LM Training Specialists

24 Sep 2003 speecharchive

I want to speak today about an Adelaide business that, through the untiring work of its directors and staff, has made an outstanding contribution to improving the literacy of adult migrants over the past 12 years.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I want to speak today about an Adelaide business that, through the untiring work of its directors and staff, has made an outstanding contribution to improving the literacy of adult migrants over the past 12 years. LM Training Specialists (also known as Adelaide's English Language and Employment Centre for Migrants) was set up in 1990 by the directors and co-owners, Lynn Oxlad and Eleanor Bourchier. I would like to declare an interest—not so much in the firm but having poached one of its staff members (Eileen Fisher) to come and work for me.
LM identified the need for a service to help adult migrants to gain the language and literacy skills needed for employment in Australia. The decision to set up the company was taken at personal risk, especially to Lynn, who gave up the security of a full-time job as a teacher to undertake this venture. The company began by running factory skills courses in which migrants learned the necessary language, safety and cultural skills to work in factories, as there was a great demand for workers in industry.

Next, the company designed and offered English courses for overseas qualified engineers who were arriving in large numbers at that time and who were finding it difficult to get work as engineers. The courses offered intensive advanced English language as well as job search skills and work experience in their profession. These courses were highly successful, with an average of 75 to 80 per cent of participants gaining employment upon course completion.

By successfully tendering for funding from both state and federal governments, LM has also run a range of innovative, vocationally oriented language courses, often in partnership with other training organisations. Vocational language courses have included welding, furniture making, food preparation, motel/hotel housekeeping and aged care, according to workplace demand.

For new migrants, LM provides the Adult Migrant English Program, and most other migrants can access the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program. However, some migrants and, in particular, holders of temporary protection visas, are often not eligible for English language training. Without these skills, their ability to gain employment is limited, thus making them more dependent on welfare payments and charitable organisations.

At a state level, there is limited funding for mainstream ESL courses to help migrants. The state government needs to review its policy regarding funding for these groups who cannot access federal funding for English as a second language. This will provide opportunities for migrants to be economically independent and contribute their valuable skills to the South Australian economy.

When LM Training Specialists won the Adult Migrant English Program tender for the first time in 1998, it was one of only three private organisations in Australia to do so. I would like to echo the comments of Kevin Liston from the Australian Refugee Association when he said that LM `brought a fresh approach to teaching English to migrants and was a stimulus towards a higher standard of service provision in SA.'

LM ensures that it is responsive to the changing needs of migrants, the job market and the state plan. Over the past two years, it has set up computing suites and employed trainers specifically to teach computing skills to students at the centre. It is also a model of `collaboration', which is a word that is bandied around government departments ad infinitum. Through its meetings with various agencies, such as Centrelink, DIMIA, DEST, the Migrant Resource Centre, and so on, LM is able to sort out issues between the agencies on behalf of its students. It is a model of collaboration.
Volunteers are also an important part of the centre, providing additional support to those students with learning difficulties or special needs. Many recent refugees might have been denied access to education in their home countries and require specific assistance to learn literacy skills to integrate into Australian society and the work force. The generosity of volunteers allows these students to receive one-on-one support.

Beyond the classroom environment, students are taken on excursions and learn the basic skills we take for granted. They visit places such as the Central Market, the post office and shopping centres where they can learn about shopping practices and the Australian currency.

Over 600 students attend LM Training Specialists each year, many of whom are recommended to the centre by friends or relatives who have previously attended English classes there. Comments by students at class graduations and in letters of thanks truly present the difference this organisation has made in the lives of many migrants in South Australia over the last 12 years. Many students refer to LM as more than an English language centre: it is a home. I commend it as a private sector organisation to which these services have been outsourced by the government. It is providing a leading example of what can be done. I commend it to the council.