State wants mentors to teach refugees work-specific Latvian

Out of 26 refugees who've found work via the State Employment Agency within the past two years, eighteen are still in work. However they still face problems speaking Latvian, which the Welfare Ministry wants to try to solve with the help of language mentors giving work-specific Latvian advice to the people who've fled elsewhere and settled here, reports Latvian Radio January 19.

Out of 26 refugees who've found work via the State Employment Agency within the past two years, eighteen are still in work. However they still face problems speaking Latvian, which the Welfare Ministry wants to try to solve with the help of language mentors giving work-specific Latvian advice to the people who've fled elsewhere and settled here, reports Latvian Radio January 19.

The employment service has drawn up a list of about 70 employers who want to hire refugees, even if they don't speak that much Latvian. People are allowed to work without language proficiency if they don't work service jobs.

However, speaking Latvian is key if people want to move up to higher-paying jobs. 

When people are registered as unemployed, they can study Latvian for free and finish any courses they've started even after they've been hired.

But some courses are only held during daytime, making it hard to pair work and study.

"We should think about the acquisition of the Latvian language," said Alda Sebre, a representative of the Social Integration Fund. "When someone becomes an employee, we should provide either public-sponsored or low-priced courses so that they could study Latvian. And they should understand that they will not be able to live here without speaking Latvian," she said.

There's no language tuition tailored for working refugees; such initiatives usually assume a sporadic character. The Latvian Language Agency holds Latvian language courses for third-country nationals including refugees. But demand is always higher than supply, and the courses are only held three times a year.

That's why the Welfare Ministry wants to introduce a mentor service for working refugees. It would last for four months since beginning employment.

"It would help acquire professional vocabulary and better fit into the work environment. The State Employment Agency would announce a tender and make contracts with institutions that would provide the services of Latvian-language mentors," said Svetlana Djačkova, a representative of the Welfare Ministry.

"Unlike it's the case in classroom studies, the mentor would focus attention to the vocabulary required in the specific line of work.. they would work out individual study plans according to the professional requirements, the employer's wishes and the abilities of the students themselves," she said.

The project could be started in mid-2018. 

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