Pre-employment ESL resources From July 2017, our national AMEP (Adult Migrant English Program) will change. Providers will be offering both a Social and a Pre-Employment English stream – at all levels.

Teachers are looking around the bookshelves to see what’s there that’s not out of date (agencies change names, print ads disappear…). Some may have concerns, addressed a decade ago in the 2006 AMEPRC paper Teaching Strategies – 2 – Job-focused learning at Certificate 1 level, but have to teach, nonetheless. (Thanks, Manjit, for the link.)

Some concerns arise in preparing to teach low-level, newly arrived, adult ESL learners about employment. Many would say that their language levels are so low that it is not realistic or even fair to float or support ideas of job seeking. An obvious concern is that Certificate I students do not yet have the kind of English required to cope with the complexity of concepts and information involved in discussing work-related issues.

Resources for beginners: course books for pre-employment

Jobs from TAFE SAWhile there are plenty of ESL resources that really explore Aussie workplace culture and language, there aren’t so many at beginner level. I’m listing those resources that I know of, or that I’ve been alerted to by other teachers. (Thanks, again, Manjit!) Please send your additions – I’m thinking especially of teachers on the SEE (Skills for Education and Employment) program. Now here goes:

Jobs (ELS at TAFESA 2005) – and parts of the rest of that Work in Oz series, like Margo the Cleaner – very much aimed at beginner and literacy learners. I can’t find the link to the TAFESA catalogue any more, but I’m sure your local language bookshop will know more.

Finding Work AMES NSW


Finding Work: Beginner (Fran Weston, English for Employment, AMES NSW) Lots on cultural issues, but for strong beginners with good reading skills.

At Work: Beginner (Fran Weston, English for Employment, AMES NSW 2009) In the same series. Again, for strong or ongoing beginners. Really good cultural focus, but that does involve discussion, which assumes a certain level of language.

Get Wise Your Future AMEP RCGet Wise: Your Future – work and study (Jenni Guilfoyle and Maggie Power, AMEPRC 2007) – useful high oracy, low literacy resource, aimed at young people – but the books and DVDs are no longer distributed.

If you work for AMEP, you’ll probably have a set of the Get Wise materials in the resource room. The Your Health book also includes a workplace setting.

Again this is a slightly ‘older’ resource, but I don’t think it’s dated, and it has a lively feel to it.

Reading books or materials 

Passages to English Urban LyrebirdsThe AMEPRC paper does suggests that simple stories about people looking for work or in work can be easy for learners to relate to (and of course, I would support that). A perfect fit for pre-employment, because it’s not ‘hurry up and get a job’, but ‘this is about working life in Australia’.

Passages to English 2 (Maggie Power, Urban Lyrebirds): A popular series with learners: Chapters 12-15: Plans for the Future, Looking for a Job, My Job, I Work on the Trams

Passages to English 3: Chapters 12 and 14: A lesson at work and My workday (this would be high beginner/post beginner). (Note that there are various incarnations of the Passages books – yours may be OUP, but they have been reissued as revised editions by Urban Lyrebirds.)

Sunita's Story TELLS

Sunita’s Story (Paula Withers at TAFE QLD).

I don’t know this book, but I’ve seen others in the series and the layout is spacious, giving it a literacy as well as a beginner ‘look’.

There’s a reader and teacher’s resource book with exercises. This was a ‘recommended’ book.

Late for Work PRACE Pageturners

Late for work (by Chris Malakar, from PRACE Pageturners, 2015).

Again I don’t know this particular book, but it comes recommended. It’s a Level 1 book, so suitable for beginners.

All the PageTurners series books I’ve seen have been a lot of fun, with an entertaining story and very spacious layout. Great for a little classroom lending library.

Working LIves, NSW AMES

Working lives (by Pornsawan Brawn, NSW AMES)

This ‘elementary’ reader has a CD and a workbook with detailed exercises.

The stories in this book are about different jobs, and each one has a good amount of text. They’re not too simple, and would suit ongoing/strong beginners, or a mixed beginner/post beginner class. Useful to get students talking about different jobs and daily duties.

Front cover of My Job is the BestMy Job is the Best (Free download): this is my own book and it really is ‘early beginner’ – for learners who’ve just started on simple ‘what I do every day’ descriptions. With worksheets and teacher notes.

Of course many other reading books have ‘job-related’ aspects, late to work stories etc.  I posted recently about workplace discussion issues in my own books in a blog post on ESL Extras and Pre-employment English, and I plan to collect more examples.

Digital resources: interactive CD ROMs

That's Work AMES VicWork Words AMES NSWThat’s Work! (Elsie Hill, Maggie Power and Lilliana Hajncl at AMES Vic): Elementary level (so not complete beginner), lots on language and employability skills, follows on the very popular That’s Life! Students in the computer room can get very absorbed in these products. Alas, not compatible with Windows 10 – you need Windows 8.

Work Words: (Jo Duffy, NSW AMES): also available as a shiny colour workbook, part of a very appealing series.


Say it again at Work AMES VicSay it again at work (Lynda Achren, Lilliana Hajncl, Maggie Power at AMES Vic, 2013).

This book has a huge amount to say about cultural workplace issues and appropriate language, through listening to short interactions. Set in specific workplace contexts and extra suitable for learners already doing some work or work experience. It’s probably best for strong beginner up, or high oracy beginner.

This is a follow-on to the original Say it again (with the hot pink cover).

Non-Australian, but recommended

Easy Stories Plus New Readers PressEasy Stories Plus (Ann Gianola, 2001, New Readers Press, New York.

A very accessible series, with large print, spacious, simple exercises. Several stories have an ‘at work’ theme.

Manjit says, “I used the ‘late for work’ stories to teach writing SMS messages – running late to work.” There are US language elements: Ernie is a ‘mail carrier’. While this can be confusing for learners (hence my love of Australian materials for beginners), these stories are such fun it would be a shame to not use them (like True Stories in the News).

People and Jobs: a free-to- download Canadian reader from Best of the Reader (there’s also a Teachers’ Guide). I wanted to include this clearly non-Australian resource because it looks so well done, and I’m always looking for ‘free’ resources for teachers and tutors in non-funded teaching situations,


I haven’t included numeracy, as it won’t be reported on in AMEP – but it’s a different story for other programs, so you might want to suggest resources…

Occasional pre-employment references

This space is for thoughts on materials that don’t have ‘workplace’ in the title, but have great workplace or work readiness references. Updates will be coming as I find them…

Resources for post-beginners upwards

I was looking at resources for ‘beginners’ because most teachers are very aware of the higher level resources from AMES Australia, AMES NSW, ELS, etc. However, a quick alert to a great FREE resource, Lily the Volunteer, from AMES Australia, and at a much higher level (British Council, not Australian), there’s a free FutureLearn MOOC on Workplace English.

When you need something specific – who to ask?

If your local language bookshop can’t help, why not ask on a teacher forum or network, like the Facebook ACTA Adult ESOL Interest Group?