The three arrived from the Philippines two years ago and are based at Fielden Metalworks, a sheet metal manufacturing company in Christchurch.
Nigel Maxey, owner and managing director, enrolled Antonio, Felix and Anthony in workplace English evening classes that have had a dramatic effect on their lives. “Their English has improved and they’re more outgoing for it.”
Joanna Fox, English Language Partners’ course coordinator, says many people are coming in on work permits to assist with the Christchurch rebuild.
“Demand for English classes is growing,” she says. “We try to offer lessons at times that suit workers.”
Joanna believes it’s essential people can communicate easily in their new communities as well as the workplace. “People on work permits need the opportunity to learn about Kiwi life and culture.”
Without permanent residence, Antonio, Felix and Anthony are unable to access government support to improve their English. However, Nigel believes investing in his workers’ English is vital for workplace knowledge and safety.
“These courses are very important and more would be good.”
He says, since attending the classes, not only has the men’s general English improved but also their understanding of work instructions. “We get fewer errors between what was asked and what happens. So it’s helpful.”
The men are clearly grateful. “He’s happy to send us to the English classes because it is important, especially at this company,” says Antonio.
But English lessons aren’t the only kind of support Nigel provides. The men speak fondly of other help he offers– even purchasing bikes for all three to ride to work on. “He’s a very good guy.”
Antonio says their boss looks out for them, “Nigel has always cared about us and he’s often asking what’s the problem, what is needed, and he can help sometimes.”
All three have found that their new skills and confidence have improved outside work too – even at the mall!
Felix points out that English is an essential part of Kiwi life, “you need English in everyday life in New Zealand. 100%.”
Anthony says the simplest of things can be tricky if you don’t know about them. “When I was not going to English classes, I wrote a report, all in capital letters. I now know that you don’t do that!”
Where they would usually stick to themselves, the lessons have also given them confidence to interact with workmates. “In our break time or smoke time we socialise,” Felix says.
Nigel has ideas for extending their English further: “If we can find a way to have some sort of a social group as well, that would get them interacting more with Kiwis.”
Learning English has also made the men positive about the future. “For me, long term, I would like to open a small business in the Philippines. That’s me,” says Antonio.
Felix’s goals are more family orientated: “My plan is that I want to get my family and bring them to live in New Zealand.”
Antonio, Felix and Anthony are keen to embrace Kiwi culture and learn more about English. Their employer also wants them to build on their existing skills, “Just help them along,” says Nigel.