Last year, we began working with Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP), that owns and manages eight different restaurants in Florida and Northern Virginia, to create and design a unique Destination Workforce® class for their non-native English-speaking employees. LCNV originally launched the Destination Workforce® program with the dream of offering adults the basic skills in English language and literacy to improve their employability and allow them to participate more fully and equitably in the workplace so they can advance towards self-sufficiency. We partner with different employers who see the value of improving their employees’ lives, reducing staff turnover, enhancing performance, and improving customer service. Over the years, we have worked with a variety of partners, including the DoubleTree Hotel in Tysons Corner and José Andrés’ Think Food Group, tailoring each class to their brand, industry, and performance goals. LCNV’s partnership with ARP initially launched in March 2020, with a class registration just days before stay home orders were issued. The class was immediately put on hold until ARP reached out this summer to restart the program, which finally started this past August.
The class is made up of 8 adult English language learners who have different back-of-house positions (e.g., sous chef, line cook) in ARP’s restaurants, and they meet twice a week with one of our most dedicated instructors, Laurie Hayden, at Mia’s Italian Kitchen. Laurie, who has been teaching with LCNV for over 10 years now, works closely with her students to cater to their individual needs and was selected as one of this year’s Volunteers of the Year at our 59th Annual Recognition Ceremony, for her incredible dedication and outstanding service to our learners. In this Destination Workforce® class, she learns about each student and teaches them the language and soft skills they need to know to become better employees, advocate for themselves in the workplace, and advance their careers, ultimately helping them boost their confidence and access advancement opportunities. In class, she reviews commonly used English vocabulary words and phrases used in the kitchen, like the names of utensils and tools, as well as descriptions of food, ingredient names, and measurements. One of her students, Erlin “Eliseo” Reyes said to her, “I always wondered about this and now I know!”
Recognizing barriers for employees with limited English proficiency to be promoted in their jobs, even if they work more hours and are properly qualified for the job otherwise, ARP's Director of Culinary Operations/Partner, Santiago Lopez, shares, “Our biggest commitment at ARP is to nurture and grow our team from within. We invest in our people to be our future leaders. We chose to partner with LCNV after seeing the success rate their Destination Workforce® program had providing English classes with a workplace-focused approach. We in ARP are happy to have joined the partnership and believe the results will be long term for the growth of our staff.”
With Destination Workforce®, ARP has made it easier for their employees to communicate more comfortably and confidently with guests, other staff members, and managers. We are proud of the work these learners have accomplished over the past three months and for their determination to improve their lives. As the immigrant population in the U.S. continues to rise, it is critical for us to work together as a community to help everyone have equal access to the resources they need to obtain, succeed, and advance in entry-level jobs. We are so thrilled to have had the chance to work alongside ARP to develop their workforce by upskilling their employees and look forward to future opportunities to enhance and add to our programming and help our learners have a brighter future.