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Formal and Informal Processes of Learning Essential Skills for Immigrants: A Study of Immigrant Service Organizations Katy Campbell, Tara Fenwick, Tara.

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Presentation on theme: "Formal and Informal Processes of Learning Essential Skills for Immigrants: A Study of Immigrant Service Organizations Katy Campbell, Tara Fenwick, Tara."— Presentation transcript:

1 Formal and Informal Processes of Learning Essential Skills for Immigrants: A Study of Immigrant Service Organizations Katy Campbell, Tara Fenwick, Tara Gibb, Ev Hamdon and Zenobia Jamal University of Alberta Shibao Guo and Yan Guo University of Calgary

2 Outline 1.Rationale for study 2.Research question 3.Four case studies 4.Research methods 5.Report of findings 6.Conclusion and policy implications

3 Why This Study? Why Now? Immigration has transformed Canada into an ethno-culturally diverse country. –Census 2001: 18.4% foreign born; 13.4% visible minorities 1990s: highly skilled immigrants –1994: 31.2%; 2001: 54.8%; 2004: 48.1% Immigrants face many employment barriers The role of immigrant service organizations

4 Purpose of Study The purpose of this study was to examine, document and analyse the processes of learning essential skills among immigrant populations in both formal and informal settings

5 Research Question Can the voluntary sector be an effective instrument for delivering programs for the acquisition of essential skills to Canada’s immigrant populations?

6 Four Case Studies Vancouver: SUCCESS Edmonton –Changing Together: Centre for Immigrant Women –Indo-Canadian Women's Association Calgary: Calgary Catholic Immigration Society

7 Research Methods Document analysis Program observations (classes, meetings, special functions) Survey Semi-structured interviews

8 Site 1: SUCCESS United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

9 SUCCESS Founded in 1973 to provide accessible social services for newly arrived Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong Currently supports the settlement and adaptation of new immigrants from many different countries Provided 553,333 client services in

10 SUCCESS Budget in 2004 was $10M –30% through fundraising, rest funded by 3 levels of government 20,000 members Over 300 staff Over 9,000 registered volunteers

11 Programs and Services SUCCESS provides a range of programs and services –Settlement and integration services –Employment services –English language programs –Programs for seniors and women –Family and youth counseling –Health education and services –Community development and advocacy

12 Focus and Methods of Study Focus on how Chinese immigrants acquire essential skills through volunteering Two major research methods –Survey (n = 196) –Personal interviewing (n = 30) The Survey –Demographic information –The profile of volunteers –Motivations for volunteering –Preparation for volunteering –Benefits and Rewards

13 Research Questions at SUCCESS Who are the volunteers? What are their reasons for volunteering at SUCCESS? What skills and knowledge do volunteers acquire through their volunteer tasks? How do they acquire these skills? How do these skills and knowledge assist them in their settlement and adaptation in Canada? What other benefits do volunteers gain from their volunteer roles?

14 Volunteer Profile 53% have been volunteering for less than 2 years, 31% for 2-5 years, 10% for 6-10 years, and 3% for years Activities: Performing office and administrative work, organizing events, participating in fund- raising activities, assisting with the help line, translating, assisting seniors and teaching 35% of the respondents also volunteer at other organizations, including public schools, social service agencies, religious organizations, youth organizations, hospitals, and libraries

15 How do volunteers contribute to SUCCESS? Volunteer Roles % Perform office or administrative work33.2 Organize activities and events28.1 Participate in fund-raising activities20.9 Assist with the help line9.7 Supervise activities and events9.2 Assist with translation or interpretation services9.2 Assist seniors with various tasks8.7 Teach, coach or mentor individuals7.1 Serve as a board member5.1 Assist new immigrants in the settlement process2.4 Host program for new immigrants1.0 Hospital and home visitations0.5

16 Motivations for volunteering (%) Strongly agree AgreeNeutralDisagree Strongly disagree To use my skills and knowledge to help others To improve my skills and knowledge To help newcomers to Canada To help people with a similar cultural background To help build a stronger community To make new friends To gain work experience To support the valuable services the organization provides to its clients To develop my own interests To learn more about Canada To help other Canadians To improve my job opportunities To fill my spare time To make contacts that will be useful in my job or business To assist with obtaining admission into post-secondary programs To obtain credit for high school

17 Motivations for volunteering (%) Strongly agree AgreeNeutralDisagree Strongly disagree To use my skills and knowledge to help others To improve my skills and knowledge To help newcomers to Canada To help people with a similar cultural background To help build a stronger community To make new friends To gain work experience To support the valuable services the organization provides to its clients To develop my own interests To learn more about Canada To help other Canadians To improve my job opportunities To fill my spare time To make contacts that will be useful in my job or business To assist with obtaining admission into post- secondary programs To obtain credit for high school

18 Motivations for Volunteering “I guess everything is kind of like a cycle…I think everyone’s role in a society is unique. So if you take that, take one person out of…that cycle you would break the circle and…everything would just [not]…work”.

19 (%) Strongly agree AgreeNeutralDisagree Strongly disagree Improved my interpersonal skills Communication skills Language skills Gained or improved organizational skills Gained or improved leadership skills Office skills Computer skills Fundraising skills Writing skills Numeracy skills What skills and knowledge do volunteers acquire through their volunteer tasks?

20 (%) Strongly agree AgreeNeutralDisagree Strongly disagree Improved my interpersonal skills Communication skills Language skills Gained or improved organizational skills Gained or improved leadership skills Office skills Computer skills Fundraising skills Writing skills Numeracy skills What skills and knowledge do volunteers acquire through their volunteer tasks?

21 How do volunteers acquire these skills? - Orientation to SUCCESS - Help line - Income tax clinic - Youth leadership - Spring/summer day camp - St. John Ambulance - Audio/visual system - Program planning Formal learning through volunteering training programs Informal learning through volunteering activities - One-on-one coaching by staff or other volunteers - Learning through observation - Learning t hrough volunteering experience - Learning on own Volunteers use their existing skills and also learn new ones

22 Benefits and Rewards Personal Benefits Increased their knowledge of the Canadian culture and customs Increased their knowledge of issues faced by immigrants Volunteering helped them build a social network by meeting new people Gained Canadian work experience and references Acquired new skills that could be directly applied to a job Gave them a sense of being part of a community “Give back” to SUCCESS

23 Social Contributions Helped new immigrants settle in Canada Helped build a stronger Chinese community Helped to build bridges between new immigrants and other Canadians

24 Helping New Immigrants “I would say [it] is very important volunteer work. For instance, in my case I’m the one, first one on the front line to face people. I’m the one to answer them. If I don’t give them good impression they will ruin the image of SUCCESS and they will say Canada, what happened to Canada…immigration is a very big…decision to make to come here. If the first step they come in here and it’s like, they’re really disappointed it’s no good. So I think, the people like us, we just tell people, help people and then let them feel they are just a part of the family right there, they feel happy, they say, “Oh, that’s the country, I love to stay here,” that’s what I, you see what I mean?”

25 Building a Social Network “Yeah I know more people. I mean make friends with the others, yeah, that’s great. …I was isolated in this country. Because I don’t have any friends… And I just feel sad. I just feel oh, depressed, upset. So now I feel better. I’m useful again. Not useless as I feel before.”

26 Emerging Themes Volunteering is a powerful way of learning essential skills It helped immigrants navigate the complex paths to acquire the knowledge and skills that citizenship requires Volunteering helped immigrants integrate into Canadian society Volunteering helped them build a community in which they felt a sense of belonging

27 Site 2: Changing Together Immigrant Serving Organization founded by women, for women in 1984 Formal and informal learning and support services Provides services for new immigrants as well as women who have been in Canada for longer than three years

28 Focus and Methods of Study ‘What barriers to employment do immigrant women face and how does informal learning help them surmount those barriers?’ Focus changed as we began our data collection and in response to women's commentary on the nine essential skills Qualitative research Post-Colonial and Anti-Racist Theory underpins analysis

29 Essential Skills for Employability Necessary but are not sufficient Learning related to other barriers to employment needs to be addressed “For what, yeah, that’s the thing, yeah.… If you haven’t got confidence you could have all of this [nine essential skills] and you still can’t get a job, immigrant women or otherwise.”

30 Other Barriers to Employment Family and identity issues arising out of the dislocation of migration Systemic barriers including racism Lack of Canadian work experience/references Through informal and incidental learning, women identify and begin to address barriers

31 Barrier: Family and Identity Issues Family Issues: “Yeah. And especially for woman because she has problem inside and outside, she has problem with children and she’s suffering more.....and very often they have crisis separation in family, inside the family.” Identity Issues: “I think very person, especially women, she lost eighty percent of her personality of my personality when he became immigrant, eighty percent. But now, I think…I took back ten percent….”

32 Learning Confidence Through Community Shared experiences…shared learning “And I think she feel, feels herself in society, in community, … I think oh, I’m not alone in my problem.” “Feel better because uh, when woman they feel very close. [Before] Very alone, very uncomfortable, but after they came here, I speak about me, I, I feel here very, very comfortable. And I change myself, I, my vision, my points of view are changing.”

33 Learning Confidence Through Community Nurturing new networks increases opportunities for informal learning “I love, met lots of people. I know lots of people through centre because they have meetings, they have people come to visit so I know lots of them and I contact some of them before so really, it’s kind of opening gates.”

34 Barrier: Racism “But these are the big barriers facing immigrant and visible minority now. And the, darker the color is, the more barrier for the people…it seems, it seems, and it’s reality. You see people coming from Europe, suddenly you don’t feel their accent, you don’t see lack of the English or whatever. When you have people coming let’s say from Africa with language skills and experience and so on, they’re not hired as fast as ah, white people. And it’s reality and their English perfect.”

35 Learning How to Address Racism “…but I think you are calling to an immigrant centre, right, you have to accept my accent and you have to accept that I can’t understand you….”

36 Barrier: Lack of Canadian Experience “When I came here first I started to, to find a job. Even when I came to restaurant to dish, to wash dish, dishes. The boss ask me, “Do you have Canadian experience?” I told him, “I never wash Canadian dishes.” She was laughing, but anyway she didn’t hire me.” (Engineer)

37 Learning About Equity Issues “Here they have a place they can cry, they can laugh. Yeah, they can feel equal….Instead of sitting home and worry…you know? Yeah, it’s not magic but it’s a place where they can feel comfortable.”

38 Informal Learning: Women Set the ‘Agenda’ “Only for woman and woman helping woman, I think that’s my answer in that question. And women always can understand another woman’s problem, right. And like myself I can deeply understand another woman. Because I am immigrant and I was maybe and I can give her best advice, that’s what the, for me. That organization about, that’s for me”

39 Informal Learning can Adapt to the Rhythm of Immigrant Women’s Lives “But uh, many women also come and go, many women are, come here for help for, for, get the information, get the support, but are [unable] to make any changes or to hear.... And they stop, and then go back to their lives, and then they eventually come back a year later or two years later.”

40 Site 3: Indo-Canadian Women's Association Founded in 1984 Mandate is to assist visible minority men and women with transitioning economically, socially and politically to life in Canada Five staff members and twelve voluntary board members Offers a variety of services for new and established immigrants Advocates for policy changes on issues related to immigration

41 Focus and Methods of Study Focus shifted as we heard the women’s stories Qualitative research Narrative inquiry and poststructural feminist theory guided analysis

42 Tools for Living: Building Community “Some of them will say that they’ve already taken a course [at a large technical institute]... but they didn’t end up learning too much. And that when they were here they just learned more, much more than they expected and a lot of them go on to actually find jobs.... The environment is very informal and I think the environment has a lot to do with how they actually learn. I think it has an impact on how they learn and how much they learn because I think it’s very supportive environment.”

43 Tools for Living: Building Community “You know here they’re the ones that help me with my resume, they help me a lot.... These people do help a lot even with the computer. Otherwise without knowing any person, you’re stranded.”

44 Emerging Themes Ethical agency on the part of staff, board members, and volunteers Political astuteness of board members Building a safe haven and a sense of community

45 Site 4: Calgary Catholic Immigration Society Founded in 1981 to serve refugees Now a nonprofit organization which provides settlement and integration services to both immigrants and refugees in Southern Alberta 150 staff members and 700 volunteers Offering services to about 7,500 clients, operating from six locations

46 Programs and Services Resettlement and Integration Services Family and Children Services Community Development and Integration Services Business Employment and Training Services Language Instructions for Newcomers

47 Focus and Methods of the Study Focuses on English acquisition for immigrant professionals Integrated ESL program for employment preparation –14 weeks of in-class instruction on ESL and employment skills training –4 weeks of work placement Class observation, personal interviews, and focus groups Interviews of 12 immigrants individually (1 hr to 1 hr and a half each) Interviews of 2 ESL instructors, 1 workshop facilitator, and 2 administrators (1 hr to 1 hr and 45 minutes each) Focus groups of 13 immigrants (1 hr)

48 Preliminary Findings Language is not just a skill The complexities of communication skills Strategies for acquiring everyday English

49 Language Is Not Just a Skill There is a danger of conceiving of language as a discrete and isolated skill Language is connected with social, institutional, and historical forces and contexts

50 Language Is Not Just a Skill Mei: The people here like to greet and praise each other more frequently than we did in our country. I have noticed those kinds of differences and try to use them in everyday life, but I don’t’ feel comfortable. R: Can you tell me why? Mei: I don’t feel sincere when I’m doing that. (Mei, interview, ; italics in Chinese)

51 Language Is Not Just a Skill Mei’s example reveals that she learned what constitutes ‘appropriate’ language behaviors in the workplace - ideological assumptions This is what Canadian co-workers value But it violates values intimately connected with who Mei perceived herself – her identity and culture

52 Communication Skills Immigrants need both basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and professional language proficiency (PLP). Language training needs to go beyond classroom English to include natural English (pace, idiomatic expressions, incomplete sentences, intonation, Canadian English) Sometimes immigrants’ communication difficulty was caused by their limited access to English speakers and the unwillingness of the target speakers.

53 Complexities of Communication Skills The teacher used a formal way to speak, but in daily life people don’t speak that way. They use slang, jargon, and they speak at a very fast speed. They don’t use complete sentences. It is more informal. We don’t understand. It’s difficult for us (interview, Hong, )

54 Strategies for Learning Everyday Canadian English I don’t listen to the radio like CBC. You know their pronunciation is very standard. They have no accents. They speak in long sentences…In reality, my co- workers have heavy accents and unclear pronunciation. They use slang, short phrases, but not complete sentences. I usually like to watch movies or TV series… I don’t need to go back to take more ESL. I need to listen to my co-workers or any people around me who can speak English. (Jiaxin, interview, 05/09/28)

55 Emerging Themes Language training needs to go beyond classroom English to include natural English Access to language training programs –LINC: Long waiting time; Too low –Few language training programs for intermediate and advanced levels –EI restrictions More programs for CLB 5+/work placement Strategies to challenge the conception of equating skilled immigrants’ competence with their language performance

56 Conclusion and Policy Implications Essential skills are necessary but not enough for immigrants to integrate into Canadian society Extending the 9 essential skills to include –Building community and social networks –Recognizing foreign credentials –Recognizing immigrants’ prior work experience –Combating racism and other systemic barriers –Helping immigrants navigate how Canadian systems work Essential skills for Canadian employers and the public Immigrant service organizations can play an important role in delivering these programs, both formally and informally.

57 Thank you!


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