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The Workplace Literacy Program
A Program of the Collier County Public Library Literacy Program

About Sponsoring Agency/Organization:

The Collier County Public Library Literacy Program is volunteer-based and links adult students with tutors of English as a second language (ESL) and basic literacy.  Students are tutored individually or in small classes using the Laubach Literacy method. This program offers tutor training to local businesses interested in establishing their own workplace literacy programs.

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Tutors and language-learning computer labs are available at several branches locations through generous grants from the Island Country Club and Verizon Super Pages.

Description of Project:

Collier County Library Workplace Literacy Program is the focus of this profile. Since its establishment in 2000, the program has served adult new readers and English learners.  The mission of program is to improve the literacy skills of adults, families and older youths in the community by offering and supporting tutoring programs in reading, writing, speaking, listening and numeracy.  This volunteer-based initiative provides workplace literacy classes and also trains volunteers to provide on-site workplace literacy tutoring.   Trainings are specific to the workplace.  If training on-site one-on-one tutors, the program offer traditional tutor training workshops with an emphasis on workplace vocabulary.  If providing instructors for workplace literacy classes, the program typically draw upon a pool of tutors who have already been through Basic and ESL tutor training and offer them additional training in small group instruction.

The hospitality industry in Collier County uses the program to provide on-site ESOL classes to workers. Other groups and organizations, such as assisted living facilities and gated communities, are offered training for resident volunteers who work with caregivers and/or employees seeking literacy instruction.

The program is continuing to solidify its existing business partnerships. In addition, they are currently expanding the assisted-living program to more communities in the county.

Project Rationale and Background:

The Workplace Literacy program first started in 2001 with instruction provided at local hotels and tutor training programs in local assisted living facilities.  The Workplace Literacy Program was started to reach adult learners unable to participate in other educational programs due to transportation, work schedule or economic barriers. The Workplace Literacy Program has reached the stage where some programs are managed by on-site managers or volunteers.  The program continues to provide the assistance in choosing/creating materials, training tutors/instructors and assessing learner levels.

Challenges:

One of the biggest challenges is convincing businesses that a workplace literacy program can greatly benefit their employees and their productivity. The workplace literacy program tries to reach people who have limited access to other literacy programs.  The Workplace Literacy program uses statistics and information collated by the Florida Literacy Coalition and ProLiteracy to convince training managers, human resource directors, and assisted living activities directors of the need for and benefits of a workplace literacy program.

Evidence of Impact and Effectiveness:

The Workplace Literacy Program has served 450 employees directly since 2001.  Indirectly, tutors trained by the program have served an additional three to four hundred learners.  The latter information is gleaned from interviewing site coordinators who are not required to report formally to the Literacy Program. 

The Workplace Literacy Program was successful in placing a resident volunteer at a gated golf community as a volunteer coordinator. This volunteer organizes workshops, orders books, and matches tutors with learners. Collier County Library Literacy Program continues to provide regular training and tutor support. The assisted living facility model used by the program provides facility residents with the training that allows confident tutoring of caregivers. This has changed the whole climate of communication, according to the facility management and activities directors.

The most important factor was establishing a close partnership with the employer/management. If the employer can be educated to understand the economic importance of a literate workforce, a vital partnership can be formed. The Collier County Library Literacy Program approaches these partnerships in a formal business manner by using contracts and written agreements. It is important that the employer understands what their responsibilities are and how the program will positively affect workforce productivity and retention.  The instructional content is also tailored to the workplace. Customized materials are designed together with training managers, human resources personnel and the employees themselves.  For example, hotel employees can take photos of their workplace and create a workplace picture dictionary.

One sign of success for the workplace literacy program is that the same businesses keep coming back every year. Another way success is measured is by tracking success the way the employer does. For example, after the workplace literacy program teaches a session at a hotel, guest comment cards often reflect the increased communication abilities of the housekeeping staff. Also, letters sent from supervisors to the workplace literacy program comment on the improved work environment. If a grant requires more formal outcome measurements, pre- and post-testing can be done.

Cost and Funding:

The library outreach portion of the Collier County Library System budget funds the workplace literacy program, with assistance from the Friends of the Library.

Each program is tailored to the partner.  In most cases, the employer agrees to provide hourly wages to class participants, bonuses for successful completion, suitable space for classes, and funding for materials.  The largest cost for the employer is typically the wages paid for class participation.  Other in-kind costs include providing copies of specifically designed class materials and perhaps workbooks or tutor materials.  If the program involves training assisted living residents to tutor caregivers/employees, the management provides an on-site coordinator and tutor training materials. 

Words of Advice:

From Roberta Reiss

Do the groundwork with the management before beginning the instruction. Make sure to include middle-level supervisors in the discussion, because they have control over the employees’ schedules. Share literature like the free download from ProLiteracy Publications, Equipping Your Workforce for the 21st Century funded with a grant from Verizon.

Additional Resources:

Partner Outreach Fact Sheet

Making New Connections Sample: Follow-up Letter Example

Contact Information:

Roberta Reiss
Literacy Program Coordinator
239-252-7542

literacy@collier-lib.org

Collier County Public Library Literacy Program
8065 Lely Cultural Parkway,
Naples, FL 34113

 

 

 

 

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The Florida Literacy Coalition thanks the Florida
Department of Education, Division of Career and Adult Education
for making this site possible.
 

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