English in the workplace - using the Careers New Zealand jobs database

authentic materials elt english for the workplace resources Oct 22, 2021

By Dorothy Cleary

In my previous blog, I included a list of places to find authentic materials, both online and paper-based. The Careers New Zealand website is one easily accessible and varied resource for English in the Workplace (EWP) classes. It provides information about possible careers within the New Zealand context, and a wealth of incidental cultural information.

It has the huge advantage that the learners can access this site themselves at home, which provides opportunities for:
• improving online searching skills in English
• either individual or post-class self-study

Teaching Website Searching Skills

This is a formidable website; it is large and complex and includes layers of information. Teaching your learners to navigate around it will align closely with the Numeracy and Literacy outcomes of your course, as well as being a genuinely useful life skill. These activities below incorporate cultural knowledge, vocabulary building, prediction skills, spelling, scanning, ordering information…


The hardest part of using this website is guessing what Careers NZ has decided to name any particular career, as there is very poor cross-referencing. For example, caregivers in eldercare facilities are listed as Nursing Support and Care Workers, but not cross-referenced as caregivers.

Sample Activities to Exploit the Jobs Database Part of the Website:

  1. Provide a list of jobs and ask learners to place them under the different industry categories or vocational pathways, then to navigate to those categories to check their guesses.
  2. Ask learners to quickly locate a particular career. Make this a team/pair race.
  3. Labour intensive, but very useful, and reusable.
    1. Choose one or two simple careers.
    2. Copy and paste some of the headings from the different tabs, and some of the contents under those headings, into a Word doc.
    3.  Retain the different font sizes.
    4. Cut up the words and phrases into strips.
    5. Ask the learners to work in groups to identify the headings, and then to ... place the phrases under the relevant heading.
    6. Get them to check each other’s guesses before they check on the website.
    7. Feedback from this activity will lead to much useful cultural information about NZ workplaces.
  4. Provide a simple report format, and ask learners to choose a career and to use the database to write a report about it and/or give an oral report. You can be more or less prescriptive about this, depending on learner level: ie you can:
    1. provide a model
    2. provide the headings
    3. provide starting phrases for each heading
    4. or leave this open to the learners.
Using the Embedded Videos

To find videos on the Careers New Zealand site, navigate to the Jobs database. Choose your career, then navigate to:

Career name / About the job / What’s the job really like?

Videos are included for some, but not all, careers; they vary widely in length, quality, and difficulty, but all come with at least partial transcripts. Many of the video resources come from the relevant Industry Training Organisations (ITOs), and they are designed to appeal to young people, while giving an overview of what it’s like to work in a particular area. Of course, this means they are full of idiomatic Kiwi English in a slightly more formal, and thus more accessible, context than unedited text.

Here is one example, for a waiter/waitress.


How Can I Use This Resource?

Some Sample Classroom Strategies

First listening:

Discuss the career in-class. Access any in-class first-hand knowledge about that job.
Play all or part of the video and ask learners to discuss what they heard/saw/understood.

Second and Subsequent Listenings:

Re-play focussing on:


• skills /qualities needed for being a waiter / waitress (from Tom and Geeling)
• apprenticeships vs formal study

Workplace Culture

• Introductions – first names, hand shaking, greeting customers. Both body and verbal language.

Language Use

Example: This video lends itself to a focus on instructions. A small amount of transcribing and printing goes a long way.

• Geeling’s way of telling Ashley that she needs to put on a uniform. “First, I think we’re gonna hafta get you into a uniform.”
• the young girl apprentice who gives instructions with a question intonation.
• the bartender, who is relatively straightforward and uses imperatives. “Grab this, then grab that, give it a good squish..”
• the chef – “what you’re gonna do…” “You’ve got 10 minutes to get it done, come on…”

These could be:
• matched to the speaker
• discussed in terms of how to recognise an instruction
• discussed in terms of politeness and formality/informality
• listened to with a focus on intonation
• practised – especially the ‘grab this then grab that”, which is so common in New Zealand

Please add to the list, all suggestions gratefully received…

Dorothy Cleary has over 25 years TESOL experience, as a teacher, academic manager, curriculum designer and, over the past 10 years, as a resource and curriculum developer for Asia and New Zealand. She has an MA in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University in Wellington (2005) and is an IELTS examiner.

Image source: shutterstock.com/dizain