New Project Helps Immigrant Workforce Thrive

Assistant Director of Communications

April 6, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kroger, Publix and Whole Foods employees are now receiving contextualized English language training for the retail sector through a project of the National Immigration Forum.

This first-of-its-kind retail industry project is supported by funding from the Walmart Foundation. Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation, will speak at an Aspen Institute event today on the foundation’s commitment to create economic mobility for the U.S. retail workforce.

Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce, is designed for the nation’s nearly 1.5 million retail workers who have limited English language proficiency, which can hinder businesses’ competitiveness and keep employees from advancing to more skilled and better-paid jobs.

Retail is the nation’s largest private employment sector, and it employs about 11 percent of all limited-English-proficient workers.

The National Immigration Forum’s New American Workforce program launched the effort with partners Miami Dade College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education.

Now the program is partnering locally with Kroger and Lone Star College in Houston; Publix and Miami Dade College in Miami; and Whole Foods, Westchester Community College and LaGuardia Community College in New York City.

“Learning English means that I can get a better job, increase my pay, and make my life and my family’s life better,” said Gilberto Velazco Brea, a Publix baker since 2009 and Miami project participant.

“Immigrants are an important segment of our nation’s workforce and the retail industry workers, and this project will help those who have limited English language proficiency,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “All of us have a role to play in growing the economic mobility of retail workers. Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce brings together leaders in the education, retail and immigration sectors to provide real solutions.

“Our Miami pilot classes have already shown the immense impact these classes can have on the lives, careers and families of employees. It’s a win-win for businesses and a great step forward for our country’s workforce.”