A recent Literacy Council initiative has been Workplace English. Our volunteer instructors have gone right to local job sites to teach the English skills that non-native English speaking employees need to know. So far we have given classes in several Frederick restaurants and a spa. We look forward to continuing these programs and extending them into other local businesses and industries. Would you like to partner with us in your place of business? Please let us know! We also have tutors who can help individual employees.
The Literacy Council is expanding its Workplace Literacy Program in collaboration with employers in Frederick County from the hospitality and restaurant industries to support English language classes for their employees. The purpose of the program is to empower limited English language proficient employees to find and keep sustainable employment, contributing to achieving greater financial stability and impacting the lives of their families. The program will also help employers identify and retain an educated workforce and reduce turnover, thereby strengthening the entire economic fabric of the community. The instructional content focuses on English speaking and comprehension, with an emphasis on workplace vocabulary, workplace skills, interaction among staff, and overall basic conversation skills.
In recent years some of our instructors have conducted classes for kitchen workers at local restaurants. The curriculum has been tailored specifically for the needs of the workers and the businesses, and the workers are “on the clock” for the lessons. Among other benefits, restaurant managers have noticed that kitchen workers and the English-speaking front-of-the-house staff soon begin to function more smoothly and amicably as a team.
“Not only does learning English help them in their personal lives, it provides them the opportunity to advance through the ranks,” says Phil Bowers, co-owner of Fountain Rock Management Corporation, which owns several local restaurants including Brewer’s Alley. “It can help someone who starts in the back as a dishwasher move up to wait staff or cook. . . . At first, when we offered the opportunity [to employees], they were a little apprehensive about it and we had only a few sign up. Now they’ve seen how much it has helped some of the other employees and more and more are wanting to sign up.”
Nezih Pistar, owner of Fountain Rock restaurants Ayse Meze Lounge and Pistarro’s Ristorante Pizzeria Napoletana, says that “learning how to speak English not only helps employees on the job, but opens the doors to education and economic opportunity, benefiting the entire community.”
Weiyi (Wendy) Luo is the owner of Magic Foot Spa in Frederick. Since 2015 she has given her employees the opportunity to learn English while at work. They meet as a group several days a week with a Literacy Council tutor and work together practicing conversation scenarios and vocabulary to learn the English they need on the job. According to Wendy, learning to communicate with her customers is essential to the success of her business.
We are looking for new workplace partnerships with businesses in Frederick County. There are many business sectors employing workers who have limited English or reading ability, including landscaping, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, housecleaning, health services, and bars and restaurants. The benefits to employers of having a literate, English-speaking workforce include improved attendance on the job, reduced errors, increased employee retention and morale, better safety records, and better relationships among workers.