National Immigration Forum Announces New Program to Increase English Proficiency within the Retail Sector

November 13, 2015

Made Possible by a $1.2 Million Grant from the Walmart Foundation

MIAMI — Today, the National Immigration Forum joined with leadership from the Walmart Foundation, Miami Dade College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education to announce an innovative new project, Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce, to increase the English language skills among retail workers for whom English is a second language. The project is being made possible by a one-year, $1.2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation.

The retail sector has one of the highest levels of limited-English-proficient workers, at nearly 1.5 million. Leaders within the retail sector are recognizing the profound impact that improved access to educational opportunities can have on advancement, retention, improved work quality, and economic success. This project creates scalable, sector-wide contextualized English language learning that will help retailers build stronger career pathways for their employees.

One of the first of its kind specific to the retail sector, the project is part of the of the Forum’s New American Workforce initiative. The initiative works to create public-private partnerships between employers and service providers to increase employee English language proficiency, and in turn help accelerate their advancement and mobility in the retail sector.

Working together, the Forum, Miami Dade College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education will design and implement the contextualized English language learning, utilizing online and worksite training methods. The project will be piloted in Houston, Miami and New York with a range of retail businesses. Initial business partners include Kroger and Publix grocery stores.

“Through education programs that focus on the development of tangible skill sets, we have an opportunity to set retail workers on a clear road to advancement,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer at Walmart. “Our work with the National Immigration Forum is part of our $100 million Opportunity initiative announced earlier this year. Working together with business, government and nonprofit partners, we can help increase the economic mobility of entry-level workers across the country.”

“Community colleges play a vital role in supporting their communities through programs that benefit immigrant workers and the businesses that employ them,” said Teresita Wisell, Executive Director of the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education and Vice President of Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Westchester Community College. “This partnership truly represents a win-win opportunity to support retail employees’ personal and career growth through acquisition of work-related English language skills and at the same contribute to increased productivity and effectiveness among retailers and the sector as a whole.”

“It is an honor to partner with such forward-thinking and compassionate organizations to make a difference in an area where so much impact can be made. As an immigrant, I know the importance of learning English in order to achieve the American Dream,” said Eduardo J. Padrón, President of Miami Dade College. “We are proud to continue offering real and innovative solutions to address our nation’s workforce challenges.”

“The Walmart Foundation’s investment in this innovative project allows immigrants to increase their skills, creating new opportunities for the individual worker, their employer and the retail sector overall,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “New Americans are crucial contributors to the retail sector, and the new Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce project helps the sector increase productivity, workforce engagement and retention, and employee skill and satisfaction.”

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