ELT: New Language Training for Employment in Ontario

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Jargon is – among other things – technical terminology or characteristic idioms of a special activity or group of people. Every profession has its own, a series of technical names, or specific terms that never show up in your regular English class because, well, they are very specific. You are probably never going to hear the expression “Anuric” in any regular ESL classroom.

There’s a gap between having a good level of English for your daily needs – like shopping, watching TV, or taking public transit – and a good level of English for work. No matter how many episodes of ER or House you have watched, you’ll never learn from these shows that “Anuric” is a term for somebody who’s not producing urine and might need dialysis. Granted, if your profession has nothing to do with health you might never need words like that. You can always “describe the action” (like saying “he is not urinating”). But if you are an internationally trained nurse, these kinds of words can make the difference to get a job and keep it.

Many newcomers arrive with the skills Canada’s marketplace demands, but they might not have the appropriate language level for the job. Although Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) funded existing Enhanced Language Training (ELT) classes, CIC is ready to make a new push towards “professional English” proficiency. Work-oriented language training is available free to newcomers to Canada through a number of Ontario colleges.

Colleges Ontario developed occupation-based language training for newcomers, at the request of CIC, for a variety of occupational fields.(See sidebar) The courses were designed by curriculum developers who went into the field to hear what language skills would be needed on the job. For example, they spent a few days working with electricians, or visiting hospitals. They also consulted with more than 200 employers about the language skills newcomers require.

“We have worked with experts within the colleges, who have not only the knowledge of language but understand the field as well. The communication training they have developed is very much rooted in specific occupations,” says Sara Katz, a consultant for Colleges Ontario, the umbrella organization for the province’s 24 community colleges.

The result? Occupational Specific Language Training (OSLT), a set of courses for permanent residents and protected persons – already at level six to eight, according to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) – who have expertise or academic background in “priority fields”: health care, business, technology, construction, automotive and human services.

“We have designed the curriculum so that the language training is sector-specific. Depending on the needs of the participants, the teacher can also focus on particular occupations within the sector,” Katz explains.

“The assumption is that they have worked or trained in their country in that area,” Katz says. “Now, what they need is to improve their language skills for the particular occupation so they can make the transition to work in Ontario.”, she explains.

These courses are available to eligible individuals. It is not important how long you have been in Canada or your current employment status. You can apply to these courses even if you are already working in your field, but underemployed.

And there’s more

You need more than just an extensive vocabulary to start making noise in Ontario. You also need training in the culture of your occupation’s workplace. That is also included in OSLT.

“Another aspect that’s very special about this curriculum is that it’s not only about language but it’s also about the culture of the workplace: how people interact, how you treat your clients, the etiquette of going to meetings, how you interact with your supervisors and colleagues,” Katz explains. “Every sector is different so we want to give a real flavour of what it’s like to work in a specific field and what language is appropriate.”

OSLT is here to help you improve both language skills and soft skills. Activities include role playing (you “act” in an environment that resembles the Canadian workplace) using tailored dialogues for each area.

Participants get a sense of how co-workers interact in the “real workplace”.

The curriculum is 180 hours long. Colleges offer it in different ways (full time, part time and weekends). As well, some colleges deliver elements of the courses online. The goals of the program range from providing the language skills to prepare you to get a job to prepare you for bridging or accreditation programs needed to work in your specific field.

OSLT is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and delivered through 13 Ontario colleges. In some cases, these educational organizations are already providing training for immigrants through accreditation, bridging or language programs. OSLT would complement those services.


Finding Your Way

Occupation-specific language training courses at colleges will be offered in the following employment sectors and occupations:


  • Accounting Personnel
  • Entrepreneur
  • Hospitality Worker
Health Sciences

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Nurse
  • Personal Support Worker
  • Polysomnographer
Human Services

  • Early Childhood Educator
  • Police and Security Officer

  • Bricklaye
  • Carpenter
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Steamfitter
Motive Power

  • Automotive Service Technician
  • Truck and Coach Technician
  • Heavy Duty Equipment Technician

  • Architectural Technologist and Technicians
  • Engineering Technologist and Technicians
  • Mechanical
  • Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Electrical and Electronics
  • Environmental Technologist and Technicians
  • Information Technologist
  • Computer Programmer

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