Preparing EAL Literacy Learners for the Canadian Workforce


by Terri Peters

Terri Peters has been in the field of adult literacy and learning for the past 20 years. She is currently a learner experience designer and consultant. She loves to develop fun ways to facilitate learning that keeps adults engaged and motivated. Her areas of expertise include adult literacy and learning, workplace essential skills, plain language, and learning facilitation design.

Terri can be reached at

No matter the EAL level, many adult learners need to prepare for the Canadian workforce. Let’s give them a leg up by incorporating some workforce language and culture into lessons.

It can be as easy as including forms of courtesy in the workplace in speaking activities. Or it could be coaching learners in what types of conversations and topics are appropriate at work, such as how to interrupt politely, how to ask for help, or the language pragmatics of making friends at work. Many EAL literacy activities used in classrooms for social or language growth can be applied to workplace contexts, too.

But the best strategy might be to address immediate and relevant concerns of learners who are already in the workforce. They often have questions about Canadian workplace culture and may have experienced confusing (to them) workplace scenarios that can be used as the basis for activities and lessons.

If your learners aren’t personally working at the moment, they probably have friends or family members who are and who come home with interesting workplace tales to tell. These can become a gold mine of workplace literacy topics.

You’ll find many ideas for activities and lessons in the resources below. They combine Canadian workplace language and culture. Some are specifically written for low level EAL learners and others have plain language content which can be adapted for lower literacy.

The list also includes some videos and audiobooks you can use in the classroom and learners can review on their own time.

Happy planning!

Alberta Workforce Essential Skills (AWES)

Scroll down this page and you’ll find Working Faster, Working Safer (CLB 1 – 2). Download the workbook and then continue scrolling down the page to find the Working Faster, Working Safer – CLB 1 – 2 Animated Videos.

You’ll also notice many other workforce-focused resources. The Workforce Participant Workbooks 1 and 2 will also give you lesson ideas. They’re written for CLB 3 – 8, but I feel like the activities could be adapted for lower literacy levels. You’ll also find accompanying videos for these workbooks close the bottom of this web page.

Bow Valley College: ESL Literacy Readers

These resources cover a wide range of topics, but there are workplace-focused readers, too. They are available in print PDF and as audiobooks directly from the website.

You can use these as a template to create new readers and activities for your students using their workplace scenarios and questions.

The workplace focused readers are:

  • A Part-Time Job
  • A Problem at Work
  • Pooja Finds a Job
  • Marie’s Path to a New Job
  • A Woman’s Right at Work
  • Pooja’s New Beginning

Common Ground: English in the Workplace

With a Facilitator and Training manual, you will find ready-made workplace activities and lessons. These lessons are aimed for a CLB 4 level, but I feel could be adapted for other levels.

I have used many of the facilitation techniques mentioned in this resource with both workplace and non-workplace content.

The 10 modules cover the topics of:

  • Safety
  • Pronunciation clarity
  • Intercultural awareness
  • Idioms
  • Conversation management

UpSkills for Work

While not written specifically for lower level EAL learners, these resources are written in plain language, so you can adapt them for classroom activities.

Based on research, these topics cover the “soft skills” Canadian employers look for:

  • Motivation
  • Attitude
  • Accountability
  • Presentation
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management
  • Adaptability
  • Stress Management
  • Confidence

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