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Pre-employment experience proves its value

A new programme run by the Wellington based Multicultural Learning & Support Services (MCLaSS) focuses on teaching workplace language and offers work experience to learners, delivering triumphs on all fronts: to students, teachers and employers alike.

The programme, ‘Beginner English: Pre-Employment Workplace Language for Low-skilled jobs’ is being offered in Porirua, Lower Hutt and Wellington.

It includes short work experience placements for the learners to practice in actual work situations the language skills they learn in the classroom.

MCLaSS Programme Coordinator for ESOL Programmes Kim Paterson said that practical, out-of-classroom experience achieves outcomes that are relevant and specific to the needs of the students.

“It is a two-way exchange. On the one hand, it gives students an opportunity to reaffirm their strengths and capabilities and practice their English outside the classroom in real-life scenarios and on the other, it gives employers an opportunity to see for themselves the hardworking attributes and motivation migrants and refugees bring to the workplace,” she said.

Practical tasks

During the course, students were placed in various workplaces. Each student’s interest and level of English was taken into consideration before contacting potential employers to find out if they could provide them with work experience. Students who had an agricultural background, for example, were placed in nurseries or in Local Councils to do garden work. Others went to supermarkets and car washing centres.

“Stepping out of the classroom into the workplace is a major development,” Marilyn Lloyd-Jones, who teaches the programme in Lower Hutt, said.

“The students, however, have all taken it in their stride. I think they felt ready for a new challenge.”

Confidence restored

According to Ms Paterson, most of the students in the Programme have applied for jobs. They had their applications declined or just never heard from the potential employers.

“When this happens repeatedly, it destroys a person’s confidence in their employability. This Programme gives them the opportunity to prove to themselves that they can in fact have a job. Wearing a uniform with a nametag helps people who are still struggling to communicate in English to remember that they do have something to give back to the community. It is crucial for their self-esteem. It also gives them the motivation to keep learning and improving their English,” she said.

Students selected for the work-experience component of the course should be positive about their class-work and demonstrate their readiness to undertake responsibilities of being an employee.

Those who did not meet the requirements were not offered work experience this semester.

Employers involved were able to offer tasks suitable for low-level English speakers. The work environments exposed the learners to new uses of language and they had to cope with different vocabulary and learn new ways to communicate with others.

“The employers have been generous with their time and commitment. They have all said that they will employ more students in the future,” Ms Paterson said.

Source: Multicultural Learning & Support Services

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