A PILOT scheme is helping women learn English and boost their chances of getting a job.
The partnership between the Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre and the University of Sunderland sees weekly classes held for female members of the international community, run by university students.
Each student is enrolled in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) studies, and the opportunity allows them to gain real-world experience, away from the classroom.
Dr Petra Schoofs, TESOL subject leader, said: “In the beginning there were only two or three women and they were all very shy.
“They have very different levels of English, some of them have just come – one of them was only four weeks in the country – so it must be a culture shock.
“Some of them have been here for more than 40 years, which is a different challenge again.
“It’s growing very rapidly and there are new faces every week.
“It’s important for everyone involved. It’s invaluable for my students because they get lots of practical experience on a non-university level.
“It’s also important for the Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre, because the women really enjoy it, and benefit from it.”
Classes have been running once a week since the beginning of October, and are planned to last until the end of January, but it is hoped the scheme will be extended.
Martin Booth, business development officer at the Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre, said: “This particular initiative is part of our women’s employment project – the idea being that any training will help bring women closer to employment, and clearly improving English skills is very central to that.
“It’s been very successful and we hope it will continue for as long as possible.”
Classes are held at the Bangladesh Centre in Tatham Street every Thursday, from 10am to noon.