Destination Workforce®: Working Towards Literacy

July 7, 2017 at 1:09 PM | Posted in Destination Workforce, ESOL, Teaching | Comments Off on Destination Workforce®: Working Towards Literacy

Nationwide, 24% of the educated immigrant and refugee workforce is underemployed or unemployed [i], while over half of all immigrants in Fairfax County have limited English proficiency [ii]. LCNV’s Destination Workforce® is a response to these demographic and workforce demands. Developed as a fast-track language program for on-the-job or job readiness English language learning, each Destination Workforce® course is created in partnership with a local business or community organization. The class is customized to the specific needs of the partner, to cover industry or job specific vocabulary as well as U.S. work culture and professional etiquette. In the last few months, LCNV launched two unique Destination Workforce® programs in collaboration with different industry partners. Each is oriented towards helping individuals advance in their careers and job prospects.

The City of Alexandria’s Workforce Development Center VIEW Program sought LCNV’s expertise with beginning level English language and literacy learners to develop an intensive course to help newly arrived refugees – unable to read or write in their native languages and lacking any English proficiency – gain basic English literacy. As recipients of TANF funding, these clients are expected to assimilate and begin working within 90 days. With this 90-day deadline in mind, LCNV developed its most intensive beginning level Destination Workforce® program to date. The four week pilot class met four times a week for four hours at a time in Alexandria and was led by one teacher and three class aides, keeping the student-instructor ratio around 3:1. The course curriculum covered the very basics of workforce-English readiness to enable new immigrants to assimilate into the world of U.S. employment.

In the classroom, the students started tentatively but made great strides in a short period of time. The students’ initial fears of learning a new language – for some, this was their first formal classroom experience –evaporated quickly, and they readily made introductions and spoke about their newfound English skills by the end of the course. One of the key achievements that the students reported was their ability to speak about their personal information (such as their address, name and phone number) and their improved comfort and confidence while speaking English. The testing results also demonstrate just how far these students have come in a short period of time: all but one of the post-tested students made gains in their Best-Plus 2.0 scores. In fact, a majority of these students jumped one or even two Educational Functioning Levels! The husband of one of the students recently wrote, “Although the duration of this course was short and its content was very basic, [my wife] has learnt a lot. She is so happy the way she was [taught] and treated by her class teacher and class aides. According to some of her classmates who have been to other similar classes, this was the best class they have ever been [in].”  LCNV is thrilled to provide these students with the first steps toward the path to workforce readiness, and is already planning a follow-up class for the same cohort focused on their speaking skills and how to approach the job application process.

One of the core competencies in Destination Workforce® programs is to improve the learners’ understanding of formal speech. Success is measured when formal requests by supervisors are understood correctly the first time, leading to higher levels of productivity and better communications. In industries where formal requests come from customers such as hospitality, this improves levels of customer service and satisfaction.  An example of Destination Workforce® in the hospitality industry is LCNV’s partnership with B.F. Saul’s Crowne Plaza in Tysons Corner, VA.

LCNV began its partnership with B.F. Saul with the help of Tysons Partnership, a nonprofit collaborative of Tysons Corner Stakeholders. B.F. Saul had previously tried on-site ESL instruction for hospitality staff that was met with limited success, and sought a partnership with LCNV to increase employee successes in learning English. With 12 different employees participating, the Crowne Plaza-Tysons Corner class is off to a great start. Curriculum is focused on the day-to-day service provided by these employees, all of whom are housekeeping or banquet staff. One of the goals outlined by B.F. Saul is for their employees to “Know Your Hotel”. This means that employees will be able to answer standard job-related questions such as “where is the pool?” On an average day in the classroom, employees can be seen practicing dialogues about special requests for room preparation, or learning how to answer questions from customers about food options. During the development of this program, Crowne Plaza-Tysons Corner has been an outstanding partner. Employees meet twice a week for two hours while on the clock, and receive free lunch during class time. LCNV applauds Crowne Plaza-Tysons Corner for making this investment in the professional development of its dedicated employees.

LCNV will be expanding its Destination Workforce® programs with the help of new and committed partners during the 2018 fiscal year. The Literacy Council looks forward to expanding access to employee literacy programs with even more partners in the coming months.

[i] McHugh, Margie and Madeleine Morawski. 2015. Immigrants and WIOA Services: Comparison of Sociodemographic Characteristics of Native- and Foreign-Born Adults in the United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.

[ii] PolicyLink and The USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. 2015. Equitable Growth Profile of Fairfax County. Oakland, CA: PolicyLink.

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