When immigrants come to the United States in pursuit of greater opportunity, the most common obstacle they face is the language barrier. It is often difficult for these individuals to find their footing in the workforce because so many jobs require communication skills. So, for ambitious individuals like Gustavo, the English at Work program provides the perfect opportunity to both hone his work-related English skills and enable his full participation in the workplace.
Originally from Mexico, Gustavo has been living in the United States for 22 years. He came to the U.S. seeking greater economic opportunity. Since arriving in the U.S., Gustavo has continued to make incredible strides toward this goal; for the past four years, he has worked as a Kitchen Specialist with Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market.
In this position, Gustavo has learned firsthand the importance of English language skills in the workplace. He serves as the main point of contact within his team.
“I am between the manager and the kitchen team, so they all come to me to communicate with each other. It is very important that I speak English because teamwork is so important, and some of them don’t speak Spanish.”
Not only does Gustavo perform a very important job, but he also enjoys it. “I love my job because I get to help everybody.” The need to effectively communicate with anyone on the team, and a desire to “Get Better Every Day,” motivated Gustavo to take advantage of the English at Work program.
Gustavo participated in the English at Work program fully remotely, which allowed him to connect with team members across several Mendocino Farms locations throughout California. Although at first Gustavo’s comfort level with taking classes online was low and his digital skills were only emerging, he shares that his experience was incredibly rewarding. Logging into class every week from home and completing online learning activities conveniently on the class app helped Gustavo strengthen his digital skills and feel more confident navigating technology at work. In talking about his experience taking an online class for the first time, Gustavo shared, “I felt like I was still really able to connect with the teacher and classmates in the online class. When I needed help, it was there for me.” As many have learned throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning comes with its own sets of challenges. “The only thing I didn’t like was sometimes there was noise in my house.” However, these distractions at home seemed to have little effect on Gustavo, who continued to demonstrate incredible engagement in class week after week, earning perfect attendance throughout the program.
Among all the laughs and fun, the English class taught Gustavo many important lessons that he can use in his day-to-day communication at work. “The most important thing I learned in class was the time. We learned about the past and future tenses too, which is really helpful. This was also my favorite thing that we learned.” More broadly, English class has provided Gustavo with newfound confidence in his English language skills. “The class helped me understand a lot of words and I feel so much more comfortable talking with people.”
With this new confidence, Gustavo hopes to advance at Mendocino Farms.
“I do feel like I can grow more, and I would really love to advance in my company. That is definitely in my future plans.”
He expresses gratitude toward his company for providing such opportunities and encourages his colleagues to take advantage of future offerings. “I feel grateful that Mendocino offered me these classes, and I would definitely take them again. I totally recommend the course. I love it.”
Congratulations on completing the English at Work training, and thank you for all of your hard work, Gustavo!
The National Immigration Forum would like to thank Julianna Hume, Integration Programs intern, for capturing this story.