From education to employment

Government launches new qualifications designed to help migrant workers in the workplace.

Migrant workers could be expected to take a new ESOL for Work qualification, Bill Rammell, the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education announced today.

The new ESOL qualifications are designed to offer migrant workers language classes in work related matters such as health & safety. There will be eight qualifications, drawn up by different awarding bodies, each having a slightly different focus. Employers will be expected to contribute towards the cost of training their staff. Although the Government will fund the ESOL for Work qualifications, employers contributions are expected to be around £330.

Speaking at the launch event at Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College, Minister Bill Rammell said: “Everyone who works in this country should be able to communicate effectively in English. Those communication skills are essential to an individuals ability to progress and integrate in life and work.”

However, the University and College Union was cautious in welcoming the new courses, fearing they were too dependent on employer contributions.

“We welcome moves to satisfy those with English language needs” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. “Obviously employer take-up and contribution to this initiative will be very important, as many migrant workers are on very low pay and cannot prioritise spending on language skills.

We still have very big concerns about the impact of changes in entitlement to ESOL, which may be having a number of unintended consequences. It is not clear that the new qualifications will satisfy citizenship criteria or help UK citizens in settled communities.

New courses must be of adequate length and best quality. Migrants dont just need English language skills to read health and safety notices – they need them to progress in work and to play a full role in their local community.

The ATL also voiced concerns that the new courses would restrict migrants opportunities. Martin Freedman, head of pay, pensions and conditions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “While we are pleased the Government is going to fund basic English courses, we have major concerns about what is proposed.

“By restricting the course to immediate language needs in the workplace, the Government is not really helping migrants communicate effectively in English. Instead these courses could trap them in low-paid jobs because they will only understand vocabulary connected with their immediate work.

“We also have doubts, on past evidence, about whether employers really will pay for their employees to learn good English as they have shown little enthusiasm to pay for other skills training.”

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