Serco’s Employment, Skills and Enterprise business has successfully completed a two-year contract supporting people to improve their language skills.
English Language Requirement (ELR) is a government initiative which was launched in December 2014 to help people with very low level English (or Welsh where appropriate) listening and speaking skills to improve their communication skills by a set level, in order to enhance their prospects of obtaining work and living independent lives.
Serco has been the sole prime contractor delivering the programme across Wales through a network of expert training providers on behalf of the Department for Work & Pensions. The contract has now come to an end and Serco has successfully supported around 600 people to complete their qualification.
Gareth Moss, director for Serco’s Employment, Skills and Enterprise business said: “I’d like to thank our employment team and training providers for their hard work and commitment during these two years, managing what has been a challenging contract to deliver, due to low referrals.
“Many of our learners have experienced traumatic and life-threatening situations in the past. Through ELR they have not just gained a training qualification, they have gained the tools needed for a better future. They had the chance to interact with people, make new friends, have a meaningful routine and feel valued.
“Through ELR we’ve helped to turn around these people’s lives. Although a small programme, it’s very rewarding to know that it has made such a tremendous difference to our learners’ lives, most of whom have progressed into further education or work on completion of their qualification.”
After a difficult start in the UK as a refugee, and having lost a child prior to arriving in the UK, Azad Mohammed, 34, from Iraq, is hoping to rebuild his life in Cardiff with his wife and daughter.
Azad was assigned to Serco’s ELR programme provider Workers’ Education Association YMCA CC Cymru to help him improve his English language skills in order to increase his chances of finding work.
Mathew Lawes, Azad’s tutor, said: “Aside from a history of back problems, Azad’s main barriers to learning stem from his past experiences as a refugee. He has experienced a number of traumatic life events and this has led to short term memory problems – he forgets things easily and has low self-esteem and confidence on first meeting new people.”
Azad has been in the UK for many years and has been an active member of the labour market having past employment experience in both catering and factory environments. It was clear that Azad had lost some confidence in this area after being out of work for a month.
Azad felt that now was the time to improve his English language skills in order to enable him to take advantage of new employment opportunities. He has shown great commitment in attending and actively participating in his classes and a desire to improve both his language ability as well as his ability in other areas, such as computer skills. He is aware that improving his English skills will help him search for and apply for jobs online and is keen to also improve his ICT skills to maximise opportunities.
Mathew said: “I am very proud of how Azad has grabbed this opportunity with both hands. The class is not only helping improve his English language skills but is also helping him make friends and build his confidence. He shows a very supportive attitude towards other class members and helps by speaking to them in a relaxed way. He is a true gentleman and I have every faith that he will secure employment soon. He’s very winning.”
Azad now feels more confident speaking to others - a marked contrast to the very shy and nervous learner who started on the course. He is determined to achieve his aspirations by securing employment in order to support his family.
Azad said: “Because my speaking is good, I have a good chance to find a job. The teacher is very good, very friendly and good. I’m happy but I need more learning still.
“I had a lot of problems before. Now, it’s OK; I’m happy. I’m going to keep learning.”