge work well as a way to tackle low numeracy?

Definitely. It gives people confidence and they can find their weaknesses and go on to do structured learning. There is a lot of fear and the Challenge helps them get over this. It’s the best resource we’ve ever had for numeracy. It’s really taken off, we’ve never seen anything like it – it’s so easy for people to use.

What benefits has the National Numeracy Challenge brought to the workplace?

A better trained workforce, less absenteeism, less errors, more productivity, gives learners the confidence to study further.  They celebrate their success and certificates are presented to everyone, which inspires others. 


Find out more about The Challenge