When she arrived in the United States, Malika Cala knew very little English. For the most part, she taught herself, practicing with her children at home. English has been an important skill for Malika, one she needs to follow health and safety procedures at her hotel housekeeping job, communicate effectively with guests, and meet with HR to learn about her benefits, among other things. Beyond the workplace, English is important when it comes to her health and family, such as communicating with doctors and her children’s teachers.
A National Issue
Immigrants like Malika represent one in every six American workers, or 17% of the workforce. Nationwide, 19 million immigrant workers ages 18-64 struggle with the English language. At Malika’s workplace, most of the employees in the Housekeeping, Utility, and Convention Services departments of the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center are non-native English speakers. They have aspirations, but for some, their limited English holds them back from progressing as quickly as they could otherwise. They demonstrate strong work ethic, are loyal to their employer, and have aspirations for the future. They know improved English skills would help them be more effective at work and open opportunities for growth in their career.
Workplace Education Provides a Solution
Malika, along with 21 of her coworkers, are participating in a new workplace education program through a collaboration between her employer, the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center in Boston and World Education, Inc. Workplace education provides literacy and English language training customized to specific jobs to help workers advance in their careers, improve their job performance, and in Malika’s case, strengthen her ability to provide the highest quality of service to guests.
Partnering with the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center
Malika attended one of two classes offered in the first cycle of the English for the Seaport Team Members program. Each class met 40 times over the course of six months, using a curriculum designed to marry the English learning needs of the students with the workplace vocabulary and concepts the hotel needs its employees to know. The curriculum is the result of the collaborative workplace planning process (mapped on the right) between World Education and the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE). Significantly, the Seaport Hotel provides students with fully paid release time to attend the classes.
“It was smart to connect the curricula to real life work.
The course becomes a training in English, but also workplace safety. This was double the value for us.”
– Seaport President, David O’Shaughnessy
Collaboration is Key to Success
The program planning process began with an analysis of the needs of the Seaport and its student employees. A permanent Planning and Evaluation Team (PET) was formed consisting of hotel staff, student representatives, and World Education staff to monitor the program implementation and ongoing improvement. The dialogue in the monthly team meetings enables important issues to be addressed, such as conflicting employee work and class schedules. Managers and supervisors play an important role in supporting employees throughout the program.
“When you’re talking about a workplace education program, [the Seaport is] an ideal partner. They really believe in the work.”
– Luanne Teller, World Education
Celebrating the Students
Students showcased their accomplishments during a Student Recognition Ceremony, coordinated by students, teachers, and the PET, and hosted by the Seaport which served gourmet hors d’oeuvres and desserts made by students. Level 1 students presented posters they designed on workplace safety, while Level 2 students, including Malika, impressed a crowd of the Seaport and World Education upper management and fellow coworkers with their English skills and safety knowledge in a presentation during the ceremony.
“Seaport English class is great. We can increase our English, improve our interaction with guests, and learn about job opportunities at Seaport. I really like this class. It is a good opportunity to help me reach my goals.”
– Didiana Medina, Seaport employee and student
In a show of organizational support, both David O’Shaughnessy, President of the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center, and Joel Lamstein, CEO of World Education, spoke during the ceremony and personally recognized Malika and the other students for their participation in the program.
Come September, a new cohort students will be welcomed in to the classrooms at the Seaport, knowing their career aspirations have the support of their employer.
Learn more about World Education’s immigrant integration and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs on WorldEd.org.