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Esterline Defence Systems

Key benefits

  • 34 employees achieved level 2 literacy
  • 29 employees achieved level 1 numeracy
  • Training delivered to suit shift patterns
  • Improvement in staff motivation
  • Skilled workforce now provides ability to promote from within


Esterline Defence Systems is a company that manufactures combustible ordnance and pyrotechnics for the 20110630044458-Esterline.jpgMinistry of Defence. All employees that work on the production of pyrotechnics are required to read and fully understand bench instructions specific to their roles. The bench instructions are a series of working procedures which follow a very strict health & safety and security regime to ensure the safe production of pyrotechnics. Over time, these bench instructions have become increasingly complex and so the Esterline management team considered that they had a duty to formally ensure that all its employees working in this hazardous area  possessed the appropriate level of literacy and numeracy skills to enable them to fully understand these instructions. A failure in this area could result not only in a loss of production but is also a serious risk to employees’ health and safety.

In consultation with PDM, Esterline embarked upon a Skills for Life development programme for its staff. The primary focus of the programme was the development of literacy skills within the business. An engagement plan was fully discussed and agreed with the management team to ensure minimal impact on the business. Regular meetings were scheduled to monitor and maintain the progress of the programme. PDM conducted initial assessments with each learner to ensure that they were engaged at an appropriate level and that their individual learning plan was relevant, realistic and timely.

The Company works on a fixed shift pattern and this required a totally flexible approach by PDM to fully support all the learners on programme.


Since embarking on the training programme with PDM, 32 employees have achieved level 2 literacy and 31 of them have now gone on to improve their numeracy levels. Through the improved skill levels Esterline has identified additional employees who are now capable of re-drafting bench instructions.

An additional benefit for both the company and existing staff is that Esterline has been able to promote from within, safe now in the knowledge that these individuals have the necessary literacy and numeracy competencies to enable them to fully understand and contribute to shop floor working procedures and instructions.

The programme has had the effect of improving staff motivation; employees report that they feel that the company has shown its commitment to them through the opportunity to take part in the training. Esterline says that there has been a tangible change in ethos, and a significant increase in team morale which they attribute directly to their workers being so successful in their learning programmes.

40 employees signed up for a six month course for one hour every two weeks, agreeing to provide half of this from their own time. Improvements have already been noticed in communication, understanding of written instructions, self-esteem, confidence, awareness and problem solving skills. The benefits of this course have been realised both in improving basic skills and recognising skills that already exist. Plans are also in progress to encourage more employees to participate during 2010/11 to continue with this successful programme.

Gary Deakin, Director of Manufacturing, Esterline Defence Technologies*