Massachusetts: More workers need English as a second language training
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Sun Sep 14 17:42:30 UTC 2008
More workers need English as a second language training
By Bill Kirk
bkirk at eagletribune.com
LAWRENCE — A new report shows that many workers in the state don't
speak adequate English, which is holding them back from advancing in
their jobs and making it harder for some companies to succeed. The
report, issued by the state's Workforce Investment Board, says the
state and private employers need to fund a program to teach workers
English and other job skills that would improve their chances of
getting ahead while also improving the overall workforce in the state.
"We know that adult literacy and basic education are absolutely
essential to a person's ability to earn a decent wage," said Suzanne
Bump, secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. "We must create a
better framework for providing adult-basic education and training that
ensures working adults can get the training they need, and do so
without having to confront countless barriers, which for too long has
been the case."
The Workforce Investment Board released the report during a Wednesday
morning meeting in Lawrence attended by Bump and Gov. Deval Patrick,
along with other local and state officials and area business leaders.
The meeting was held at Sal's Riverwalk on Merrimack Street.
The report comes on the heels of a study released two years ago
showing that if not for the rising immigrant population in the state,
the workforce in Massachusetts would have shrunk in recent years.
According to that study, 70 percent of those immigrants lacked
adequate English literacy skills. Another study, done in 2001,
calculated that more than 3 million people in the state lack
proficient English-speaking skills.
Meanwhile, many of them are working multiple jobs and raising
families, the report says, meaning they don't have the time to attend
English as a Second Language programs.
Two out of every five employers, meanwhile, complained in a 2006 study
that there are too few qualified workers to fill job openings.
Patrick said thousands of jobs across the state remain empty because
employers can't find adequately trained employees.
The conclusion reached by the report's authors is that more ESL
programs need to be made available on-site by employers, funded
partially by the state and supplemented with financing from employers.
The report states, however, that funding for such programs is limited,
coming primarily from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education's workplace education program.
It also states that "too few companies are involved in workplace
education" because they don't have the resources and lack incentives
to take on such a task.
The reports authors recommended the creation of a "coordinating body
with state-level policy making authority to undertake the tasks
recommended in the report" and the establishment of a fund dedicated
to workplace education.
Patrick said he would immediately take action on the first
recommendation and await that committee's recommendations.
"We will move on these recommendations," he said, noting that while
Massachusetts has added jobs in the last 18 months, the state needs to
be ready for the downturn affecting the rest of the country. "It's
important not to hunker down and manage through today. We've got to
plan for tomorrow."
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