ERIC Identifier: ED268302
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Harrison, Cheryl
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Bilingual Vocational Education for Immigrants. Overview. ERIC
Digest No. 49.
Between 3.5 and 6.5 million adults in America are limited English-proficient
(LEP). Most are immigrants; many understand virtually no English. Eighty percent
of the "new" immigrants (those arriving since 1970) are from the Third World and
have limited job skills.
Such limitations make the immigrant's earliest tasks difficult. Housing and
food are pressing needs, but limited English proficiency and no job prospects
make food shopping difficult and apartment hunting nearly impossible. Then, the
children must be enrolled in school and utilities must be contracted. The
individual has to learn to read a bus schedule, to shop for goods and services,
and to sign a check (which may require learning a new alphabet).
To finance this new way of life, the individual needs a job. Most immigrants
face major obstacles in obtaining employment. Lopez-Valadez and others (l985)
have identified four such obstacles.
--Lack of English skills is possibly the greatest single barrier to
employment success faced by LEP adults.
--Cultural differences, which can cause symptoms from slight confusion and
homesickness to a total "shut down" of functioning, impede the individual in all
phases of the employment process.
--Few immigrants have skills directly transferable to the American workplace.
--Many employers and the general public resist the hiring of immigrants,
fearing that there will be communication difficulties or that "American" jobs
will be taken.
WHAT METHODS CAN BE USED TO TEACH ENGLISH FOR EMPLOYABILITY?
A major obstacle for immigrant Hispanic workers is the lack of English skills
(National Commission for Employment Policy, 1982). It is indeed likely that
language problems are the strongest single barrier to success for all LEP
workers in the United States. Thus, the adult immigrant must set learning
English as a second language (ESL) as a high priority.
Vocational ESL (VESL) provides adult immigrants with English skills on an
"as-needed" basis in cooperation with a program of vocational training. The ESL
teacher and the trainer coordinate their efforts. VESL has been shown to be an
effective approach for teaching English to adult immigrants. Since students can
see the connection between their needs and the lessons in English, they are
motivated to stay in class and to learn their lessons. Under ideal conditions,
VESL students can finish their training as quickly as their English-speaking
peers. However, it must be noted that the English taught in VESL classes is far
Friedenberg (in Lopez-Valadez and others, 1985) says that the successful VESL
program has three characteristics: VESL instruction must be job specific; VESL
instruction and job training should occur simultaneously and be closely
coordinated by the instructors; and when necessary, job training should use the
student's native language.
After the trainer and the VESL instructor have discussed priorities and the
various tasks to be taught, the VESL instructor creates a lesson plan for each
unit that includes the vocational topic, vocabulary, relevant grammatical
structures, language skills needed (listening, speaking, and so forth), and
relevant cultural information. VESL instructors usually balance structured
activities (drills, puzzles, and close-ended responses) with communicative
activities (role playing, completing forms, and open-ended questions).
WHAT STRATEGIES ARE USED TO OVERCOME CULTURAL DIFFERENCES?
Cultural adjustment may be more difficult for many LEP individuals than
learning English because cultural laws have not been codified and are not
The American workplace has a subculture all its own, characterized by
acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and unwritten laws. The American job
interview requires such cultural behaviors as directness, clear and confident
responses, and eye contact. These behaviors are difficult for many Americans to
master and are even harder for immigrants who have very different values and a
weak command of the English language.
Awareness of and sensitivity to cultural obstacles by the educational service
provider are the first steps toward helping the immigrant adjust to American
life. Talking with a culturally sensitive person, the immigrant can get the
right answers about what is expected and what is considered wrong.
Lucas (in Lopez-Valadez and others, 1985) lists the following activities that
may facilitate cultural adjustment.
--Role play job interviews and on-the-job situations. --Set aside Job
Interview Dress Day. --Listen to or read a job interview or on-the-job
conversation and discuss. --Tour vocational training centers and local
industries. --Develop slides or videotapes of appropriate and inappropriate
employability behaviors for discussion.
These activities allow students to experience "real world" situations in a
nonthreatening environment. This experience is followed by discussion of
findings with peers and with a culturally sensitized American. The activities
build cultural self-confidence and facilitate cultural adjustment.
WHAT METHODS ARE USEFUL IN TEACHING VOCATIONAL SKILLS?
Immigrant clients have varying backgrounds, and thus, their training needs
are very different. The amount and type of assistance required by a trainee are
determined by an analysis of employment background, educational background,
English language proficiency, experience with United States culture, and the
individual's personal goals.
Adult immigrants need to enter the job market quickly. Short-term (less than
1 year) intensive training is usually appropriate, although some will opt for
longer term or part-time programs. Those who lack English or other basic skills
may need to spend some time in a preentry training preparation program that will
extend the total time needed for training.
Typically, employment-related training for immigrant adults can be delivered
through vocational programs, work experience programs, ESL classrooms (discussed
earlier), and the workplace (Kremer and Savage, 1985). In Lopez-Valadez and
others (1985), Kremer focuses on the vocational classroom approach that prepares
adult immmigrants for specific occupations. Students may either be mainstreamed
into regular vocational classes with English-speaking vocational students or be
placed in special classes. In either case, the student needs extensive support
services to be successful. Support may range from peer tutoring to providing a
personal translator for exams and quizzes.
Since training will usually occur in English, some adaptation is required.
Adaptation of instruction for LEP students includes adjustments in the
curriculum, materials, and approaches. The following techniques are suggested.
--Introduce one concept at a time. --Use a slower pace in introducing
information. --Use shorter lectures and more demonstrations. --Explain key
concepts in the native language. --Provide bilingual glossaries. --Check
readability and adapt materials if necessary. --Summarize or outline long,
difficult readings. --Check comprehension frequently. --Use visual support
materials. --Modify tests to evaluate mastery of content, not of English.
Two other approaches are also used to teach employability skills. The work
experience approach combines classroom learning with unpaid experience in a work
setting. Another option, the workplace training approach, emphasizes training at
the work site. The individuals who take part in this training are already
employed: the purpose of training is to make them better, more promotable
employees. Often, this special training is supported by the employer.
At the completion of a training program, most immigrants will need help
finding jobs. The job developer may provide the link between the trained
immigrant and the American employer. There are two methods of job development:
crisis placement and investment. The former views the client's need for
employment as critical. The investment approach, on the other hand, does not
guarantee immediate placement but builds for the future. In this approach, the
job developer researches employers' needs and provides a product (the client)
that addresses them. The agency runs less risk of dissatisfied employers and may
actually receive other job offers because of a good first placement.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
This ERIC digest is based on the following publications:
Kremer, Nick, and K. Lynn Savage, eds. APPROACHES TO EMPLOYMENT RELATED
TRAINING FOR ADULTS WHO ARE LIMITED-ENGLISH PROFICIENT. Burlingame, CA:
Association of California School Administrators, 1985.
Lopez-Valadez, J.; J. Friedenberg, N.L. Lucas, N. Kremer, and T. Reed.
IMMIGRANT WORKERS AND THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE: THE ROLE OF VOC ED. Information
Series no. 302. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational
Education. The Ohio State University, 1985. ED 260 304.
National Commission for Employment Policy. HISPANICS AND JOBS: BARRIERS TO
PROGRESS. Washington, DC: National Commission for Employment Policy, 1982. ED