Planning Literacy and Language Services
for Texas' Limited English Proficient Workers:
The Devil is in the Details

Handout #14: Promising Practices

During the course of the research, a number of local programs, products, processes, and resources were examined. These have all been included in Handout # 13. However, four initiatives are worth special attention due to their relevance to this research. They are described here in alphabetical order:

  1. Adult Bilingual Curriculum Institute (ABCI), of Johns Hopkins University and in partnership with the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce and the Upper Rio Grande Valley Workforce Development Board, this initiative was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The primary goal of the initiative is to develop and implement comprehensive training for El Paso area instructors to teach dislocated and incumbent workers using a bilingual format (Spanish/English). Training is being developed to combine effective research-based instructional models with the specific needs of business and industry. Instructor training materials are being developed with input from business and industry. Instructors will spend time in local industries observing the work process and will be supported by "instructor learning communities" through which they will network, troubleshoot, and share effective strategies with other instructors. Outstanding instructors will be invited to participate in additional training to become trainers of future instructors (train the trainer model). Comprehensive evaluation will monitor and report the effectiveness of the training on instructors, the learners, and business and industry representatives.

    A second goal of the project is to create linkages with business and industry leaders in order to address cultural and language barriers that currently impede worker entry/reentry into the workplace. Business and industry representatives from other geographic areas facing similar challenges will be invited to a national summit. Another objective of the project is to implement a comprehensive job sector analysis to identify jobs which displaced workers without English language proficiency can fill.
  2. Anamarc Educational Institute, El Paso, Texas. Founded by Ana Maria Pina Houde in spring 2000, the institute offers a training model supportive of a bilingual, bicultural competitive workforce for the Upper Rio Grande region. Although not yet a fully integrated vocational training and English language learning initiative, this still evolving program is intended to support participants' transition from their first language (Spanish) to English, with both languages utilized to deliver instruction.

    The program is designed to place its graduates in four targeted fields for which they are trained: data entry, medical assistant, phlebotomy, and childcare. The Institute is also committed to improving participants' English proficiency and success in GED testing. The Institute's training package includes employment assistance, mandatory externships, practical training, and field trips. Externships and practical training occur during the third quarter of study, placing the learner with a potential employer; the participant learns about a specific job in a company, and the company has an opportunity to observe a potential employee needing no additional training. To the institute's credit, all participants in the medical assistance program have already been promised employment upon graduation in June - July 2001.

    Anamarc uses a combination of commercially prepared and teacher developed instructional materials with a fairly traditional approach. Spanish literacy materials are available through the Mexican Consulate for use with adult learners needing to develop native language literacy. The Institute also houses computer and phlebotomy labs. A philosophy focused on building individuals' self confidence supports this initiative. The institute's director recognizes that dislocated garment workers have little experience in team work, cooperative learning, and networking. Individuals with little exposure to formal education are given the opportunity to become peer tutors and coaches. Participants undergo intensive orientation during the first four weeks of training to build and sustain motivation. For learners with little formal education, GED preparation is a major challenge and cannot be the only measure of participants' success.

    Unfortunately, the institute is not involved in the assessment or the needs analyses of local employers' labor force needs. On the surface, it appears that few if any of the hardest to serve - those struggling with the most basic literacy needs - have been referred to Anamarc.

    All instructors are reportedly full time, bilingual in Spanish and English, and/or have experience in teaching English as a Second Language and/or reading. They are well paid by El Paso standards and paperwork is minimized so that their focus remains on instruction. The director recognizes her staff's need for professional development and has arranged for teachers to receive training through the El Paso Adult Bilingual Curriculum Institute.
  3. McDonald's Workplace ESL Success Story: Connecting English to the Workplace. Until recently, McDonald's had no universal or consistent approach to addressing the English language deficiencies of a large percentage of its employees. But in a recent McDonald's managers' staffing survey, with 5480 respondents, 65% of the respondents stated that they employ crew who speak no English. Not only do poor language communication skills and the resulting turnover and recruitment problems affect McDonald's overall economic performance, they also limit each store's ability to make productivity and customer satisfaction improvements.

    McDonald's began working with Steck-Vaughn Company, a leading publisher of adult education materials, to create and pilot a workplace-related ESL program designed to ameliorate the challenges associated with McDonald's increasing reliance on non-English-speaking employees. After the initial development of a McDonald's-based ESL curriculum and instructional materials, which include McDonald's nomenclature and scenarios, a program tryout was held at two McDonald's locations in Austin, Texas.

    Information from the tryout was then used to refine the program approach and five pilot sites (Kansas City, Chicago, Northern New Jersey, Manhattan, and Nashville) were selected to implement the 12-week (36 hour) ESL course. Each pilot site required coordination, planning, and cooperation between store managers and staff, McDonald's divisional/regional offices, and local ESL instructors from a nearby educational partner. The pilot program coordinator networked with other community colleges in these cities to identify appropriate educational partners and instructors, participated in local planning sessions and site visits, communicated regularly with the educational institutions, facilitated the preparation of the instructor as well as instructional delivery, and gathered evaluation data.

    The pilots helped McDonald's and Steck Vaughn benchmark those processes and procedures that worked, as well as those that needed to be refined. Most importantly, the pilots clearly demonstrated that the ESL initiative could significantly influence the bottom line at the store level by improving both expense control and the McDonald's experience for the customer. Among the benefits realized from the ESL initiative were:

    * reduction in turnover rate (one store experienced a reduction of 65%; another cluster of stores experienced a 51% decrease in turnover)

    * improved employee attendance and longevity

    * increased applicant traffic (classes became an employee recruitment tool)

    * promotions to counter and drive-thru positions

    * promotions from regular crew to crew trainers and swing managers

    * improved inventory control

    * transaction increases

    * more satisfactory interaction with customers

    Clearly, much of the success of this in-store workplace ESL initiative is due to the working partnerships and on-going communication among McDonald's regional management, owners and operators, restaurant managers, crew members, English language learners, their instructors, and the sponsoring service providers. Formal instruction, while limited to a mere 36 hours over 12 weeks, carried over to work stations and was reinforced by store managers and a buddy system; learning continued throughout the participants' work shifts, with all crew members investing in the learning process.

    Note: The English ASAP series is now also being used by Pride Industries, a California-based company that hires, trains, and employs individuals with disabilities, including a number with limited English language proficiency. Pride Industries places its employees in landscaping, custodial, food services, and light industry employment through contracts in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. English ASAP is also being used for multiple sections of workplace ESL for employees at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and with Molly Maids, Inc.

    4. The Workforce Literacy Training and Technical Assistance Project (WLTTAP) is designed to provide professional development opportunities and technical assistance to adult education service providers and their workforce partners in developing, implementing, and evaluating effective workforce literacy models. WLTTAP's goals and objectives include cross-training support and resources for adult education programs, one stop workforce centers, local workforce development board staff, service agencies, and business and industry. This is a statewide initiative, currently funded with federal adult education dollars through the Texas Education Agency. The project maintains a resource center and website as well as a catalogue of materials for loan.

    Plans are to develop both CD-ROM and video profiles of successful workforce practices and curriculum models responsive to the needs of special populations such as TANF recipients and the emerging, incumbent, and dislocated worker populations. WLTTAP is part of the Adult Education Professional Development Consortium, a group of twelve professional development projects funded by the Texas Education Agency. While this project has enormous potential to impact workplace education programs in Texas, its funding is limited and subject to annual renewal by TEA. To adequately respond to the state's tremendous needs for workforce development technical assistance, significant expansion of the project in terms of staff and funding would have to be considered. Parties interested in learning more about the technical assistance and training available to adult education providers and their workforce development partners may call Ann Savino, Project Director, at (915) 831-7860.

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