The Commisceo Global Blog - Perfect for Culture Vultures

Whether a press release, a case study of cultural difference, some tips on working abroad or some lessons in cross-communication, we try our best to satiate your inner culture vulture.

Intercultural training materials for migrant workers



On a construction site near the future Olympic village in east London, more than half of the workforce is Asian, about a third Central and Eastern European (including a large contingent of Bulgarians) and about 10% British.

In the canteen Sikhs sit with Sikhs, Lithuanians with Lithuanians and Brits with Brits. Communication is severely limited and it's not just language. Improving communication between communities at work is a major issue. Countries across the EU are experiencing the challenge of integrating migrant workers into their workplaces.

Now an EU iniative, the European Intercultural Workplace (EIW), addresses this challenge. Started by Dublin City University, the three-year project has a budget of $1.48m. It is one of the largest in the Leonardo da Vinci scheme, the EU mechanism for funding vocational education initiatives, and is part of the EU's current Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

The EIW involves vocational training centres and universities in 10 countries: Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Britain. Each partner has produced a national situation report, drawing together migrant workers' views on integration plus details of how employers and governments respond. There are also case studies looking at local sectors such as construction, retail and education.

A series of booklets explore intercultural issues on a transnational level with analysis of smaller-sized businesses, healthcare and education workplaces across Europe. A fourth booklet, Overview of Legislation, explains the legal situation in different countries. These reports are all available from the project website.

The data collected is impressive, but what will be of practical benefit to those working in intercultural communication – often starved of suitable teaching resources – are the EIW project's workplace educational training materials. These are available as a DVD/print package called Europe at Work.

The materials have been written and produced by the UK project team, led by Professor Emeritus Jack Lonergan of the University of Westminster. They have followed a critical incident methodology which presents scenarios on DVD and follow-up materials that promote discussion of possible solutions rather than providing a single answer.

"The scenarios have been scripted to focus on one specific issue which allows easy transfer to many similar situations. They have been filmed nowhere but apply anywhere," says Professor Lonergan.

One unit is called Appearance and reflects the issue of Muslim women wearing the veil at work. Seema, a Muslim accounts clerk, is selected for promotion by her human resources manager, Miss Tate. However, Miss Tate advises Seema that wearing a headscarf, or hijab, will not be appropriate in her more senior role. The scene plays out with Seema and Miss Tate's discussion.

Fourteen units, with accompanying print materials, deal with many areas of miscommunication at work between migrant and host-country workers. Most deal with the relations between bosses and staff concerning gender, religion, authority, time, race, qualifications and relationships.

Others deal with language issues such as failure to communicate, or being at a disadvantage because of language difficulties. One scene deals with body language. A young man is from a culture where he does not look elders in the eye out of respect for authority; he is suspected of dishonesty by a policeman because of his body language – his "shifty" manner.

The DVD scenarios make no recommendations and indeed come to no conclusions. It is for the work group to identify the issues, discuss possible solutions and come to an agreement.

The training manual supports the DVD scenario by helping viewers identify and understand the issues at stake and by inviting them to form their own opinions and discuss them with colleagues. An important part of each unit is the "What if... ?" scenes where students are taken through a series of situations and asked how they would deal with them. The accompanying best practice section suggests possible solutions that might be employed to resolve each situation.

Britain has a long history of migrants in the workplace, and therefore has experiences and expertise to share, but the EIW materials seek a wider perspective. Solutions found in Britain are not necessarily exportable and some issues may be dealt with more successfully elsewhere.

There is another spin off. Because of the immediacy of the issues, the naturalistic language and the subtitles in eight languages, the materials can also be used in language schools and colleges wanting workplace-based materials.

Original article from The Guardian
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Immigration report proposals will hinder employers



Employers will find it more difficult to recruit skilled migrants from overseas if the government accepts proposals to further tighten up the immigration system, a law firm has warned.

Alarm bells were sounded by Speechly Bircham following a Migration Advisory Committee report on the points-based immigration system, which outlines how the UK could do more to protect jobs for British workers.

Recommendations include:

*A requirement that migrant workers outside of the EU will earn £20,000 and workers without qualifications will earn at least £32,000
* Increasing the application fees for Tier 2 (the skilled workers category for those from outside the EU)
* Increasing the period that a role has to be advertised in the UK to four weeks
* Increasing the period before an employee can transfer from an overseas branch to the UK via an intra-company transfer from six months to 12 months.

Tracy Evlogidis, head of immigration at Speechly Bircham, said: "It is clear from the recommendations that employers will face an incredibly difficult task in recruiting skilled migrants from overseas, no matter how special they are and who they are.

Read more > Immigration
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Learn the language before coming to the UK

Gordon Brown is ruling that medium-skilled migrants from outside the EU must speak and understand English. The “highly skilled” already have to; the unskilled, it seems, may remain uncomprehending. The Home Secretary adds enthusiastically that it will help integration if we “expect people coming through the skilled and slightly less-skilled route to actually be able to speak English”.

Well, duh! This is good news (though met with whingeing from employers who fear for their cheap labour, and from Tories who find it not fierce enough). It would be even better news if there were some mechanism to put the same onus on EU citizens who plan to stay, but since that is impossible we could at least refrain from gratuitously featherbedding them by putting up diversion signs in Polish to prevent lorry drivers “coming into conflict with road workers”.

Read more: Language 
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Australia puts migrants to culture test

Migrants hoping to become Australian citizens will soon have to take a test examining their knowledge of the country's history and institutions, and endorse national values including "mateship".

While Australia prides itself on its multicultural heritage, the government wants newcomers to "integrate" more fully. From later this year, prospective citizens will have to demonstrate an understanding of the English language. They will also be obliged to answer 20 questions, from a potential bank of 200. Anyone who gives fewer than 12 correct responses will not receive a passport.

Read more: Australia 
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