By Trevor Busch
Fall has arrived and Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association’s Vibrant Learning magazine has been hitting mailboxes across the community and providing a glimpse of the varied programming now available.
Perennially popular is TDCALA’s GED (General Education Development) classes, with the fall course spanning Oct. 1 – Dec. 12. There is also a GED Prep class that concentrates on math and language arts.
“One of the more popular classes is our GED class. In the past two years we’ve had full registration on that,” said Val Wiebe with TDCALA. “Right now we’re sitting at five spots left with the class starting October 1, so anyone interested needs to get their application in. There’s also funding available, so the class and the exams could end up free of charge.”
Other classes on offer include Computer Basic for familiarity with Windows 10, email, word processing and the Internet; One-on-One Computer Coach is available by appointment for those interested in learning more about computers, iPhones, and iPads. Basic Math teaches a number of concepts utilized during school and work life, and Introduction to Money Management is starting on Nov. 7.
Highlighted as part of English Language Learning classes is Conversational English, offered in the afternoon as a women’s class, as well as the evening for men and women. Childcare is available for children 18 months to Kindergarten age.
“We also have English language learning, we’ve got all sorts of classes for that, from daytime classes, to one we started last year, Evening English for Men,” said Wiebe. “And then their wives decided maybe they wouldn’t mind joining in, so we’ve opened that to being a mixed evening class, which is a really good one. We remove all barriers possible by offering pre-child care. We encourage that as somewhat of a ‘date night.’ If you’ve got nothing else going on that night, come out and learn some English. It’s reading, writing, all aspects.”
Families Learning Together classes are being held in Taber, Grassy Lake, and Vauxhall beginning Oct. 7. An evening English language class for both sexes starts on Oct. 21. TDCALA’s Babysitting course has been one of the organization’s most popular, and consists of one day of instruction by St. John’s Ambulance personnel, and is being held on Oct. 19.
CELPIP (Oct. 8) and Citizenship (Sept. 30) classes are being offered as part of TDCALA’s full breadth of Newcomer Services. In the past year, TDCALA has helped 117 newcomers in the community from 16 different countries.
“What we’re trying to do is provide wrap-around literacy and learning services, where we’re able to move learners on from one opportunity to another,” said TDCALA executive director Jane Brenner. “As well as our Newcomers Services, which is welcoming newcomers to our community. We are becoming a very diverse culture, even in Taber, and we want to be able to help them adjust as much as they can. One of the things they need is CELPIP and Citizenship, and we are running those classes, as well as a driver’s license class. All the survival things that they need to get going and become contributing members of our community.”
Newcomers Services is becoming one of the hallmark services offered by TDCALA, and can assist in overcoming common local language barriers.
“They have their own department under us now, that is just Newcomers, that is staffed by two, one full time and one part time staff,” said Brenner. “As part of that we have an interpreter on staff three days a week — Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — that speaks Low German. But the services are certainly for any newcomer that has been here less than 10 years.”
Staff from the organization can also assist employers with recruitment, translation services, assistance with completing forms, and other activities. Brenner stressed that TDCALA is fully engaged in seeking new volunteers from the community to assist with much of the programming and services the organization offers.
“We need volunteers. We have a large English as a Second Language population living within our municipal district, and we can always use volunteers. Just call the office, we’ll meet with them and tell them about the volunteer opportunities that we have — it could be helping someone to drive, it could be helping someone to read, it could be helping someone to pass their citizenship test — and in every case, the volunteer always comes back and tells us it was such a rewarding experience.”
Wiebe pointed out that potential volunteers might be discouraged by a perception that they might be unqualified, which is largely untrue.
“I think the hesitation is that they don’t think they’re qualified. They don’t need to be. They just have to have a heart, and care, and want to come in. And it’s basic — very basic reading and writing. I don’t think there’s too many that couldn’t do it.”
Work Foundations is an 18-week, full time basic skills program that helps students learn English, math and computer skills for employment, and starts on Nov. 4. The Youth Employment Program assists youth with developing employment skills, gaining practical on-the-job work experience, and also commences on Nov. 4.
“Most of the programs are very reasonably priced, or are free,” said Brenner. “If someone presents to us that they have financial barriers — their husband just got laid off, they’re a single mother, they’ve been on social assistance — we can waive the fee for them. Part of our mandate is to build pathways into the post-secondary system. And right now we’re partnering with Lethbridge College to build those pathways.”
Career Employment Services offers free resume development, job search assistance, and placement and interview preparation.
“In a time of restraint and economic decline, that’s when we see more people needing the services,” said Brenner.
As part of a pilot project to determine if there is a need for Service Canada in Taber on a regular basis, staff from the federal department will be at the Provincial Building on Oct. 23 and Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to assist the public.
TDCALA is located in the Provincial Building at 5011 49th Avenue. For more information on classes, registration or volunteer opportunities contact the organization at 403-223-1169.
“I think we have a very active learning community, and we’re well supported in our community,” said Brenner. “Across the province in some other communities, advanced education is pulling out because they don’t have the response that we, in our community, do.”