Saturday, April 13, 2002

English lessons part of immigrants' work day




By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

        HEBRON — Kentucky is a long way from Senegal, and the low-rider jeans stacked a mile high at the Gap are a long way from the traditional dress seen on the streets of Dakar.

        But the translation is being made easier by an innovative workplace training program.

[photo]    Jose Caballero (right) and co-workers at Gap distribution centers spend part of their work day learning English. The sentences they're writing pertain to their job duties.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Employees at Gap Inc.'s distribution facilities in Boone County — hailing from Senegal, Mexico and other countries — are learning English as a second language on company time, and Kentucky is paying for the classes.

        The Kentucky Department of Adult Education is paying more than $20,000 to teach English to both Spanish-speaking employees from Mexico and French-speaking employees from Africa who handle merchandise and ship orders at the clothing retailer's five distribution centers in Boone County.

        “We collaborate to help Kentucky businesses with their training needs. The funding through the grant pays for the instructor and materials at Gap,” training development coordinator Jim Moening said.

        “The company has to pay the people while they're in training. We have found from past experience that if employees are not paid to go to the classes, they don't go. If the company is paying them to be there, the company can require they be there in the classroom learning.”

        Shawnee Piatt, training and organization development supervisor for Gap, said Gap wants to pay the employees while in training. “It's benefiting both the employees and the company,” she said.

        “These employees are very hard workers and we want to keep them. We'd like to help them as much as we can.” More than 50 Gap employees are taking the 30-hour classes at the distribution center on Gap Way.

        “It focuses on workplace words and terms they need to know to do their job,” Mr. Moening said.

        “The feedback I get is very positive,” Ms. Piatt said. “Their ability to speak English has improved.”

        The Workforce Alliance also provides training in math, computers and other workplace skills. “This is a terrific example of cooperation between education and industry,” said Cheryl King, state commissioner of adult education and literacy.

   

       



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