Hundreds of thousands of employees in the UK have poor English skills, a disadvantage that has implications for productivity, as well being a barrier to the employees’ progression. A huge challenge in tackling this problem is the diversity of the native languages that workers speak - often the diversity in a single workplace or factory can be as many as 60 different native languages.
This diversity combined with the need to teach industry specific vocabulary is a major challenge for employers and this group of employees. Teaching technical workplace English and even basic Health & Safety to someone who does not have English as their first language is complex and takes time. There is currently no digital solution to this. Often companies hire in large groups of expensive technical translators to help to teach workplace English to these employees.
The team at Learning Labs had already developed a successful school platform to help children that do not have English as their first language. They saw the opportunity to develop their platform for the workplace and applied for VocTech Seed funding to develop a BETA model of their FlashAcademy® platform and test it with large and SME manufacturing employers.
The project is innovative in its approach as it is the first workplace platform to teach workplace English from 30+ languages. Accessible on employees' own smartphones/tablets/PC's and by the employer via an online LMS, it includes
- The world’s first workplace object translator – workplace items can be photographed and instantly translated into English and the native language of the learner
- A series of exercises, games and lessons that teach workplace vocabulary on key topics, such as health and safety
- A pronunciation tool which gives feedback on how learners are pronouncing words in English so they can improve their verbal communication skills
The BETA platform has been highly successful in garnering the commercial interest of several high-profile employers in automotive manufacturing, construction and energy. This interest has been as a direct result of the fact that they all have diverse groups of employees that don’t have English as a first language. FlashAcademy® offers a potential solution to help train this group more effectively, improving productivity and opportunities for people to progress within the business.
In terms of key lessons from their VocTech Seed project, Learning Labs have noted 3 key themes:
- The need for agility and flexibility so that the project direction can be shaped based on market feedback
- The importance of early relationships with a broad base of different potential users to inform the development of the project and to involve them in user testing
- Starting the project with a clear vision for sustainability in mind, which in Learning Labs case was a commercial outcome