Brian Hough
The Navigator

Photo by Drew McLachlan

Literacy Central Vancouver Island (LCVI), located on Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo, is currently looking for volunteers for its English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.

LCVI offers two programs, both in partnership with VIU­—English as a Second Language Settlement Assistant Program (ESLSAP) and English Practice Group-Conversation (EPG). Volunteers act as facilitators and tutors and receive mandatory training before starting.

The ESLSAP works with immigrants who have spent less than five years in Canada and are learning English for the first time, while EGP offers conversation practice for those who already have some English abilities but are looking to improve on them through facilitated practice.

While volunteering can be a rewarding experience in general, volunteering for the ESL programs at LCVI can be a useful stepping stone for VIU students graduating in the near future, as teaching ESL overseas has become an increasingly attractive option for new graduates looking to find work in a tough job market.

One of the more popular destinations is South Korea. Speaking to a number of different South Korea-based recruiters (agents and companies that pair applicants with private and public schools), almost all of them recommended ESL volunteering (and participating in the training program) as valuable experience to have on your resumé when applying for ESL jobs.

While almost all the recruiters were quick to point out the job market for ESL teachers in South Korea is becoming increasingly competitive, they were equally quick to point out that the kind of experience that LCVI was offering would give an applicant a number of advantages in the hiring process as well as actual teaching.

Richard Slezak, having lived in Korea for more than a decade before co-founding the recruiting agency Topgun Consulting based out of Daejeon, said “volunteering can help build a new teacher’s confidence in the classroom and give an applicant an edge over the people applying without any experience or training at all.” James Cranshaw, a citizen of the UK who founded six years ago, echoed Slezak’s remarks and added “it probably won’t help get a higher salary, but certainly during interviews candidates can draw on the experience they have.”

The first step of the process is to apply at the LCVI downtown.

The applicant will fill out a tutor registration form. The forms are then given to the tutor coordinators and they will contact the person to set up an interview. The focus in the interview will be on the applicant’s experience with teaching, specifically ESL. In addition, they will require a criminal record check if applying to the ESLSAP program. Once accepted, the applicant will begin the training session.

There are two VIU sanctioned programs—a nine hour Abbreviated Volunteer Tutor Training for those tutors who have a TESOL certificate and/or teaching degree ,and a 30 hour Volunteer Tutor Training Course for people interested in tutoring, but do not have certified teaching experience.

According to the director of the program, Judith Miller, “we accept applications at any time, however the volunteer tutor training courses are scheduled with flexible timing.”

LCVI also accepts volunteer applications for its literacy programs as well as in the bookstore.