Since the early 1960s, the U.S. federal government has been involved in worker training programs. Although many of these programs were successful in training workers, many policymakers felt that employers were not engaged enough in these programs and many of them were duplicative and not easily accessible to citizens. In 1998, after several demonstration states had successfully engaged employers, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) passed Congress. Designed to coordinate training programs across several U.S. government agencies, it also established state and local workforce boards and the One-Stop Career Center system.
By enacting WIA, Congress sought to engage the employer community with the public system in a more strategic and programmatic way. By engaging employers within the public workforce system, unemployed workers have a better chance to develop the skills they need to get re-employed. Most federal training grant solicitations require some employer involvement. There are also federal tax credits available to employers to invest in training and retraining of current employees.
University Health System
University Health System (UHS), in partnership with the Alamo Colleges, implemented an innovative non-credit technical training program for bilingual certified nurse aides (CNA) with funding from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
UHS, comprised of a public teaching hospital and ambulatory clinics with 5,000 employees, faced a critical need to develop its underskilled staff with limited English proficiency (LEP). These workers, most of whom had been previously employed in environmental services, had difficulty crossing over to a clinical career ladder. Enter Alamo Colleges, a five-college system that serves San Antonio, Texas, and seven surrounding counties. Its mission, empowering diverse communities for success, was a perfect fit.
In the fall of 2008, UHS launched the program on site at University Hospital using a model that integrates bilingual technical training with occupation-specific vocational English as a second language classes. The program model is based on the five essential program components outlined in the Texas Workforce Commission’s LEP Guide for Workforce Professionals. UHS provided classroom space, lunches for all attendees, media support, CPR instruction, stethoscopes, uniforms, and board exam fees, and allowed staff to attend classes on the clock.
The Work-Based English Solutions instructional model delivers an intensive program of training six hours a day, four days a week. Half of the day, students develop employment-related English and industry-specific vocabulary. Bilingual (Spanish and English) technical training (for example, CNA training) fills the second half of the instructional day. Spanish GED, bilingual work readiness, and bilingual computer literacy courses supplement core occupational instruction. This intensive model allows staff to benefit from career development in weeks, not months or years. Structured, paid teacher coordination and professional development ensures instructional alignment.
Project implementation and outcomes exceeded the Alamo Colleges’ expectations for the initial ramp-up and implementation of the Work-Based English Solutions effort. All 12 UHS staff who began the program successfully completed it. Of those, six passed the Texas board and became CNAs. Three years later, five of those six are still employed at UHS and three have received promotions. One staff member is currently a medical-surgical technician, having received two promotions.
In addition to changing lives, this job training program also contributed to saving lives. All 12 participants successfully completed CPR training despite an initial failure rate of more than 50 percent. When many could not pass the original, traditional training in English, a new plan was implemented. A bilingual training team coached all 12 students to success in mastering the requisite CPR skills.
Learn more about the WIA and read additional case studies in the April 2012 issue of Infoline: “Using Public Resources To Enhance Learning.”
© 2012 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.