Thanks for this interesting question.
I think that pronunciation is an essential aspect of learning to speak a foreign language. If a student does not pronounce a word correctly, it can be very difficult to understand him/her. If a student doesn’t understand a word that is being said that is also a problem. Students need to recognise and produce correct pronunciation. Having said that, there is a debate about whether students need to know phonetic symbols or not.
It is difficult to know whether to teach the phonemic alphabet or not. On the one hand, it can help students discover pronunciation for themselves using their dictionaries. As you quite rightly say, there is the difficulty of learning a new set of symbols. This is especially difficult if students use a different alphabet to the one used in English. That makes just too many new symbols to learn.
If you don’t want to present the phonemic alphabet to your students, I suggest that you at least introduce the phonetic symbols for the sounds that your students find difficult to pronounce. You can work on those sounds and symbols regularly in class. I would say that any work that you do on pronunciation should be based on listening, speaking and fun activities to learn and practise the phonetic symbols.
It is better to work on pronunciation for short periods and regularly. I always suggest that new teachers work on pronunciation through short tasks on a regular basis. It is easy enough to incorporate some sort of pronunciation work into every lesson. Whenever you present new language, you should also work on its pronunciation.
If you want any ideas for exercises, please feel free to write in and ask.