Corporate Training News

Maricopa Colleges provide custom teaching for limited language workers

Where there are gaps in business training, Maricopa Community Colleges is ready to fill in the training with programs from the new Maricopa Corporate College and Rio Salado College.

The two higher education institutions are offering context-based training customized for business needs.

Context-based learning is a training program where the skills taught, language used and levels of achievement are aligned with the specific business category.

One such solution offered by the colleges is designed to help businesses improve workers challenged by limited English proficiency (LEP). The contextual instruction focuses on learning the language of the business.

“Our experience is that helping our team members improve language skills pays handsome dividends,” said Laura Frederickson, human resources director for The Village Health Club and Spa. “We invest in a comprehensive training program for our employees, and find that including opportunities to improve English skills produces tangible results.”

The Village contracted with Maricopa Corporate College, a 1-year-old north Scottsdale school that brings its campus to the workplace.

“Our focus is business development, workforce solutions and resolving skill gaps,” said Lee DeLuca, Maricopa Corporate College’s corporate account executive. “We are able to draw upon (Maricopa Community Colleges) system-wide instructor resources and bring the right instructor to fit a business’s training needs. We meet with the business and try and find a faculty member whose personality matches its training culture.”

Frederickson was impressed with the instructor Maricopa Corporate College assigned to its LEP courses.

“She really connected with the students and focused on their achievement,” she said. “At graduation, the instructor told the audience each of her students’ goals from the course, and how well they succeeded.”

The Village had 15 workers in its inaugural class, all of whom graduated. Frederickson said that they are including the program in the company’s 2015 training budget.

“You could see improvements in self-confidence and managers reported measurable improvements in communication skills,” she said. “The program was a success because it was voluntary, and those taking the courses were committed to learning. It was a real morale-builder.”

Rio Salado College, which offers its regular curriculum online, also brings the classroom to the company for its clients.

“We have a significant program for English Language Acquisition, the program replacing English as a Second Language teaching.” said Kate Packer, program director of Adult ACE and College Bridge Pathways Workplace Education. “This is a very broad group, and includes workers from many countries and in many technical and professional positions.

Rio Salado also creates contextual learning curriculum.

“We partner with companies and become part of their training programs," Packer said. "The approach is very flexible. We schedule the classes to meet the company’s needs.”

Frederickson recommends that companies adding this type of training make it a real commitment.

“Celebrate the success,” she said. “Show your employees it’s something important and the importance is recognized by the company.”

There are other considerations as well. The Village makes taking the classes convenient, but also instills a program to measure achievement.

“We assess students when they start the program,” reported Packer. “Then we measure their achievement at the end.”

“Students increase proficiency going through this program,” said DeLuca. “Their language skills increase two to three levels from the beginning assessments.”

Last week, Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program released a comprehensive study of LEP workers in the 90 largest metros. Phoenix ranked in the middle of the pack, and although above the national average, the growth in LEP workers between 2000 and 2012, around 15 percent of workforce population, was substantially less than other Austin, Dallas, Denver and other markets.

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