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Employment & Training Programs and Services

Published Date: August 27, 2018
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Work Foundations

English as a Second Language (ESL)


Income and Employment Supports Act, Part 3 Section 20
Income Support, Training and Health Benefits Regulation
Training Provider Regulation, Section 2


English as a Second Language (ESL) training programs approved by the Government of Alberta (further referred to as ESL programs), are part of Work Foundations Programs under Alberta Works. 

ESL programs are designed to improve English language skills of unemployed or marginally employed adult Albertans. By improving their English language skills, Albertans will enhance their employment prospects and opportunities. By gaining required English language skills, immigrants to Alberta will integrate faster into their communities and be able to obtain adequate employment.


Eligibility for ESL Program

Individuals may be eligible for an ESL program if they: 

  • have insufficient English language skills to obtain sustainable employment or to pursue employment related training, AND 
  • are adult immigrants or other individuals whose first language is other than English, AND 
  • require Canadian work experience and/or related training, AND/OR
  • require employability and/or essential skills training.

ESL Programs General Rules

Individuals ineligible for the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, but need access to language training programs, may be eligible for ESL programs.

Program Delivery / Type

ESL programs are delivered as full-time or part-time through:

  • classroom,
  • synchronous e-learning, and/or
  • other type of distance learning

Participants in full-time ESL programs in a classroom setting or using a synchronous e-learning method may be eligible for training benefits and income support, while those using distance learning may be eligible for training benefits only.

Participants in part-time ESL programs may be eligible for a Skills Investment Bursary.

Duration / Enrollment & Eligibility for Assistance

ESL may be provided on both a full-time and part-time basis. A full-time learner must be enrolled in not less than 20 hours a week. 

The length of eligibility for participants in full-time ESL programs is specified in the Duration policy.

The eligibility for Sponsored Immigrants is specified in Partial Financial Eligibility.

Content / Components

ESL programs may include several different components such as: all or some of the four language competency areas (listening, speaking, reading, and writing); grammar; pronunciation; workplace-related skills (workplace culture, intercultural communication, or other), work experience (work placement, mentorship, job shadowing); preparation of language testing exams (TOEFL, IELTS), etc.

If an ESL program includes work experience or language test preparation components, the following additional requirements apply to participants in that program:

Work Experience

The need for work experience must be clearly identified in the participant’s Service Plan. Program instructor, the participant, and the employer must together identify work experience activities and outcomes. 

If work experience is included in ESL program, participants are not paid by the employer; therefore they may continue receiving income support during their work experience placement.

Participants in the work experience placement have to comply with the training provider’s, employer’s and HS attendance policies.

Participating employers must not receive any compensation from training providers for providing work experience opportunities for participants. In addition, training providers must ensure employers’ compliance with OHS Act and other labour-related rules and regulations (Employment Standards’ Code).

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

If an individual intends to enter an academic program at a post-secondary institution they may be eligible for:

  1. Training benefits and income support if they have to prepare for TOEFL exam. Preparation for TOEFL may be a single part-time course or a component in a full-time program. 
  2. The cost of TOEFL Exam may be considered for full-time students while attending the program. The cost may be covered through the Employment Training and Transition Supports benefit. If the cost is approved, the payment is issued directly to the individual who is responsible for payment of the exam fees directly to the test administrator / provider.

Procurement Method

ESL programs are approved through contract-based or tuition-based training program approval process.