Course provides skills, direction for South Okanagan immigrants

Immigrating to a new country can be daunting, and learning a new language can sometimes be the biggest barrier.

Immigrating to a new country can be daunting, and learning a new language can sometimes be the biggest barrier.

A course in medical English at South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS) is helping those immigrating to Canada not only get a grasp on the English language, but get set up for future careers in the healthcare industry.

The 10-week course is wrapping up for those who started in October.

Maricel Koo, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in February 2015 to reunite with her husband, and Sana Bano who has been in Canada for just under a year and a half after immigrating from India, are now ready to take the next steps towards careers in the healthcare industry after completing the course.

“Taking that class helped us to improve our language. Especially for me, the English language is not my first language. The class, it helps us and also prepares us, for example, in the future if we’re going to take a course, like pharmaceutical technician which is what I like, or a caregiver, the course helped me a lot,” said Koo.

Not only does the course help with English skills, it also acts as a preparatory course for those looking to take the next step and apply to post-secondary schools.

“The idea behind it is not only to improve their English, but improve it to a level that they can take college courses. To get into college they need to have a certain level in speaking, listening, reading and writing. That’s our goal,” said Chandra Wong, who teaches the course at SOICS.

Those taking the course learn different preparatory skills as well as taking notes, taking tests, doing presentations and other skills valued at colleges and universities. It also aims to install confidence in students.

“Before I was not so good at speaking English, but I learned to be confident. Myself, I was so shy to speak with a native English speaker,” Koo said.

The course hosts discussions between students on different topics so they can get used to confident, conversational English.

“I learned that you must speak so you will learn because if you are just quiet, how do you learn?” Koo said.

Students also take on volunteering opportunities at locations like the Haven Hill Retirement Centre, where Koo plays guitar with seniors.

“I experienced volunteering for the first time. We went to Haven Hill and I have separate volunteering,” Koo said. “The family of the seniors in Haven Hill are so happy and I am so happy that they are enjoying the music too.”

Many immigrants won’t have work experience in Canada, the course helps fill that gap as well.

“The idea behind the volunteering is often when immigrants come to Canada they don’t have work experience that can count towards getting work because employers are saying ‘well, do you have work experience in Canada?” Wong said.

Students also attain general employments skills, job interviews and learn about what employers are looking for during the hiring process.

It is a wide-ranging course, but the focus is on healthcare. Not only does it help those looking for healthcare careers, but medical English can come in handy for personal medical emergencies, or navigating the B.C. healthcare system as an immigrant.

“Not only are we focusing on English, but medical terms, the B.C. healthcare system and employment. So lots of things to focus on,” Wong said.

Students also get the benefit of experiencing the different cultures, and experience lots of different international foods as well.

“My classmate is from India and another one is from China, and we end up sharing and we get to meet new friends too,” Koo said.

The course also features guest speakers, including immigrants who now have successful careers in the healthcare industry.

Wrapping up the course next week, both Koo and Bano have seen improvements. Students take a test measuring their skills at the beginning of the course and the same test at the end. Both have jumped from scores of four or five out of 10 to scores of six and seven.

“Quite a big jump,” Wong said.

Students like Bano not only come out of the course with necessary skills, but a better idea of their next steps in life in a new country.

“Some people when they come to Canada they don’t know about their future, just like me, but when I joined the class, I know my future is in healthcare. That’s why I’m applying for a healthcare course at Okanagan College,” Bano said.

The next session of the medical English course starts Jan. 18 and there are still spots available. The course runs five hours a day, Monday to Friday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information phone SOICS at 250-492-6299.


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