Yaro's workplace skills build a better future

English For Employees

When he came to New Zealand, Yaro Panfylov couldn’t speak English.

It was in Poland that he began to work in joinery and construction. Yaro wanted a trade that he could use anywhere in the world. The 33-year-old is not afraid of hard work and, while in Poland, was on site for up to 72 hours per week, in addition to a three-hour commute to work each day.

Soon after arriving in Palmerston North, he contacted the Multicultural Centre, and it was through his experience there that he was offered some part-time renovation work. Within weeks he applied for a full-time carpentry job with local building firm Kynoch Construction.

“I went for my interview with Peter Kynoch, and afterwards he said, ’When can you start?’ I was a bit shocked and he said, ‘You do understand that you now have a job?!’”

Yaro, English for Employees student, at work at construction site

Peter says it was soon evident that Yaro had excellent building skills and gave attention to detail. “His attitude was great. Early on, verbal communication was a bit of an issue, but you only had to show him once and it was done.”

Peter admits he has huge respect for immigrants and their determination to settle into a new country and culture, while learning a new language. “They achieve because they haven’t come all this way to mess around.”

As with any of his migrant staff, Peter encouraged Yaro to improve his English skills, so Yaro continued on the English for Employees programme at English Language Partners, a course he had started while working part time.

For nearly eight months Yaro attended evening and then Saturday classes, so he was able to fit his English studies into his working week. “It was very valuable and a big help in improving my knowledge of English.”

The TEC-funded programme is aimed at people with residency who are already employed and want to develop English language skills for in the workplace.

Yaro also enjoyed the friendship of his fellow classmates.

“It was great meeting people from different countries and hearing their stories. I am very interested in the world.”

On the building site, Yaro kept notes to help him learn the names of tools and actions. “The guys helped me with the spelling and would sometimes mime the job they wanted me to do. They spoke slowly and were very patient.”

Over the three years he worked at Kynoch Construction, Yaro says the hardest thing was to communicate with all the different subcontractors on the job.

“I became used to communicating with my workmates but if someone new visited the site, which happened all the time, I would have trouble understanding them.”

Early on, Yaro also had to contend with totally different building techniques from what he was used to.

“In Poland you do the same job, usually as a bricklayer, for the entire build.” It came as a shock to Yaro that New Zealand builders do a wide range of tasks. “I asked myself, how can you know how to do every job on the site?”

Building paper and timber were new materials to master. “And I’d never used a nail gun before!”

In April 2017, Yaro left Kynoch Construction and began work for Dawson and Gerrard Construction. His boss Ken Gerrard says Yaro wasted no time in fitting into his team, immediately showing a great work ethic and impressive carpentry skills.

“Yaro is very capable.  I offered him an apprenticeship. He turned me down, saying he had another ambition that he wants to achieve – to be a marine biologist.”

Never being one to shy away from a challenge, Yaro is determined to put the Biology qualifications he gained in the Ukraine to good use to pursue a long-held dream.

“I want to study at university to become a marine biologist specialising in biodiversity and conservation,” he says.

To this end, Yaro sought the help of an ESOL home tutor to help him to improve his academic writing skills. As fortune would have it, retired Massey University science lecturer Ian Boag had just completed his tutor training with English Language Partners.

The pair have a lesson once a week and Yaro is set ‘plenty of homework’ to complete between lessons. “I have very little free time, so I have to prioritise and be motivated to self-learn,” he says.

With the combination of personal determination and support from English Language Partners, Yaro is sure to reach his future goal.

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