Improving English language skills to advance careers

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

The Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce program helps employees learn the language of retail.

Nearly 1.5 million retail workers in the United States have limited English proficiency. The National Immigration Forum, through its New American Workforce program, is offering a new project that is helping employees in the retail industry sharpen their English language skills and access better career pathways. The project is called Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce, and community colleges are playing a key role. The Forum, Miami Dade College, and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education have partnered on this initiative.

The program was first reported on in the February/March issue of AACC’s Community College Journal. Now, six months later, success stories are emerging at the three pilot sites in Houston, Miami and New York. The classes are delivered at four colleges—LaGuardia Community College, Lone Star College, Miami Dade College and Westchester Community College—and some classes are taking place at retail stores’ training facilities.  Twelve-week courses are facilitated by an instructor in a non-traditional, interactive online and face-to-face educational setting.

The Forum’s website contains stories from both program participants and coordinators.

There’s Mario Martinez a stocker at Publix in Miami. The Skills and Opportunity program has helped improve his communication skills “by employing new listening and conversation techniques, and phrases he learned in class,” according to the Forum’s blog post.

How did he know the program was working? At a regularly scheduled meeting with management, conducted in English, he understood what was said and was able to contribute in English.

Arlen Gargagliano is a Westchester Community College instructor and New York coordinator for the program. There were many highlights of the program, she said, including seeing the more advanced students help their classmates; seeing students gain technology skills; and seeing the rise in confidence of many students.

The program is funded through the Walmart Foundation.

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AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.