Perceptions of workplace soft skills in a vocational ESL program
Dr Julie Kerekes, University of Toronto
Webinar - Wednesday 23rd June 2021, 17:00-18:00 BST
In 2014, Kerekes began a collaboration, The Mesa Project, with an immigrant settlement organization in Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto (UT) students teamed up with Mesa Centre instructors and administrators who provided sector-specific English language courses for newcomers to Canada. Together they investigated Mesa’s approach to teaching soft skills, a buzzword among Toronto’s employers. As a result of this project, a number of University of Toronto students gained research experience applicable to their post-graduate professions, Mesa implemented curricular changes in their course offerings, and Mesa and UT’s collaboration – an instance of twinning beyond the university setting – continues.
The collaboration resulted in a rich set of classroom observation and interview data. Kerekes and her research assistant, Jeanne Sinclair, subsequently analyzed the data in order to better understand the role of soft skills instruction in the ideologies of immigrant success conveyed by Mesa Centre to its clientele. The original data collected by the student teams were reviewed, and their transcriptions were completed and refined. These included data from classroom observations, focus group discussions, and interviews conducted by the student researchers with the ESL students and instructors they had observed. Through this analysis, ideologies relating soft skills to “cultural fit” are revealed and discussed in the context of their significance for newcomers seeking employment in Canada.
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