English for Work - the qualification for ESOL learner employees
Neena Julka talks to Anders Timms of Airbags International Ltd
Ask any ESOL learner why they want to learn English and you'll find 'getting a job' is one of the main reasons. A suite of 'ESOL for Work' qualifications was launched in October 2007 to provide shorter, more job-focussed courses with a more flexible approach to assessment. I met with Anders Timms, Learning Academy Group Leader at Airbags International Ltd(1), to hear about their experience.
NJ: Why did you get involved in ESOL?
AT: We had a number of employees from Poland, Portugal and Slovakia who were finding it difficult to communicate at work because of their weak English. We already offer a range of NVQ courses but ESOL is crucial if we are to ensure our operational employees are fully equipped to do their jobs.
NJ: Have you run ESOL courses before?
AT: We started our first ESOL course in 2007. However, due to the length of the
course and the complex nature of our shift patterns, we decided to put the course
'on hold' until the 'ESOL
for Work' qualification became available. We have gained funding through NRDC to launch an 'ESOL for Work' course early in 2008.
NJ: What benefits does the company see as a result of investing in employees' language skills?
AT: Communication between employees and their line managers is better and there is improved retention.
NJ: How did you prepare to run the 'ESOL for Work' qualification?
AT: We attended the Skills for Life conference in Birmingham in Autumn 2007 and
worked with key
providers to better understand the qualification. We liaised with NRDC and obtained
funding from the QIA SfLIP 'Flexible models of delivery' project to support the development of the qualification in our workplace. We also maintained close contact with 'Business in the
Community' who supported, along with other key organisations such as TUC and CBI, the launch of Best Practice 'ESOL for Work' case studies in December 2007.
NJ: Can you tell me about the pilot?
AT: We have a pilot group of 14 employees ready to start the 'ESOL for Work' qualification, which we are expecting to launch by early March. The weekly commitment will be about two hours in their own time, with full support from our team of Union Learning Reps and the Learning, Training and Development department. Macclesfield College is delivering the course.
NJ: Have you had any feedback from the learner employees?
AT: Following their experience of working towards the ESOL qualification in 2007, they are very keen to start the 'ESOL for Work' qualification. They welcome the focus on helping them fit into their workplace and maintain good communications with fellow employees and line managers.
NJ: What would be your advice to other employers who are thinking of offering ESOL training?
AT: Contact other employers who have benefited from the experience and get started as soon as possible. ESOL is just one of a number of opportunities available to employers to encourage employees back into learning and skills development, which benefits all concerned.
NJ: What is the cost to the company?
AT: The 'ESOL for Work' qualification requires an employer contribution of £330 per employee. I believe the training provider receives government funding.
NJ: Is there a danger that your employees will leave after improving their language skills?
AT: There is always that risk but we believe our employees will recognise the learning and career opportunities available to them by staying with us(2).
Neena Julka is Managing Director at SNJ Services Ltd Further information about 'ESOL for Work' is available at www.dfes.gov.uk/readwriteplus/planning_and_funding
(1) Part of Autoliv, the world's largest supplier of airbags for use in cars.
(2) For further evidence that this is the case see The benefits to employers of raising workforce basic skills levels: a review of the literature Ananiadou K., Jenkins A. and Wolf A. (NRDC 2003)