University of Northampton supports local firm learn the language of business

News Page 24th September 2019

During most of her work week, Kintija works in a manufacturing role, but thanks to the University of Northampton, her work schedule has been a little different lately.

For the last ten weeks, the Latvian native has downed tools and joined many of her co-workers at Corby based firm Technical Foam Services Ltd, in turning her attention to something very different – the fundamentals of the English language.

The English course was part of a series of bespoke classes, designed and delivered by the University of Northampton’s Educational Linguistics team.  The University team, who typically teach English Language Teaching related to Education, formed an alliance with the local manufacturing firm, to support their employees build confidence in their English language skills.

Duncan Geddes, owner of Technical Foam Services Ltd, a successful SME based in Corby, explained the rationale for his investment in the course: “I’m a big believer in creating a compassionate workplace, which benefits our staff and the bottom line. We have a high proportion of staff whose first language is not English, and although I’ve not experienced any communication challenges in the work place because of this, I knew that some employees were keen to improve their English skills. I thought this would be a great way to support them do that.

“I saw an advert for the University’s CELTA course, and wondered if the University would be able to deliver something within the workplace for my team – they could. The University team met with me and some of my colleagues, and together we created something that has really worked. I am very pleased with the outcome, and also how my colleagues have embraced this opportunity – they deserve all the credit.

“I felt it was vital to offer the classes during the workday, as this would probably assure good attendance. I appreciate every employee has other responsibilities and family life, which would make it more challenging for them to commit to learning and development outside of work. It really does pay dividends to invest in people. Although we had people away from their normal job during their lessons, our productivity wasn’t hugely impacted, as my employees are highly motivated.”

The classes were designed to give the employees, one-hour bite-sized English sessions, at proficiency levels ranging from Intermediate to Advanced. The students were level-tested and given a language needs analysis questionnaire which helped to shape the areas of language and content they wished to focus on. The added bonus for the employees, was that the sessions were free for them, as Technical Foam Services covered the cost of the course. Kintija and the other employees who took part in the course, were paid their regular wage for the ten weeks they took part in the course.

Educational Linguistics Subject Leader at the University of Northampton, Bob Fisher said: “I felt that the key to successful delivery of the classes was that the content should be bespoke and, as far as possible respond to the needs and wishes of the students themselves.

“The classes were taught over the summer by Andrea Smith, one of our most experienced Associate Lecturers, who had designed a balanced programme based on a student-centred, communicative approach, with a focus on developing key language skills, fluency and proficiency.”

As Kintija and her colleagues improved their English language skills, it’s clear that the course has also boosted workplace satisfaction. Speaking about the course, Kintija said: “I really feel like a valued part of the workforce, the investment by the company to help me to communicate in English is very good. I’m more comfortable in speaking to other people in English now and sharing my knowledge and suggesting things as part of my job. I’m also more confident outside of work using English too.

“Before I worried about speaking English, I was worried that I would get things wrong and that would knock my confidence. This course built my confidence and I learnt useful phrases for work. I’m trying to speak in English to as many people at work as possible – those who are English and other employees from other Eastern European countries. I’m speaking in English with other family members, helping them to learn and build confidence too.”

Bob continued: “It’s clear, then, that this project – together with Duncan’s enlightened approach to enhancing employee motivation – was well worth pursuing and, given the overwhelmingly positive response, it would be interesting to find out whether there are other firms in the area which might be interested in similar provision.”

If you’re a business in Northamptonshire, and are interested in discussing how the University could create a bespoke offering, to be delivered within your workplace, please contact Bob Fisher by email – Bob.fisher@northampton.ac.uk.

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