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Learning For Migrant Workers

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 15 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Migrant Workers Learning Migrant Workers

With EU member countries allowing for the freedom of movement for everyone to live and work in any of the member countries and with the expansion of member countries over recent years, it’s now thought that approximately 7% of the UK’s workforce consists of migrant workers. In spite of the reports of this being a contributing factor of placing an increased strain on the likes of social services because of the influx of migrant workers in terms of sheer numbers, there is no doubt that the UK has benefited from their arrival in terms of filling large gaps in certain sectors of the labour market which might have otherwise remained unfilled.

The Problems For Migrant Workers

The real issues facing migrant workers, however, is that they often become trapped in jobs which are poorly paid and low-skilled and, in spite of many of them enjoying living in the UK and the fact that they are contributing to society and paying taxes, it’s often the case that they end up labouring in jobs which are on the bottom rung of the ladder and where their existing skills gained back in their homeland are just not being put to effective use. The reality of this means that, economically, they are deprived but so is the UK in terms of the even greater contribution they could make to British society if they were enabled in order to achieve their career aims and use their existing skills and learn new ones which were more appropriate to them. As a result, learning opportunities have slowly begun to emerge.

ESOL (English for Speakers of another Language)

The most crucial barrier in preventing migrant workers from furthering their prospects in the UK has to be where they do not have a sufficient grasp of the English language. ESOL classes are now available to rectify this. However, problems still exist as the government have recently changed the eligibility criteria for those who are entitled to free help. It now means that whilst low-paid migrant workers still qualify for free lessons, the more highly skilled are not which, in turn, often means that both they themselves and the country as a whole are deprived of using these skills as a direct consequence in that if they could obtain more appropriate higher skilled work, their income level would rise which would mean that they would be contributing more tax to the country’s economy.

Other Courses

ESOL is by far and away the most important qualification to enable migrant workers to prosper in the UK as without even a basic grasp of English, not only will their employment opportunities be severely hampered, but this will also affect their ability to participate fully in other areas of community life. However, if a migrant’s understanding of English is fairly good or has improved significantly as a result of undertaking an ESOL course, a number of training providers have had the foresight to offer additional courses in things like adult numeracy and in important issues such as workers’ rights. Therefore, there are also courses offered in some areas where migrant workers can get to understand issues such as the different types of immigration status and the right to work, laws surrounding discrimination in the workplace, welfare and benefits, employment contracts and rights under the National Minimum Wage and Working Time Regulations etc.

Ultimately, the freedom of labour movement as the result of an ever expansive EU has inevitably had teething problems and there are many issues of concern which have been raised over the past couple of years, in particular. However, if we truly want the UK to be seen as a fair and just society, much more still needs to be done in order to integrate migrant workers into the communities in which they live and to give them the platform from which they can fulfil their potential which, in turn, can only benefit the UK as a result.

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