Ms. Akhi Akter: A Fire Safety Ambassador in her Factory

At the Social & Environmental Excellence Awards on December 9th, I was extremely proud of one award the Alliance presented – the award for Best Trainer to Ms. Akhi Akter. A newly promoted Assistant Cutting Supervisor (previously working as Sr. Cutting Operator) at the Hop Yick (Bangladesh) Limited factory, Akhi received this award for her outstanding performance as a Fire Safety Worker Representative in her factory.

Akhi is one of several representatives from her factory who participated in the 2-day Alliance’s Basic Fire Safety Train-the-Trainer program, where 3rd Master Trainers taught her, her colleagues, and representatives from other factories to deliver the 3-hour in-factory Basic Fire Safety Training. Since mid-September, Akhi has been part of a 2-person team that has delivered a total of 48 training sessions to the rest of the employees in their factory. These trainings are highly participatory and are designed to engage participants of low literacy on fire prevention, protection, and evacuation. While curriculum design is important, our train-the-trainer model relies heavily on factory management’s commitment to follow through with its training action plan, and on the skills of each individual trainer to deliver the training content and messages effectively directly to other employees.

To select the winner of the “Best Trainer” award, we short-listed and evaluated candidates based on their content delivery and effectiveness. Akhi performed well from the very beginning, scoring well on the pre- and post-tests during the Train-the-Trainer session and earning a recommendation from one of the Master Trainers. During observation, Akhi was found to be conversant in all aspects of the training, and she demonstrated confidence, the ability to maintain control over participants, and excellent use of practical examples during her training sessions – which resulted in workers participating enthusiastically in the training. Among the short-listed candidates, Akhi performed the best!

Promoting Workers From Within…Following Hop Lun’s lead, Hop Yick’s internal promotion policy has led to female workers now accounting for 95% of supervisors in the sewing section and 60% of supervisors in other sections. When workers demonstrate a strong work ethic and promising leadership skills, they are selected to become Acting Assistant Supervisors before potentially moving on to Officer, Senior Officer, and Assistant Manager roles.

Not only has Akhi demonstrated her capabilities as a trainer – she has been recognized as a good worker with potential in her factory for many years. Originally from the Mymensingh District, Akhi began working in Hop Lun (Bangladesh) Ltd (sister factory of Hop Yick) 10 years ago as a Helper, and was transferred to Hop Yick when the factory was established 4 years ago. Akhi came in with secondary-level education, and was quickly recognized as a talented and efficient worker, and one who is also very vocal. Hop Yick management took notice of her potential, as they are trained to identify and support the development of leadership skills among their workforce as part of the factory’s policy to fill 100% of supervisor positions by promoting workers. Since joining Hop Yick as a Helper, Akhi has been promoted 4 times – as Junior Cutting Operator, Cutting Operator, Senior Cutting Operator, and most recently as Acting Assistant Supervisor. Each promotion is accompanied by on-the-job training to ensure that employees can be successful in their new roles. Akhi is also trained and serves as a First Aid attendant.

Through this first-time award, we’re excited to publicly recognize the role that individual workers are playing in teaching their peers about fire safety and rewarding the hard work and excellent performance of one of those workers. We’re proud and encouraged to see how trainers like Akhi have mastered the curriculum and have simultaneously been supported by their management. Hop Yick stands by the benefits of its policy to promote and develop workers internally, and to offer professional growth opportunities: when asked about her future goals, Akhi said, without hesitating, that her goal is to continue to work hard and be promoted within her factory.