The following blog post was written by Shelley McConnell, a faculty member at the School of Global Access.
On March 15, 2018, my ELL Practical 3A class had the opportunity to share a project they’ve worked on with the Minister of Labour, Hon. Christina Gray, MLA Robyn Luff and two of their staff members.
I felt so proud. I can’t believe I can talk to people in the government about my jobs from back home and in Canada. I was so nervous before school, but when they came, they made me feel calm. They made me feel proud of my jobs.
Over the last two weeks, my students compiled and charted their combined work experience. This cohort of 21 learners, largely who came to Canada as refugees, have worked in five sectors, 21 fields, and in more than 75 different job roles. Many held entry-level jobs, as you might expect from people with interrupted formal education, but many also had highly skilled jobs. Their job roles included: business owners, vocational instructor, bodybuilding coach, master wood craftsman, ferry captain, shoe designer, heavy-duty mechanic, musical performer, data-entry technician, goldsmith, and disability community aid worker. A large number had worked in transportation and many expressed interest in working in health care. Both industries the Minister identified as having excellent future prospects.
Several students made short presentations on their work experience using their manipulatives chart and then asked the Minister and MLA questions about working in Alberta in the future. Some of their questions were around translating their work experience to well-paying jobs when they have between seven and nine years of past formal education.
I was so surprised that people at this level wanted to meet us. They really listened to us. I could understand them too!
The Minister said they were in the right place to gain the language and upgrading they might need for future credentialing. The MLA discussed pre-employment trades training that they could take once their English language benchmarks improved. Some students showed examples of photos from portfolios of their past skilled work. The Minister presented recent changes to employment standards and worker rights in Alberta, at an accessible level the students could understand. She also distributed various accessible Employment Standards Guides, including ones specific to the retail and construction industries. The MLA offered her support for questions learners had about working in Alberta.
I’m really proud of my class. They worked hard to extend their English to communicate in this context. For many, it was their first presentation in English, and they did it for the Alberta Minister of Labour and an MLA! The pride they felt, speaks to how approachable the government representatives were.