English for Carers course: Improving migrant workers English language skills in the Care industry
by Dasha White
With the UK’s population ageing, demand for social care for older people is increasing. Projections indicate expenditure could reach 2.7% of GDP by 2032 with the workforce needing to increase by 79% to meet demand (Wittenburg et al. 2010: 15). Problems recruiting and retaining care workers are reducing the UK’s capacity to meet this demand, with vacancy rates and turnover within the sector significantly higher than most other occupations (Eborall and Griffiths 2008; Eborall et al. 2010) Low pay levels, unattractive working patterns and assumptions about status and gender make it hard to recruit UK-born care workers. Consequently, the sector is turning to migrant workers, with European nationals, particularly from the Balkans, welcoming the opportunity to experience living and working in Britain.
UK companies recruiting overseas face resource intensive immigration rules and induction requirements and need to be confident they can recruit and retain good workers. However, research by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society found that 66% of respondents cited proficiency in English language as a key concern. Foreign care workers often have limited English language skills, preventing them from applying for vacancies in the UK, or if selected affecting their ability or confidence to maintain their employment. They encounter English idioms, colloquialisms and confusing medical abbreviations and jargon, often finding their English language skills let them down. Additionally, poor understanding of cultural factors frequently makes it difficult for workers to establish a trusting relationship with those they care for. These challenges lead to poor retention in the sector.
Although this may seem like a no-win situation for both parties, there is a company in the UK that has come up with a solution specifically designed for employers recruiting migrant workers in the care industry. A UK based English language agency The White Apple Company has been supporting foreign workers for many years with specialist sector related English language training online, facilitating employment in industries as diverse as nursing and medicine, construction, catering, tourism, IT, legal work and accountancy.
Recently, they have realised that there are many committed and dedicated individuals out there that, with the right support and through English tuition specifically designed for the care sector, would have the necessary English language skills to deliver better quality care. This, in turn, would ensure that employers have a reliable workforce and lower turnover.
The White Apple Company’s intensive “English for Carers” online course is specifically designed around carers’ job requirements. It is taught online in a series of live lessons with a fully qualified native British teacher with specialised Social Care Awareness Training. Participants can join a Virtual English Classroom logging in either as a group or individually from their own computers.
The “English for Carers” course consists of 30 teaching hours of Conversational English and Cultural Skills lessons as well as Medical English for Carers. It includes a placement test, mid-course review, end–of–course test and a Course Completion Certificate. To meet the employer’s specific requirements, the course hours can be split between teacher-led online classes and independent work. The flexibility of the course both in terms of location and the ability to fit the training around the employees’ working hours, is undoubtedly of great benefit to both the employer and the employee, when taking into account the nature of the hours involved in working in the care sector.
Live English classes with a qualified British teacher give the participants the valuable opportunity to ask questions, have instant feedback, and also have support not only with English language, but also with developing their social and communication skills. It is now widely recognised that these soft skills are essential as it is through these, that the Carer is able to establish a rapport with the person in their care, thus ensuring their relationship is long-lasting and enriching for both parties.
The “English for Carers” course also offers further flexibility to the employers by providing them with two options:
- either making it a standard requirement for candidates as a part of their application process – which would guarantee candidates’ commitment but on the other hand may preclude some from applying on the grounds of cost,
- by making it as part of new workers’ Induction programme in the UK at the employer’s expense. While this may requires investment on the employer’s part it would most certainly boost staff motivation and encourage loyalty.
It seems that in this day and age, where there is so much controversy around migrant work, this could prove to be the best way to ensure that all the employees in the care industry, including migrant workers, are able to provide the best quality of care possible. Either way, a training based approach to workforce recruitment may be just what is needed to support the sector with meeting rising demand with an effective workforce. Through flexibility, adaptability and expertise The White Apple Company certainly has best solution currently on offer for both employers and employees.
Companies or individuals can find out more about The White Apple Company’s online speciality English courses at www.thewhiteapplecompany.com or can contact Dasha White (tel. 0333 0124 185, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
A UK based English language agency The White Apple Company was founded in 2009 by Dasha White (https://thewhiteapplecompany.com/the-story-behind-the-brand/)
Dasha moved to England from Belarus in 2000 and having studied English at school and with a private tutor as an adult assumed her language skills were good. However, having only learnt and communicated in English with non-native speakers she found her language skills let her down. Now a fluent communicator and successful business woman Dasha draws on her personal understanding of the challenges of learning about the English language and culture to develop and deliver high quality English language courses using qualified and experienced staff.
• Cangiano, A., I. Shutes, S. Spencer, and G. Leeson. “Migrant Care Workers in Ageing Societies: Research Finding in the UK.” Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford, Oxford, 2009.
• Eborall, C. and D. Griffiths.” The State of the Adult Social Care Workforce in England, 2008.” Skills for Care, Leeds, 2008.
• Eborall, C., W. Fenton, and S. Woodrow. “The State of the Adult Social Care Workforce in England, 2010.”Skills for Care, Leeds, 2010.
• Wittenberg, R., D. King, J. Malley, L. Pickard, and A. Comas-Herrera. “Projections of Long-Term Care Expenditure in England under Different Assumptions Regarding the Future Balance between Residential and Home Care.” PSSRU Bulletin 19, Personal Social Services Research Unit, London School of Economics, London, 2010