A partnership agreement between two Wellington based organisations has been helping a number of refugees find gainful employment.
Multicultural Learning and Support Services (Mclass) has teamed up with Wellcare Education, a partnership brokered by Refugee Services’ Pathways to Employment Programme, to run a course at the former’s facility.
This initiative was in response to the need identified by the Pathways programme of refugees who want to work in elder care to get help with the language of study as well as the language of the workplace.
The programme is being offered in Porirua in the first half of the year and in Lower Hutt during the second half.
It is for people who have a slightly higher proficiency in English than those who enrol in the general workplace language courses.
The first 18 weeks are in the classroom with a Mclass tutor. For the final four or five weeks, a Wellcare tutor will take the lead and work to find rest-home employment for each learner following the course completion.
The tutor will also support them to overcome any difficulties or uncertainties they may have in the first few months of their employment.
Emily Blyth, who has recently joined Mclass, said that the students would have learned the language and study skills for Certificate in Health, Disability and Aged Support by the end of the course.
“I find Wellcare extremely helpful with advice and information about the certificate and the language needed to complete the course,” she said.
According to ESOL programme coordinator Kim Paterson, an important factor in deciding whether to accept each applicant for the course was the ability to have empathy with the elderly clients with who they would be working.
“Then we can help them develop their English so they are able to establish relationships of trust, which are so necessary in this environment,” she said.
Among the other services that Mclass provides is to refer clients without previous qualifications and those still struggling to learn English to potential employers.
Gilmer Serviced Apartments manager Natasha Pennell said her organisation employs several Mclass clients in her housekeeping team.
She coordinates with job facilitators at Mclass to provide support, training and occasional help with communication with the learners and job seekers.
“It is humbling to meet people who come to New Zealand from war-torn countries, seeking a better life, willing to take on the challenge of a new language and a new culture. They have been through so much that I find they value the opportunity of work more than most of us do,” Ms Pennell said.
She said Gilmer Serviced Apartments has adapted a training programme to meet the needs of employees.
“In order to overcome language barriers, for example, we have devised a colour-coded system for assigning housekeeping duties. We look for ways of finding a common ground. This sometimes requires thinking outside the box and finding new ways of doing things,” she said.
Ms Pennell was chosen last year to receive the ‘Mclass 2011 Certificate of Employer Appreciation’ Award.
Penetito Iosefo, who migrated from Samoa more than five years ago, has been working at Gilmer Serviced Apartments since July 2011.
“When I started, I followed the people I worked with around, always watching how they did their jobs. Now, I can do it as good as or even better than them!” he said with confidence.