English in the Workplace, or EWP, was first offered by Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre (HILC) in 1993, with one instructor, Cathy Vaughn. Soon after, Darlene MacInnis and Joanna Wine joined the team. At the start, most of the classes were for basic English and many of the clients worked in the service and food industries. Classes were held at sites such as the Casino, the Prince George and Citadel Hotels and Camp Hill Hospital.
Cathy noted that the employers also began to understand that they use very specific language and jargon that can be challenging for new immigrants. She remembers a Russian lawyer who worked on an assembly line at a recycling depot and could not understand why her co-workers kept calling out “Duck!” when there were no birds in sight. Work teams commented on the great boost to their co-workers’ confidence as a result of EWP classes.
Darlene recalls teaching three lovely ladies who were nurses from Hong Kong and worked as cleaning staff for the hospital. The learning plan for them included being able to use the pagers they had and understanding the regulations around hazardous materials so that they could get their WHIMS certification. There were also entrepreneurs like James and Julie Yoon, who ran the cafeteria in the Trade Mart Building for a few years, then later moved to Ottawa and bought a Tim Hortons franchise.
Today, the EWP clients also include many people in information technology, banking and other highly skilled professions. While some are learning the names of the different pots and pans in hotel kitchens, others are practicing presentation skills and report writing.
About the Program
English in the Workplace is a free 12 week training program targeting the specific needs of immigrant employees, to help them with on-the-job language skills. A qualified English as an Additional Language (EAL) instructor meets with the employee and employer to develop a customized learning plan for their particular situation. Distance training is delivered live over the internet, using a web-camera and software for shared audio-visuals.
In 2014-15, ISANS ran 68 EWP classes at 41 worksites. One-third of the employers use the program more than once.
This unique program continues to be an effective tool and meet the needs of employers and employees alike.