Communication is a two-way street, but it can be a bumpy ride when language is littered with turns of phrase and slang in an accent very foreign to your own.
For many of New South Wales’ 24,000 taxi drivers, the rules around language, literacy and numeracy are as intricate as a map of any big city.
So the NSW Taxi Council is providing guidance through a training consortium model, in partnership with training provider Hunter TAFE, under the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) Program.
The program is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, and was brokered by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC), to provide training in comprehension and communication skills. Ultimately, the outcome of the program is to improve the customer’s experience by offering a very high level of customer service.
The training allows participants to achieve several Units of Competency which target reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. The program and complements other studies and ensures workers can meet current and future job needs.
NSW Taxi Council training and development manager Christina Klaasse says the training’s consortium model works “because we don’t fall into the traditional employee/employer relationship that exists in other WELL programs.
“We’re managing an education process where we’re not dealing with employees, but rather industry participants, as taxi drivers and taxi operators are self-employed.”
Klaasse says the industry has always had drivers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, “probably a higher proportion than most other industries, so language, literacy and numeracy have been important to us for a long time”.
The training allows participants to achieve several Units of Competency which target reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
The WELL funding has afforded 120 trainee places in the program’s first run, with drivers having enrolled in two distinct study cohorts, she says.
“We have drivers who have been struggling with the some of the written components of trying to increase their skills, to become a taxi operator, for instance, or drive a wheelchair accessible taxi, which is an additional qualification,” Klaasse says. “And drivers who may have had a problem with a passenger because they didn’t communicate as well as they could have.”
“We had a driver who said that, before WELL, he sometimes didn’t know what people were asking him to do: you know, to ‘chuck a u-ie’.” But now he knows!
Amanda Cole, Manager of WELL at Hunter TAFE, says evidence of WELL’s success so far may be found in the feedback secured by the industry participants who have completed the program.
“We surveyed students and asked, ‘What was the most valuable thing you learned?’ Forty three per cent said that it improved their pronunciation. Others identified writing skills, understanding of Australian culture, and even increased self-esteem.
It is very promising, Cole explains, with many drivers expressing an interest in more training, which is a “positive outcome” because they’re giving up their time and potential income to attend.
- The NSW Taxi Council is the operating arm of peak state industry bodies the Taxi Industry Association and Country Taxi Operators Association
- There are 7,000 taxis on NSW roads and 24,000 self-employed drivers, of which 6,000 are owner-operators
- NSW taxis take 175 million passenger journeys annually
- The NSW Taxi Council has 120 Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) Program-funded places
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