The activities included the provision of a language level, skills and competences testing, vocational language courses, and practical experience. The overarching purposes are to demonstrate that people with lower language levels can be employed in this sector, address the growing skills gap across Europe which exists in lower levels of healthcare, and take advantage of work opportunities in the sector which has opened up a new route into employment for people from overseas.
The project started by compiling demographic information as a base for planning teaching materials and courses. Then a toolkit that covered key competences required for working in health and social care was developed. Finally, the 3rd and 4th stages included creating a vocational language curriculum, materials, and a handbook for implementing the curriculum. The project therefore includes 3 groups working together to meet those aims: teachers/trainers, learners from ethnic minority groups and are employers and other stakeholders. The content was also very diverse.
ÒDuring the course, the participants had an opportunity to practice their communication skills in a foreign language, to play roles in different situations related to taking care of older people, to role-play job interview situations, to practice empathy and learn how to apply appropriate behaviour in different situations in Croatia,Ó Petra Katana, a partner of the project, tells.
Mixed materials and methods
The Adult Education Institution Dante is the first institution in Croatia to develop such a curriculum and offer a vocational language course for migrants. According to the feedbacks from trainers and beneficiaries, the trainers adapted and developed the materials (both the language courses and the language and skills benchmark toolkit) and the 90-hour vocational language courses for preparing learners for work placement were useful and relevant.
ÒIn order to obtain the best results and have the optimal combination of topics, we used a mixture of different materials and often made our own materials. We also used the communicative language approach, focusing on developing participants Ôcommunication skills in real, everyday situations,Ó says Petra Katana.
This methodology helped the participants to develop and enjoy the course, and to make the learning process a very positive and useful experience.
ÒIt is well known that learners with the migrant background can be depressed, have lower concentration in class, and often quit the course due to a lack of motivation. That is why we made sure that all learners enjoy the lessons and the course, using a variety of tasks, activities and games in class to make the learning process a very positive and useful experience,Ó Petra Katana says.
The impact was also measured by an increase in the level of employer engagement, who worked with the trainers to develop teaching materials and offering and supporting work placements for the learners. It was a huge challenge for learners, as they had to both learn the language but also gain knowledge of the health sector.
On the top of that, other skills also needed to be developed.
ÒCommunication skills and empathy are also very high on the list of needed skills because the learners will work with older people,Ó says Petra Katana.
A lot of goals have been achieved thanks to the Volcano project. Besides learning a new language, learners also get the chance to better understand the culture of their host country, making it easier for them to adapt to a different cultural context and participate in the everyday life of the community.