This week, we spoke with Tracy Callaghan, Executive Director of Adult Language and Learning. Adult Language and Learning is a not-for-profit charity organization that focuses on adult literacy and life long learning while also providing newcomer services. Their services can be located at 240 King Street West in Chatham, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Adult Language and Learning facilitates a Literacy Basic and Essential Skills Program funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities as well as Employment Ontario. This particular program privides literacy and skill building opportunities to people who are seeking employment opportunities, furthering their education and training, entering apprenticeship or simply pursuing independence.
Another program A.L.L. facilitates is newcomer focused. They offer settlement services, language instruction and support services such as childcare, a youth program and a pre-employment program for newcomers. Additionally, they actively promote diversity and racism awareness within the community of Chatham-Kent.
Tracy highlighted three engaging programs that are new to A.L.L. Career Link is a new program, starting this month where international trained professionals who communicate at a high level language can learn about Canadian workplace culture as well as the “dos and don’ts” of Canadian culture. A.L.L. staff will work with participants on how to apply for a job and how to make positive connections with the labour market. At the end of this program, staff members at A.L.L. will connect participants to community partners for job placements related to each individual’s goal.
Digital Technology Assistance is a new program offered at Adult Language and Learning. This program is offered to community members who are keen to upgrade their technical workplace skills.
Workplace Math is a program that will assist adults in improving their workplace math skills. This particular program is offered at the Adult Language and Learning building as well as at the Goodwill Employment Action Centre on 300 Lacroix Street in Chatham.
We asked Tracy what part of her job she treasures most.
“I love seeing people grow and learn. A lot of people who come in have multiple barriers or they have something that they’re working towards and I think the most rewarding part of all of that is watching the ‘Aha!” moments and then starting to make some of that progress, and using that. When they come back and tell you, “I got a job!” or I was able to do xyz at school, connecting it back to some of their experiences or relationships they built here.”
Aside from government funding in the not-for-profit world, Tracy explains that the greatest challenge she faces within her work is engaging learners who are resistant or lack an awareness of all the great opportunities that lie ahead of them with a life-long learning mindset. She is still exploring how to effectively market, promote and engage adults in the life long learning process.
We asked her what her wish for newcomers and Chatham-Kent. She feels there is some misunderstanding on newcomers issues and mythbusting is needed within the community. There are ideas that perhaps newcomers are getting paid or are taking all the jobs and the staff at Adult Language and Learning can attest that these ideas are not true.
Tracy elaborated that each immigration pathway has certain circumstances that come along with it. Knowledge is power especially if you are not previously aware of the information surrounding newcomer issues. She also added that #ImmigrationMatters is a big campaign the Federal Government is administering right now which highlights the positive impacts newcomers have had on our country.
“With the Festival of Nations coming, and if we look back at each of our descent, we are all immigrants at one stage or another….We all came from somewhere and we’re contributing to the economic development of the community. Mythbusting and understanding the importance of newcomers in community building is really important.
Finally, we asked Tracy if there is one thing we can do as a community to assist newcomers when they settle here, she advised that we need to be more welcoming, respect the differences and approach newcomers with more positivity.Tracy ALL

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