By Amy Orr | LB Indy
When businesses employ workers whose native tongue is not English, language barriers can lead to communication complications.
But what if non-English speaking employees were given a chance to learn English at their workplace, for free, or before or after their shift? State funding is now turning this dream into a reality. In the fall of 2019, a number of on-site, no-cost English classes will be taught at businesses in Laguna Beach.
Previously, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses were run solely by the Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Despite the District’s enthusiastic instruction and engaging curriculum, the number of enrolled ESL students stayed fairly low. In January, the District proposed partnering with the city to expand Adult Education services and boost enrollment. Starting this fall, LBUSD and the City of Laguna Beach will work together to offer an array of ESL and other Adult Education classes.
According to Laguna Beach Community Services Supervisor Adam Gufarotti, the new program will launch in late September or early October. Throughout the summer, the partnership will coordinate with local businesses to assess class needs and establish class sites.
“Our vision is to be able to send instructors to businesses in the community which will allow their employees to take ESL classes on their lunch breaks, before, or after work,” Gufarotti said. “We are excited about the opportunities that this program will bring to the community.”
For years, Jeffrey Dippel has taught Spanish at Thurston Middle School and led the District’s ESL program. In his experience, traditional ESL class schedules were difficult for people working long hours in restaurants and hotels. Dippel expressed excitement about the new partnership and its plan to offer a format that will align more effectively with the needs of adult students.
“In order to help them, we have to understand their situation,” Dippel said. “Many ESL students work evening shifts and can’t make it to a classroom in the evening. We can reach more people if we bring these learning opportunities to their place of work.”
Eager to talk to local businesses and coordinate on-site English classes, Dippel said he would love to hear from interested business owners as soon as possible. He can be reached by email at [email protected].
“The job market is ever-changing and adults need a convenient and accessible place to acquire new skills,” Gufarotti said. “We look forward to providing this great opportunity to our residents.”
The city’s community services and recreation teams have a wealth of adult education and learning expertise, according to Dr. Chad Mabery, LBUSD Director of Assessment and Accountability. City officials’ knowledge will be especially valuable as the program expands beyond English instruction. In the new partnership, Adult Education will now incorporate workforce preparation courses, like computer skills and interview and resume workshops, as well as classes for adults with disabilities.
Like ESL, workforce courses will be offered to adult residents without charge. The costs of the Adult Education program, including equipment, materials, and instructors, are funded through a state grant, Gufarotti explained.
Information about the new Adult Education program will appear on the city website in the coming weeks. Class details will also be included in the fall recreation brochure.