Category Archives: Jobs

Boston Companies: Paying Employees to Learn English

“During most of his work week, Cesar Orantes dons a hair net, rubber gloves, and a white apron flecked with fish scales for his job in quality assurance at Stavis Seafoods, a wholesaler in Boston’s Seaport District. But for four hours each week, the Guatemalan native removes his protective gear, gathers with several of his co-workers in the company’s break room, and turns his attention to something very different: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other fundamentals of English.” S. Pfeiffer, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Blount Team in Fall River, MA

Excerpt: Get paid to learn English? Some companies offer immigrant workers that very perk By Sacha  Pfeiffer Boston Globe

“The classes are free and held during the workday, and Orantes is paid his regular wage while sitting in the makeshift classroom. Stavis even gives him and his colleagues a bonus if they attend a certain number of classes. As Orantes improves his English language skills, he is also boosting his workplace performance, since the better he can communicate with customers and colleagues, the more effectively he can do his job.

Faced with a labor shortage in the robust Massachusetts economy — the state’s unemployment rate of 2.9 percent is the country’s second-lowest, along with North Dakota — employers are increasingly relying on immigrant workers, and a growing number of businesses are devoting resources to on-the-job English language instruction.

image- Cambridge English

At least 35 Massachusetts companies provide free English classes, according to a Globe tally. The training lets them retain promising employees, promote from within, and identify workers whose potential was previously hidden behind a language barrier.

Employers offering this benefit, which is often partially paid for by state grants, range from hospitals to manufacturing firms to food service companies. Some even schedule pre-dawn courses to accommodate overnight workers, who finish their shifts with an English class before clocking out for the day at 7 or 8 a.m.

‘If we hire somebody who doesn’t cut up the right seafood for an order because they can’t read the order form, that’s not good customer service,’  said Stuart Altman, a co-owner of Stavis Seafoods, which says at least 20 percent of its 133-person workforce are immigrants, mostly Latino and Asian. Currently, 18 of them are enrolled in the company’s English class.

By offering English instruction, errors are reduced, Altman said, and ‘this gives us an opportunity to train the next generation of middle managers, and puts them in a position to succeed the best they can.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many companies offer immigrant workers perks.
  2. Some places have makeshift classrooms.
  3. Workers can communicate with customers and colleagues.
  4. Massachusetts is faced with a labor shortage.
  5. Employers are increasingly relying on immigrant workers.
  6. Potential was previously hidden behind a language barrier.
  7. Many people are enrolled in the company’s English class.
  8. Many nonprofit organizations provide instructors.
  9. Requests for grant funding for English instruction is in demand.
  10. There is an economic benefit for employers.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

The YMCA of ___Boston has ___English___at the Langham Hotel and at ___small businesses in Chelsea. Interest in English training is so ___that JVS has tripled the ___of classes it offers in ___years, from nine in 2009 to 27 this year, according to___development director Mandy Townsend.

WORD LIST: training, number, business, provided, Greater, recent,  robust, numerous,

Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following  topics.

  1. “If employees aren’t comfortable speaking up and can’t make themselves understood, that prevents them from moving up and prevents the company from taking advantage of their expertise.”
  2. “Employees who are competent in English aren’t just better communicators; they also better understand workplace safety rules, and English proficiency makes them more digitally adept, since hospital and hotel workers who clean rooms, for example, must sometimes chart their progress on hand-held devices that require basic English literacy.”
  3. “…the classes [are] a huge investment from the company’s standpoint . . . because while they’re in class that’s a significant loss in productivity, so we end up having to pay overtime for other people to produce the work we need to produce.But offering classes during the workday increases attendance, he said, since some employees have second jobs and family responsibilities that prevent them from taking courses before or after work.”

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Economy, Jobs | Tags:

The One Important Question To Ask About A New Job

“When it comes to landing a good job, many people focus on the role. Although finding the right title, position and salary is important, there’s another consideration that matters just as much: culture. The culture of a workplace — an organization’s values, norms and practices — has a huge impact on our happiness and success. When the big boss is human, the little guy makes it to the top, and leaders try to protect employees even when times are tough and mistakes are made, we judge the culture as just, safe and controllable.” A. Grant, New York Times 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image credit: axiohrs.com

Image credit: axiohrs.com

Excerpt: The One Question You Should Ask… By Adam Grant, NYT

“But how do you figure out the culture of a company you’ve never worked for?… How is this organization different from all other organizations?  The answer should come in the form of a story. Ask people to tell you a story about something that happened at their organization but wouldn’t elsewhere. Organizational cultures, and in particular stories, carry a claim to uniqueness — that an institution is unlike any other… But paradoxically, the same stories occur in virtually identical form, in a wide variety of organizations.

Let’s look at four stories:

Story 1: Is the Big Boss Human?

The insurance company president who takes his turn fielding calls on the company’s switchboard throughout the year: He’s one of us. The executive who doesn’t let anyone use his parking spot — even when he’s on vacation — maintains an air of superiority. This is one of the big debates about Steve Jobs: Was he a narcissist who felt entitled to special treatment or a leader who sought to bring out the excellence in all his employees?

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

 

Story 2: Can the Little Person Rise to the Top?

Jim Ziemer starts at Harley-Davidson as a freight elevator operator and rides all the way to the corner office. In the more depressing variation, a low-status employee achieves great things but is denied promotions.

Harley-Davidson Building.

Harley-Davidson Building.

Story 3: Will I Get Fired?

The organization may need to conduct layoffs: What does the leader do? Contrast the former Walmart chief executive Michael Duke, who slashed more than 13,000 jobs while raking in $19.2 million, with Charles Schwab executives’ taking pay cuts to avoid downsizing — and giving employees who lost their jobs a bonus when they were rehired.

Charles Schwab, founder of Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab, founder of Charles Schwab

 

Story 4: How Will the Boss React to Mistakes?

In many organizations, employees are fired for errors. Some stories point to a different culture, like the famous one at IBM in the 1960s. After an employee made a mistake that cost the company $10 million, he walked into the office of Tom Watson, the C.E.O., expecting to get fired. Fire you? Mr. Watson asked. I just spent $10 million educating you!

Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Photo- IBM

Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Photo- IBM

Take a close look at these stories, and you’ll see that they deal with three fundamental issues. First is justice: Is this a fair place? Second is security: Is it safe to work here? Third is control: Can I shape my destiny and have influence in this organization? If you’re still unsure where to work, start asking for stories about one practice that says a lot about a culture — a practice that consumes more than half of the time in big organizations. When people find it productive and enjoyable, that’s a good sign.”

For more Great Tips and Ideas:

Visit ESL Voices Business section:

Cover Letters and Resumes

Checking-Savings-Credit Card Applications

Articles on  Interviews Dos and Don’ts

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer  by San Juan Education for assistance.Prereading organizerby San Juan Edutiff

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many applicants try to evaluate a company culture.
  2. There was some consensus about the company’s values.
  3. They discovered an organizational uniqueness.
  4. People think their cultures are more distinctive than they really are.
  5. But paradoxically, the same stories occur in a wide variety of organizations.
  6. The plot involves an authority figure.
  7. Was he a narcissist who felt entitled to special treatment?
  8. In many organizations, employees are fired for errors.
  9. People are lucky if they walk away without permanent scars.
  10. When an  organization has a bad reputation cross it off your list.

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Across organizations/organized large and small, pivot/private and public, from manufacturing to knowledge/know to service work, Professor Martin’s team found seven stories over and over. Organizational cultures, and in particular stores/stories, carry a claim to uniqueness/unquiet — that an institution is unlike any other, the researchers wrote. But paradox/paradoxically, the same stories occur in virtually/virtual identical form, in a wide variety of organizations.

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. How do you figure out the culture of an company?
  2. The stories touched on common themes.
  3. Some cultures are more distinctive.

II

  1. This is one of  an big debates.
  2. The organization may need to conduct layoffs.
  3. Employees  received a bonus when they were rehired.

III

  1. In many organizations, employees is  fired for errors.
  2. The other three stories are equally good.
  3. Some elements of cultures are unique.

Post Reading Activities

Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Enchanted Learning to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

Topic organizer. By Enchanted Learning

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following two questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

“Interestingly, though, the values behind these artifacts and practices still link to the core questions about fairness, safety and control. If an organization values innovation, you can assume it’s safe to speak up with new ideas, leaders will listen, and your voice matters.”

“There are lots of organizations where people laugh at unique jokes, speak in unusual jargon, decorate their office spaces in unconventional ways, or have funky rules and norms. But the more defining parts of a culture are its values. Values are the principles people say are important and, more crucially, the principles people show are important through their actions.”

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Jobs | Tags: