BRADENTON, FL – In an effort to help its employees to achieve work and life success, Goodwill Manasota is offering virtual ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes each week for team members whose primary language is not English. These classes, which are taught by instructors provided by the Manatee Literacy Council, are provided while employees are on the clock, at no cost to them.
The Manatee County virtual ESOL classes launched on December 7; participants gather – while physically distanced – at the Goodwill Cortez, Ranch Lake and Corporate Campus locations. In the upcoming weeks, team members from Goodwill’s Logistics department will be added as well. At that point, there will be 19 employees involved.
One Goodwill GoodPartner Coach, Pamela Bavo, reports that, this year, Goodwill Manasota employs over 70 (about 10% of its workforce) team members who do not speak English as their primary language. She notes that many employees with limited English language proficiency come from diverse work histories – including engineers, pharmacists or veterinarians – who can’t pursue those careers here because of the language barrier or because their credentials don’t meet U.S. requirements.
“We want to assist our non-English speakers in improving their language skills so that they can enroll in our training programs, get promotions at Goodwill and/or gain the skills and certifications they need to re-enter the industry they worked in before coming to the U.S.,” Bavo said.
Team member Aidaly Arias-Pluas, who works as a sorter/hanger at Goodwill’s Corporate Campus store in Bradenton, came to the U.S. from Ecuador 14 years ago. Her former jobs did not require her to speak English and none offered her the opportunity to learn.
“I want to learn English because I want to be able to communicate with my supervisors and co-workers in English, and be understood. I want to take advantage of this benefit because I think it will make me a better employee,” Arias-Pluas said. “Even though I am not so young, I believe I am still young enough to learn something new – something that will help me communicate with and understand others.”
Michelle Desveaux McLean, executive director of the Literacy Council, points out that – according to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) – 20% of adults living in Manatee County are at or below the lowest literacy level. She also notes that a child of low literate parents is 72% more likely to be low literate themselves.
“Most people are shocked to learn that there are more than 30 million adults in the U.S. that read, write and do basic math below a third-grade level. Low literacy skills hold people back in all areas of their lives and, what’s worse, it’s generational,” McLean said. “We’re here to break that cycle and give people in our community a chance to reach their full potential.”
McLean admits that, when the pandemic forced the Literacy Council to move its services online, a number of the organization’s tutors did not feel comfortable working on a digital platform. In order to continue learning, the Literacy Council added five virtual “Confident Conversation” classes every week, providing a valuable resource for people needing to improve their conversational English while having the added benefit of helping tutors to feel more confident in a virtual classroom.
For Bavo, one of the biggest benefits of Goodwill’s on-the-clock training is that it showcases the organization’s commitment to invest in its team. “It shows workers they are valued and that their success is important to Goodwill,” she said.
Visit experiencegoodwill.org for more about Goodwill’s programs and services.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.