Gaining Access: New Employee Orientation for Newcomers to the Workplace

In Alberta industrial worksites, newcomer trades people may not be working safely. Several factors contribute to this problem: gaps in language proficiency related to safety language and workplace jargon, intercultural communication patterns that create potential safety issues on the worksite (e.g. failure to speak up when facing unsafe working conditions) and a lack of information about safety practices and regulations. The English in the Workplace: New Employee Orientation for Newcomers in the Workplace project was a response to a need identified in the Alberta trades sector to increase the percentage of newcomers passing basic site safety training as a requirement to gain access to employment.

Lessons learned

  1. For newcomer trades people to be safe and to be perceived as safe by their co-workers, the language of safety, issues of intercultural communication and Canadian workplace culture of safety all need to be addressed in addition to safety training required for their job.
  2. Recruitment of newcomer trades people to participate in the orientation training presented challenges during the pilot. In order to offer future orientation sessions, greater engagement with industry, union and labour associations is required to identify what the training is about, what it can do for their organization and newcomer trades people. Conducting information sessions prior to offerings on worksites, in work camps or other easy to reach locations could help to ensure that the training reaches the target audience. Employers need to be engaged to help address barriers to participation for newcomer trades people.
  3. Language proficiency for newcomer trades people emerged as an issue. Newcomer trades people participating in the pilot had lower than anticipated language proficiency levels. The gap between appropriate language proficiency under typical working conditions and under emergency conditions can be significant. In emergency situations the language gap could contribute to misunderstandings about emergency protocols (e.g. gathering at a muster point).

To achieve a goal of ensuring safety for newcomer trades people and their co-workers in industrial worksite contexts, more work needs to be done to prepare internationally educated skilled workers to be safe.


Gaining Access to the Workplace

The Gaining Access to the Workplace Guide provides an overview of the English in the Workplace: New Employee Orientation for Newcomers in the Workplace project. The goal for the project was to create, implement and evaluate a welcoming model of new employee orientation for newcomers that integrates accessible language for general safety orientation that can be adapted to other industries and workplace contexts. The guide summarizes the project activities and includes needs assessment results, a mapping of orientation module outcomes to Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills, lessons learned and project outcomes.

Guide Gaining Access Curriculum Framework

The Gaining Access Curriculum Framework document maps the topics for each module to speaking, listening, reading and writing skills for industrial workplace safety and the strategies used to address skill development for each topic. The Curriculum Framework also includes key cultural concepts for each topic, language features and key resources.

Module 1 Facilitator Guide

The Module 1 Facilitator Guide provides a sample guide for facilitators that include the instructional approach, facilitation strategies, and an overview of a training plan for Module 1 that follows the Module 1 Rights and Responsibilities presentation slides. This sample guide is intended to show the facilitation approach used in the English in the Workplace: New Employee Orientation for Newcomers in the Workplace project.

Module 1 Participant Handouts

The Module 1 Participant Handouts provide a sample of handouts provided to the participants in the project. The handouts are prepared using plain language principles and are targeted to Canadian Language Benchmark level 3.

Modules 1-6 Presentation Slides

The Module Presentation Slides include content for each of the six topics English in the Workplace: New Employee Orientation for Newcomers in the Workplace project. The slides include key concepts presented for each topic and include embedded links to online resources.

Other project information
Project time frame April – November 2009
Project team  Darcy McDonald, Kerry Louw, Cheryl Whitelaw
Project sponsor Alberta Employment and Immigration
Key project activities

Project activities included:

  • Needs assessment and engagement with stakeholders to identify requirements for training.
  •  Development of the orientation training curriculum
  • Pilot and evaluation of the orientation training with non-native English speaking trades people.
  • Dissemination of resources to appropriate stakeholders.
Target audience The Gaining Access resources will benefit Alberta companies who need to ensure safe worksites for their employees. The resource can be used to develop training that will improve the language of safety for L2 trades people.
Number of people involved in project

32 people including:

  • 3 project team members
  • 7 advisory committee members
  • 22 training participants
Communities participating in project 4 companies in the Edmonton region participated through on-site needs assessments