Paul Irish/torstar news service
Apotex employees Silvana Hila, left, and Florence Ennin.
More than 100,000 people move to the Greater Toronto Area each year, many from different countries. Most are educated and eager to work in their chosen profession. But, it can be difficult to settle into the Canadian workforce, especially if English is not their first language.
But it’s not just a question of language; businesses are realizing that many new Canadians have difficulty adapting to cultural aspects of the way Canadians communicate in the workplace.
With all this in mind, Seneca College has introduced — right into the workplace — a language program to help employees new to the language and culture.
“These people are incredibly bright, but there can be difficulties with communication,” says Fiona Bain-Greenwood, chair of the department that handles English as a second language at Seneca. “Casual conversation isn’t the real problem, it’s more with technical language.”
The Apotex pharmaceutical company in Toronto approached the college three years ago and asked if it had a language program that addressed communication difficulties specific to various industries.
The answer was no, but with the college’s background in teaching English as a second language, school officials jumped at the challenge.
Bain-Greenwood said it meant visiting the workplace to discover the problems as perceived by the employer as well as the employees — and to seek solutions.
“We identified the language gaps and then created curriculum to address these gaps,” Bain-Greenwood says.
The program for Apotex employees is taught right at the company’s offices on Weston Road.
Florence Ennin, a lab assistant at Apotex, recently took the Seneca program and said it would help all newcomers.
Silvana Hila came from Albania six years ago and has been working for Apotex as a chemist research developer ever since.
“I knew English before I came here,’’ she said. “But when I arrived it was more difficult to understand. It was spoken too quickly.’’
She said that over time and with help from the program she’s a lot more comfortable converting her ideas into succinct reports — both oral and written.