Laying foundations for successful apprenticeships

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An apprenticeship is an excellent way for new migrants to enter the New Zealand workforce, earning while they learn on the way to a recognised trade qualification.

Some building and construction apprenticeship applicants struggle to get into or complete a qualification due to insufficient English skills. BCITO (Building and Construction Training Organisation) North Auckland Area Manager James Langford says it happens enough to have prompted him to look into English courses.

“A lot of our training advisers identified existing apprentices who were struggling with English,” James says.

The government-appointed organisation recently approached English Language Partners (ELPNZ) to design and deliver work-specific English classes for their apprentices. With office space provided by BCITO in Albany, and the freedom to tailor the classes to focus on building terminology, the classes quickly filled.

ELPNZ worked with BCITO to design the weekly classes to help their apprentices, and a list of building terminology was supplied by one of BCITO’s training advisers. Five people attended for the full sixteen-week duration, with another seven attending when they could manage to fit classes in around their busy working hours. The apprentices were mainly from China, Taiwan and Korea.

The design of the course was especially helpful, says Joseph Lee, a building apprentice for Sparta Construction.

The building site Joseph currently works on is noisy; there’s a lot going on. “It’s handover day today,” he says. “New owners are getting the keys to one of the houses on site.”

Joseph explains that the course gave him more confidence at work, specifically because it was tailored to his job. He says role playing in the class helped him pick up on building site terminology. The classes, he says, also helped his life outside work.

Joseph is originally from Korea. “I’ve been in New Zealand for five years,” he says, explaining that he arrived shortly after marrying.

“I couldn’t speak English very well. I really wanted to learn, but I couldn’t get much of a chance. I have to work and I have a family. I needed money.”

As well as simply knowing the work-related terminology, James says conversing with those who’ve done the course is now easier for his field staff, largely due to more confidence when speaking English.

“The apprentices are more prepared to actually talk to the training advisers,” he says.

“A lot of the time they were scared of making a mistake, or saying something wrong. But now they’re prepared to stick their necks out and say what they think. I think just talking in English in the classroom has given them confidence.”

Joseph agrees that his enthusiasm to talk to both employers and workmates has increased. Feedback from the course has been positive, and James says they’re looking into working with ELPNZ on future projects.

“Now some training advisors have seen the benefits of the classes on site, they’ll be pushing it a bit more.” he says. “Hopefully, we can get the people who couldn’t sign up the first time onto the next course. That’s our aim.”

It’s something Joseph would definitely encourage others to do, too. “I recommend the course, as long as they really want to speak English and to be a New Zealander. If they are eager to learn.”

And Joseph’s eagerness to learn has paid off at work, he says, smiling before heading back to the worksite.

“My boss is happy.”

BCITO: www.bcito.org.nz

More about tailor-made courses: https://www.englishlanguage.org.nz/for-employers

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English for Employees

  • 2-4 hours per week (Up to 45-hour course, flexible hours)
  • For people with a job (full-time, part-time, casually/seasonally or self-employed)
  • Improve your workplace English
  • Qualified teachers
  • Small classes
  • For New Zealand citizens and residents
  • Free programme
  • In all centres
  • Find out more

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