Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A person learning online.

What kind of training does ESU offer?

We can help you upgrade your writing, reading, math, and computer skills.  Because we are an employment-focused program, we also provide opportunities to work on the soft skills necessary for keeping a job: for example, skills that help you work with others and problem-solving.

As you are upgrading your skills for work, we can also help you prepare to write the General Educational Development (GED) test.

What is meant by an “employment-focused” program?

Our employment focus means that the work done in class happens in an employment context.  For example, we practice reading skills using memos, schedules, and policy forms.  We practice writing skills using application forms and notes to co-workers and we practice math skills by using invoices and order forms.

What can I expect when I call?

  1. We begin by making an appointment to meet with you.  We call this the Initial Interview and Assessment.
  2. At the Initial Interview, we will take some time to listen to your hopes and dreams for your life and how upgrading your skills fits into your hopes and dreams.  If what you are looking for is best found at another agency, we will let you know and help you connect with that agency.
  3. In the Initial Assessment, we take a look at the skills you already have.  Then we will set a date for you to start in class.  The wait to start depends on whether or not we have a waiting list.
  4. Once you start in class, your teacher will help you compare the skills you have with the skills you need to reach your goal. We will help you identify the skill gaps that need to be filled.
  5. Next, we will prepare a training plan that will help you get the skills you need for your next step – work or retraining. We will provide you with learning materials that will help you build the skills you need and we will help you when you have questions.
  6. Finally, when you are ready, we will give you a chance to demonstrate that you have learned the skills you needed.

Can I start anytime?

We are a “continuous intake” program.  This means that you don’t have to wait for the beginning of a new semester.  You can start at any time, and leave when you have the skills you came for.  After your Initial Interview and Assessment, we will arrange a time for you to start.  If regular classes are full, we will offer Thursday mornings for learning until a spot opens in the regular class.  We also offer blended learning with online Employment Ontario upgrading programs including:

Do I have to keep up with the rest of the class?

No. Our learners work in a classroom with other adults who are also working to upgrade their skills.  Because each learner is working towards a different goal, each learner is working on their own lessons.  That means you don’t have to keep up with anybody else. You can work at your own pace and you can leave when you have the skills you need.

Can I get my diploma?

You may want to get your high school diploma to make it easier to get a job.  At ESU, we do not offer high school credits.  However, we can help you prepare to write the General Educational Development (GED) test.  When you pass the GED test, you earn a high school equivalency certificate.  Most employers consider this GED certificate equivalent to a high school diploma.

If you are interested in preparing for high school credits so you can get your high school diploma, please contact our friends at the St. Louis Adult Learning Centres in Kitchener and Cambridge.

What is the GED?

“GED” is a short form for “General Educational Development” test.  The GED is a test that you can write if you don’t have your high school diploma.  The GED test has parts for writing, reading, math, social studies, and science.  The tests take about 7 hours to write.  You must pay to write the test.  If you pass all 7 parts of the test, the Ontario Ministry of Education will grant you an “Ontario High School Equivalency Certificate”.

ESU offers help with “pre-GED” upgrading.  Pre-GED upgrading lays a solid foundation of reading, writing and math skills for participation in one of the several “GED preparation” programs in Waterloo Region.  After completing the GED preparation step, you will be prepared to write the GED test.

If you would like more information, you can visit the GED website of Ontario’s Independent Learning Centre.

What are the Essential Skills?

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) identifies 9 essential skills for learning, work and life.  These nine skills are called “essential” because they are the “velcro” that other skills (such as working with others, and problem solving) stick to. Visit ESDC’s Literacy and Essential Skills website or the Ontario Skills Passport website for more information about the Essential Skills.

How many hours of training can I get each week?

Most students at our main sites (Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo) attend 9 hours each week.  Typically, this means 3 mornings or 3 afternoons each week.  In special situations, students can attend more often.

Do I get my own tutor at ESU?

No.  ESU’s programs are offered in a classroom setting.  You will have a teacher who works with you in the classroom.  The teacher may be helping up to 12 students at the same time.  Some of the learning in the classroom happens in groups.  Some of the learning happens when learners work away on their own lessons.  Because each person is different, teachers move around the classroom spending time with each person.  If you are looking for a tutor that works only with you, contact our friends at The Literacy Group.

Do you teach English as a Second Language (ESL)?

We are not an ESL program, however, we do work with people who have English as a second language.  If you have English as a second (or third, or fourth…) language, you will benefit from our program if your speaking and listening skills are at a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 6 or higher and your reading and writing skills are at least at CLB 6. If you need ESL help, or if you need your English skills assessed, contact the YMCA’s Language Services in Kitchener-Waterloo.