Moving to a new country is difficult enough on its own, but moving to a new country where you aren't fluent in the primary language can add an extra layer of difficulties.
The Whistler Welcome Centre is aiming to help new seasonal workers who find themselves in that situation through a new pilot program.
The free, four-session crash-course, dubbed Getting Started, will help new arrivals build their English skills, make connections with other newcomers and learn information crucial to making a smooth transition.
Officials at the Whistler Welcome Centre said they're "inundated" each November with requests from seasonal workers looking to improve their English. However, the needs of newcomers arriving on International Experience (or working holiday) visas often differ from those of the long-term immigrants who tend to seek more ongoing support from the Whistler Welcome Centre's existing programs.
"What would happen is (the seasonal workers) would rush in, we'd have lots and lots of people and then really by Christmas they had found their jobs, found their connections in the community and they kind of disappeared," explained Carole Stretch, program manager with Settlement Services and Welcome Sea to Sky, Whistler and Pemberton.
To that end, staff at the Whistler Welcome Centre has been discussing creating a program for seasonal workers for a long time, she added. "It's been very difficult to support them because they tend to come in and have this short-term, immediate need to make some connections, and kind of feel a bit more confident about their language."
Armed with a new part-time staff member who's been trained in teaching English as a second language (ESL), "We decided that we would try a pilot to see if people coming in really did want that short-term type of support," Stretch said.
As part of the pilot program, a maximum of 16 participants will learn where and how to go about getting set up with important documents like drivers' licences, travel insurance and medical coverage, while also getting the opportunity to practice conversational English in a no-pressure environment. The sessions will function as informal ESL classes, where participants can expect to pick up Canadian slang and other words they might use at work.
They'll learn about working in Canada while making friends and connections for the winter ahead, and will even be referred to other Welcome Centre initiatives, like an upcoming winter driving course. As participants secure jobs, the program's structure can be tailored to their specific needs, Stretch added.
The pilot's aim to "get them started, give them some tools, give them a little bit of background on the Canadian workplace, make them feel just a little bit more confident and comfortable" should work well, Stretch said.
Funding from both the federal government (Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada) and the provincial government (British Columbia Settlement & Integration Services) allows the Whistler Welcome Centre to offer these services for free.
The new pilot program is set to run every Tuesday in November starting on the 6th at the Maury Young Arts Centre from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Places are limited and registration is required. To register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Izumi Inoue 604-698-5960. For more information, head to welcomewhistler.com.