One of the main barriers to employment that newcomers face is the lack of English language skills. During the pandemic, this was further compounded by the lack of computer skills and the inability to purchase the computer equipment necessary to support remote learning. Newcomers who were settled found themselves vulnerable once again to isolation. The NCC and its community partners have been working tirelessly to ensure the engagement of newcomers in remote learning activities.
In October 2020, the New Canadians Centre (NCC) in partnership with the ESL program at Peterborough Alternative and Continuing Education (PACE) organized and delivered a 3-week computer literacy course to 18 adult ESL learners enrolled in the CLB level 3/4 class. ESL instructor Ron Jewer was assisted by bilingual newcomer Samar Sallam in supporting the design and delivery of the course materials.
Students learned general computer skills that helped familiarize them with the laptops that they used during this course. They also learned how to create and use email accounts for enhanced communications; how to use search engines to browse the internet; and how to use MS Word to create and edit documents. All 18 learners graduated the course feeling confident and excited about their newly-acquired skills. With the financial support of the United Way of Peterborough & District COVID-19 Emergency Community Support Fund, we were able to purchase and use new laptops during this course. Students who declared a need for a laptop at home to help support their own learning and enhance their opportunities for employment were given one of these laptops. They continue to use them at PACE when and where conducive to their learning.
The successful delivery of this computer literacy course was a pilot for future initiatives that will aim to equip newcomers with the skills that they need for their successful social and economic integration. Even outside of a pandemic setting, these skills are valuable and provide newcomers with increased flexibility and adaptation to emerging needs in the job market.
Our heartfelt thank you goes to the ESL team at PACE, and to Samar whose work experience with Ron was her first in Canada.