Meet Theo

"The first time I heard English was when I came to Vermont from Rwanda. My ears didn’t hear the words. I only spoke French, Swahili and Kinyarwanda. When I started work, my supervisors used signs and gestures language to explain my role at Rhino Foods. Through the English at Work program, I learned vocabulary specific to my work. Because I work with many new Americans, and many different languages are spoken, it’s very important that we can communicate in one language. 

These classes helped me understand other people, speak clearly and be more confident. Now, I can talk with my children, who only want to speak English at home, and I don’t need an interpreter when I go to the hospital or to school to meet with a teacher. One of the most important things I learned was how to use past tense verbs– now I can talk about what happened in my past. "

Theogene Mahoro, English at Work Participant, Rhino Foods, Inc. 

 
 
 
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a story of partnership

English at Work is a pilot program of Working Bridges delivering English language classes at local manufacturing work sites to improve communication, safety, and connection for the benefit of both employee and business. English at Work creates a happier and more confident workforce with more opportunity for growth and advancement.

 
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Theo's story is an example of how United Way advances employment.

Communication is important. We can all relate to this. It’s how we get and share information, how we learn and teach, and how we have a sense of belonging and connection – and that’s mutual between employer and employee. English language skills are essential for specific jobs. Communication means following safety instructions, reading instructions, working with a coworker. It’s that basic. 

 

WHY WE NEED THIS

The first ideas for the program began in the Working Bridges Innovation Lab, where employers talked about their biggest issues getting in the way of work for low- to moderate-wage earners. For those employers hiring from the new American population, communications surfaced as a critical need. Employers expressed concerns about compromised workplace safety, misunderstanding instructions, apprehension and hesitation to problem-solve, fewer opportunities to connect with coworkers, and less opportunity to grow and develop at work.

 

HOW IT WORKS

Employers who offer English at Work enable their employees to learn at the workplace, which breaks down barriers such as childcare, transportation and conflicts with their work schedule. 

English at Work is tailored to the workplace and curriculum includes specialized English classes to improve workplace communication (general and work specific). Interaction with coworkers helps participants grow workplace language skills.

 

OUR ROLE

United Way funds and convenes Working Bridges, an employer initiative which develops innovative strategies using the workplace to deliver human services for the benefit of both employee and business. English at Work, was developed by United Way, Vermont Adult Learning, and Community College of Vermont.

 

 
 

The results

Overall, English at Work shows us that improved communication has a positive effect on the workplace. Class retention was much higher for English at Work than classes held in the community (over 90%), and 100% of class participants demonstrated improvement in speaking and writing skills. Employers improved productivity, safety, customer service, and saw improved communication between coworkers. They also reported a boost in employee confidence and saw increased opportunities for employee retention and promotion.

 
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