WORK PREPARATION SUPPORT PROGRAM
The Work Preparation Support Program (WPSP) was developed by the Keysborough Learning Centre (KLC) with funding from the ACFE Board Capacity and Innovation Fund (CAIF) to provide a framework to assist a priority cohort of ACFE, who are also a very vulnerable group with complex needs.
The WPSP provides a standardised approach for people seeking asylum and refugees wishing to access pre-accredited language and/or literacy programs to facilitate vocational learning and as a pathway into employment opportunities.
The project methodology was built to
Create an atmosphere of learning, building rapport, trust and confidence.
Deliver a pilot program, building learnings and feedback through an evaluation process into an enhanced model (after the feedback and re-evaluation process).
This project was developed to explore program methodologies which can be used going forward to facilitate vocational learning to this cohort and to pathway them into employment opportunities.
Findings from this project:
1. The cohort’s educational/vocational aims were not homogenous. Even those from the same culture had a wide spectrum of views. The educational backgrounds ranged from overseas university degrees to trade skills to basic primary schooling. The employment aspirations ranged from anything that would pay a wage to pathways to particular careers. The one thing that was in common was the need to earn an income to support themselves and families, and the urgency to do so differed depending on the individual’s support network. The process of engagement was very individual specific, and required a substantial investment of time in building a relationship of trust – more so than for the general CALD community.
2. Given point 1, the enrollment process was time-consuming and protracted. Undergoing the training process, even though provided free of charge, required a commitment to attend on a regular/weekly basis. Some could see the benefit in giving up potential short-term casual employment to gain skills for a better medium to long term job, but some could not (or were too fearful). Some were daunted by the actual enrollment form itself, with proof of identity, VISA etc, and the process required several sessions to complete, often with one-on-one support.
3. Some participants, particularly mothers, were not willing to attend without their children, who needed to be within eyesight, even if just in an adjoining area. This required all sessions to have children supervisors, who also needed to be women.
4. The formal assessment process was also time-consuming, as it was run by professional teaching staff who were new to the participants – thus, the initial contact people were usually also in attendance in order to give confidence and help build the relationship necessary for a successful program delivery.
5. The project had assumed that for cultural reasons we would need to have separate classes for men and women – the gender separation did not prove to be a key issue for the groups. Instead, the groups were arranged according to assessed level. More of an issue was friendships which went across the beginner versus more advanced class. Some flexibility was required.
6. While the primary focus was on vocational skills, the beginner group could not make any progress without some basic English preparation. The formal assessment process did show that some participants were using a range of tactics to overcome language and literacy deficiencies, including following the responses of friends and providing set answers without context or actual understanding. Also of particular concern were anecdotes indicating some participants were willing to sign forms without really understanding what was written.
7. While the project enjoyed active and often enthusiastic participation from participants, the key learning is that it took substantially more time and individual support than originally planned before confidence and education “traction” kicked in. Once engaged and peripheral things such as child-minding were under control, classes ran very well as participants were very eager to learn. The final sessions did provide successful accreditation for all participants in CPR and Food Handling courses, which is a testament to the program's successful engagement.
Work Preparation Support Program (WPSP) was a culturally inclusive program and included both genders, learning within a safe environment. The program became a place for all to connect with a common goal to develop their English speaking skills for future employment. The key outcomes included improved English communication skills; a sense of pride particularly when receiving their certificates in Food Handling and CPR; greater capacity for participants to continue to more formalised training; greater understanding of the Australian culture; confidence to interact and communicate with others, for example, discussing future to open their own businesses or enquiring about future education. The pilot project provided confidence and skills that opened doors for the vulnerable participants of the program.