New courses are being delivered in Greater Manchester to support the growing Hong Kong community to build their language skills, access employment opportunities and integrate successfully into life in their new communities.

Around 40 Hong Kong expatriates from Trafford have recently enrolled onto an 8-week English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programme in Manchester city centre, which develops reading, speaking, listening and employability skills alongside knowledge about living and working in the UK.

The courses are delivered by Seetec Outsource and provided in partnership with Trafford Council, which has access to funding for British National (Overseas) status holders arriving from Hong Kong via the UK Government’s BN(O) route. Hundreds of families from Hong Kong have already settled in Trafford, and the council is keen to ensure they have access to services and support that will help them settle in and feel part of the community.

The Government established this new immigration route for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) status holders following China’s imposition of the National Security Law on the people of Hong Kong in July 2020. This route provides the opportunity for them and their family members to live, work and study in the UK. The Home Office estimates that as many as 322,000 Hong Kong British National (Overseas) status holders could choose to live, work and study in the UK over the next five years.

Seetec’s ESOL Academy not only supports learners to improve their English and build important communication skills, it also helps to develop an understanding of British culture and values so that learners find it easier to adjust to life in the UK.

Enrichment activities include visits to museums, local landmarks and places of cultural interest, and learners from Hong Kong have already visited Manchester Art Gallery and the central library.

In addition, there is support for learners to access employment opportunities, and as part of the programme they will attend job fairs and receive support with CVs and job applications. Many of the new arrivals from Hong Kong are already highly skilled and have high levels of digital literacy, which will help them to make a positive contribution to the local community and economy.

One of the learners on the ESOL course, Joe Leung, said: “It’s a wonderful experience to learn English in England. The atmosphere in the class is relaxed and enjoyable with a lot of chances to share your view and communicate with others.

“I like the content in class which was not only the grammar of English but also the history, culture, celebrity, politics, the Royal Family and core values in the United Kingdom. I have built up my confidence to speak English after taking this course because I have learnt more about the place I am going to settle.”

Cllr Mike Freeman, Trafford Council’s Executive Member for Covid-19 Recovery and Reform, said: “We are very proud that hundreds of families from Hong Kong chose Trafford to be their new home. They are proving to be a fabulous addition to our diverse Trafford family.

“The families are showing a huge commitment to improving their English language skills and their understanding of British values and culture which will help them further in becoming fully integrated members of our communities. In paying tribute to our growing Hong Kong community for their determination, I would also like to thank Seetec for their support in delivering the ESOL programme.”

Jason Hurn, National Director for Education and Skills at Seetec Outsource, added: “Our Hong Kong learners have shown a great deal of enthusiasm for the ESOL programme, and are highly motivated to develop the knowledge and skills they need to find work and build a new life for themselves in the UK.

“We are proud to support Trafford Council with this important initiative, which not only supports learners to strengthen their language skills in preparation for work, but also contributes to community integration and cohesion and enables Hong Kong newcomers to become active and valued members of society.”