Supporting workers from non-English speaking backgrounds in agriculture industry training
A project, completed in 2011, to develop, trial and evaluate two tools to support migrant dairy farm workers from non-English speaking backgrounds who are undertaking formal industry training (trainees). A collaboration of Agribusiness Training, English Language Partners and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation.
The main aims of the project were to:
- develop two tools, a language diary and an orientation event, to support migrant dairy farm workers who are undertaking formal industry training
- to assist migrant workers from non-English speaking backgrounds to adjust to Kiwi and farming language.
The project methodology involved:
- using Observers to identify barriers that migrant trainees encounter and the language challenges they faced
- contacting participants for feedback on how they had used the Language Diary via emailed question sheets and follow up phone calls
- trainees completing a written evaluation form at the end of both days of the Kiwi Farming orientation module
- trainees completing a question sheet, three months after attending the Kiwi Farming module, on how it had assisted them with their studies and other aspects of their life.
Project LeaderAgribusiness Training Ltd.
Dorothy ThwaiteEnglish Language Partners
The key findings from the project included:
- There are two major barriers to the success of NESB migrant workers in their industry training on and off farm, which a two-day module was insufficient to erode: the pronunciation and way words are used differs from the English NESB migrants have learned, and so they find Kiwi English difficult to understand; and there is a cultural barrier to interrupting and asking for clarification or repetition, allied to the preference to respectfully say “Yes” to someone speaking. Industry terms, idioms and slang need to be included in any tools to improve NESB trainees’ understanding of Kiwi English.
- NESB migrants who have been in New Zealand for some time still benefit from guidance and tools to unpack the language. Feedback suggested this input would be most beneficial for recent arrivals to New Zealand, although it was not tested on this target group.
- Eloquent, successful NESB industry people are valuable for identifying and prioritising the content of tools, and during the delivery of an orientation module. An ESOL tutor needs to work alongside them when observing training to capture as much information as possible about barriers for migrant trainees.
- Challenges with monitoring the use of tools this project developed were too great to provide valid conclusions about their value. This does not detract from the potential usefulness of the tools for the agriculture industry, but the project was not able to satisfactorily test this. Neither tool was sufficient to overcome the discomfort of some migrants in “speaking up” – asking questions, disagreeing, asking for clarification, or interrupting.
Recommendations for the agriculture industry:
Greater awareness of the issues | Elements of both the Kiwi Farming orientation module and Language Diary tools could be used by employers of NESB migrants, to give them greater awareness of the issues and how to support their workers through them. The module could be easily adapted for an audience of farmers
Maximising the use of language tools | While the Language Diary appears accessible to NESB trainees and covers the types of language the Observers identified as important, the practical usefulness of it was not demonstrated in this project. Exploring the impact of immediate follow-up and reinforcement by farmers and/or tutors would be useful to indicate the required combination for its consolidation as a language tool.
Availability of language resources to the wider agriculture industry | Agribusiness Training will consider how the translated Study Tips, Language Diary, and Observer comments can best be used by all its tutors working with NESB students. Tutors also need to become familiar with the two barriers to learning identified in this project, and strategies they can use to help work around them. The AgITO will consider making the Study Tips sheets available to their other training partners and translating them into more languages to suit the ethnic mix of trainees in different parts of the country.
Recommendations for other industries:
The project tools also applicable to other industries | The tools produced and information learned from this project will be applicable to any other industry with a significant NESB migrant workforce. The same issues with understanding the Kiwi accent, industry terms, and difficulty in asking for clarification of meaning will exist. There are also likely to be similar challenges adjusting to the New Zealand culture, climate, and how a particular industry workforce operates.
Tools can be adapted to other industries | The Kiwi Farming orientation module and the Language Diary could be successfully adapted to different industries with a significant NESB migrant workforce. The use of experienced NESB industry people to identify language and cultural practices and the use of industry-related language resources that are as real as possible would be important to achieve this.
A research report prepared by Charlotte Heather and Dorothy Thwaite.
(PDF, 621 KB, 52-pages).
- 15 September 2011