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Companies look to language learning to serve growing immigrant workforce

The 2000 U.S. Census found immigrant workers constituted 12.4 percent of the nation’s workforce. The number of new immigrant workers increased by 4.134 million during the next five years, accounting for 86 percent of the total increase in employment, according to a study from Northeastern University released in August.

This influx of immigrant workers has presented new challenges for glass companies, says Jeff Winsler, president of Commercial Insulating Glass Co. in Sarasota, Fla., including the introduction of a language barrier in many instances. To respond, many company owners and managers rely on in-house and out-of-house language education classes for employees.

To best serve the needs of Commercial Insulating Glass Co.’s growing Spanish-speaking workforce, Winsler set up an in-house program that runs for several months.

“A lot of companies are doing English classes in house,” Winsler says. “I’ve taken the opposite tack. We are sponsoring Spanish classes in house. We make the effort to teach managers and English-only speaking employees. The more of our company that can speak Spanish, the more we are going to be able to communicate with the world.”

While Mammen Glass & Mirror Inc. in Irving, Texas, doesn’t sponsor its own courses, it operates a tuition reimbursement program for employees that includes language education. Ten employees have taken advantage of the program in the past seven or eight years, with two taking English classes and four taking Spanish classes.

To read more about Mammen’s program, check out the June 2006 issue of Glass Magazine, Page 88.

Tony Baca, president Southwest Glass & Glazing, Albuquerque, says companies can also look to organizations such as the Association of General Contractors in Arlington, Va., that often operate language programs for their members.

“They have some programs in English as a second language and Spanish speaking supervisory training,” Baca says.

While language education is important, companies need to continue to provide all important training and safety documents in multiple language formats so all workers learn correct procedures, says Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum & Glass Co. in Tamarac, Fla.

“The main one is our safety training video,” he says. “We want to make sure there are no misinterpretations on having a safe, smart workplace.”

 

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