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ESL and Workplace List Discussion April 16-20, 2007

Dear subscribers,

I am happy to announce that next week, April 16-20, 2007 Miriam Burt and Sharon McKay, my colleagues at CAELA, will facilitate a discussion on issues related to adult ESL and workplace education.

The goal of this focused discussion is to spark a sharing of ideas and information among the group, especially between those many of you on the list who have been involved in immigrant workplace education since the early 1990’s (or before) and those who are newer to Immigrant workplace education.


Although the terminology (e.g., VESL. workplace, workforce), venues, and funding sources may change, the need for effective classes and programs targeted to meet the needs of immigrant workers and their employers has remained the same since the early 1980’s.  As immigrants join the workforce, especially in areas experiencing new and rapid growth in immigrant population such as  Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina, administrators, teachers, and employers are asking for help. At least some of the answers can be found by searching the archives from earlier workplace initiatives.

Possible questions to begin the discussion

  • What are some of the issues related to improving Immigrant workers English language skills?


  • What are some of the lessons learned from earlier workplace initiatives?


  • What are effective ways of planning, implementing, and evaluating adult ESL workplace programs?


  • How can one get workers, employers, and instructors all on the same page—so everyone knows what outcomes to expect from the class?


  • What curricula, books, and other resources work well in immigrant workplace classes?


Background Reading

To set the stage for next week’s discussion, please consider reading one or more of the following short articles:

Issues in Improving Immigrant Workers' English Language Skills

English That Works: Preparing Adult English Language Learners for Success in the Workforce and Community

What are factors to consider when planning for, setting up, and evaluating a workplace program for immigrant workers? (from Ask CAELA, December, 2006)



Miriam Burt has worked in the field of adult ESL instruction since 1975. She has taught, trained teachers, written curricula, and directed programs both in the United States and abroad. From 1990-1994, she was the director of the Skills Enhancement Training Program (SET) of the Food and Beverage Workers Union Local 32 & Employers Benefits Fund, a U.S.-Department-of- Education-funded workplace-education program that provided instruction in basic skills, GED, ESL, and communication skills to cafeteria worker in Washington DC. She has provided technical assistance to workplace ESL programs in several states including Texas, where she was an advisory board member for Adult Bilingual Center Institute, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to provide educational services to dislocated workers in El Paso. She has also provided training to trainers and training directors of the International Laborers Organization. She is on the advisory board for the Project on Employers, Immigrant Workers, Intermediaries and Skills Training, The Center for Workforce Success, National Association of Manufacturers. Her publications on the immigrant workplace education include briefs (Issues in Improving Immigrant Workers’ English Language Skills, Evaluating Workplace ESL Programs, and Assessing Workplace Performance Problems: A Checklist ) and monographs (A Guide for Providers : Engaging Immigrant Seniors in Community Service and Employment Programs and Workplace ESL Instruction: Interviews from the Field. )

Sharon McKay has twenty years experience in adult ESL instruction with the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP) in Arlington, Virginia.  In addition to teaching general ESL, TOEFL prep, and family literacy, Sharon worked as an ESL instructor and site coordinator in workplace programs conducted in hotels, property management companies, landscaping, hospital and retirement centers. She wrote and collaborated on multiple curricula and her TESOL Masters' paper is on the topic of curriculum development for Workplace ESL. She contributed this work under a national demonstration grant developed to connect workers with ESL literacy instruction. Sharon is the co-author of the workforce text with video series, English Works! (Addison Wesley).

Lynda Terrill
Adult English language discussion list, moderator
To subscribe to the Adult English Language Learnrs Discussion List, please go to