BOSTON, MA - Oct. 24. English for New Bostonians (ENB) and its English Works Campaign held the "Raising Our Voices: Recognizing ESOL Leadership in Business and the Community" breakfast to honor nine businesses and labor/management partnerships that have joined with government and non-profit agencies to offer their immigrant workers the chance to learn English at work.
Also honored were Senators Sonia Chang-Díaz and Sal DiDomenico, and Representative Tackey Chan, for their advocacy for high-quality, accessible adult ESOL education, as well as Dr. Frances Esparza, Assistant Superintendent of the Office for English Language Learners at Boston Public Schools.
Ronald L. Walker II, MA Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development and John Barros, Chief of Economic Development for the City of Boston, over 180 state officials, business, labor and community leaders, and ESOL students attended the breakfast, which was emceed by Alberto Vasallo, III, President and CEO of El Mundo Boston. The event was made possible through the generous support of many sponsors including C&W Services.
"Small business owners understand the business proposition of helping their workers learn English. It helps their productivity, and improves the companies' ability to compete," said Secretary Walker. "We are finding ways to better connect with the small business community to help them get ESOL training for their workers."
Two new ENB reports, one an employment survey of 1,500 adult ESOL students in Massachusetts, and the other of
ENB's ESOL for Entrepreneurs initiative
, were highlighted in a panel that included Secretary Walker; incoming Eastern Bank President Quincy Miller; Jolanta Conway, the Director of Adult and Community Learning Services at the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Warren Pepicelli, the Executive Vice President of the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE.
Talking Jobs: Lessons from English for New Bostonians' 2016 ESOL Student Employment Survey
highlighted the talent waste that often occurs in the immigration process. "We talk about immigrants coming to this country with skills, degrees, past experiences," said Eastern Bank incoming President Quincy Miller. "Because of the language barrier, they're not able to be fully employed to the level of the jobs that they had before they came here. "That credential waste is actually something serious, and having ENB really be able to fill that gap, so that, as employers, we can hire people with diverse talents, is really significant."
ENB and the English Works Campaign selected the nine business and labor/management partnerships based on nominations from the field for outstanding leadership in making English classes available to workers on the job. "The businesses recognized here today are seeing the big picture," said Claudia Green, ENB Executive Director. "Whether they make fine suits, fine soups or fine sushi, if they provide service to hotel guests or elderly residents, these businesses understand that providing the tools for their employees to learn English has a bottom line impact on their business and their staff."
The business leaders honored at the breakfast stressed the tangible impact of English classes on their employees and their business operations. "Home Market Foods continues to invest in sophisticated manufacturing technologies and processes," said owner Wes Atamian. "As a result, we have found that the ability to communicate effectively in English has become increasingly critical to the success of our operation." But employees learning English has a larger impact, said Atamian. "Equally important, we believe that these skills significantly enhance the contribution our employees can make to our society beyond Home Market Foods. Offering ESOL classes represents an investment in the company, our people and our communities."
Unions' role in forging opportunities for their members to learn English was also highlighted. "Out of the 11,000 workers that we represent, about 70 percent of them could benefit from ESOL classes," said Pepicelli. "Partnership between labor, management and government are critical to funding these programs, said Pepicelli. "People want to be part of this country. They want the opportunity to grow and be successful. One of the obstacles is being able to speak English."
Eastern's Miller also noted the impact of immigrant entrepreneurs themselves learning English. "Think about that when you want to go and apply for your first bank loan," said Miller. "Being able to sit at the bank and explain what's your business model, how are you growing, what are your financials like? That is significant. There are a lot of resources in the community for minority businesses, but we don't always get those resources to the people who need them."
Hongfang Li, a nurse who left China eight years ago to provide educational opportunity for her son won the Rising Star Student award. Having learned English and new jobs skills with two community organizations supported by ENB, Li works as a patient care technician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is studying at Bunker Hill Community College to become a social worker so that she can help her community. "As an immigrant, I appreciate that I had a chance to receive an education in this country. Education has been changing my life. Also, education gives me knowledge, courage, and strength to help others," said Li.
Workforce Leader Awardees:
- The Boston Home with JVS
- Bradford & Bigelow with Northern Essex Community College
- Corcoran Management Co. with Massasoit Community College
- Fall River Workplace Consortium: Raw Seafoods, John Matouk & Co., Blount Fine Foods, Klear Vu Corp., New England Joint Board UNITE HERE with Bristol Community College
- Home Market Foods with Massasoit Community College/Mass MEP
- Joseph Abboud Mfg. Corp. with Immigrants Assistance Center
- JP Fuji Group with Quincy Asian Resources
- Roche Brothers with Chinese Progressive Association & Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
- Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center with World Education
Agents of Change Awardees:
- Representative Tacky Chan, 2nd Norfolk District
- Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, 2nd Suffolk District
- Senator Sal DiDomenico, Middlesex and Norfolk Districts
- Dr. Frances Esparza, Assistant Superintendent, Office for English Language Learners, Boston Public Schools
- Marie Downey, Director, BEST Corp Hospitality Training Center
Rising Star Student Awardee: Hongfang Li
CAPTION FOR CORRESPONDING PHOTO (ATTACHED):
Home Market Foods team posing with their English Works award alongside MA Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald L. Walker II (first from left), and English for New Bostonians Executive Director Claudia Green (second from right). Also in the picture, Maryellen Brett (first from right), Associate Dean of Corporate Education at Massasoit Community College, the ESOL Partner.
English for New Bostonians' mission is to increase access to high-quality English language learning opportunities for adult immigrants. English Works is a statewide, multi-stakeholder campaign calling upon business, labor, community and government leaders to dedicate the needed public and private resources to create a sustainable, high-quality English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) system that addresses the needs of immigrants, their employers and the Commonwealth.