When COVID hit our city last year, people in the Latinx community were among the first to loose their jobs. Now, as the job market begins to reopen, many of those same people are not going back to their old positions.
In part, this is because many of those jobs paid less than a living wage and required people to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. And in part, it is because these community members have spent their time during the pandemic gaining new skills – like learning English – to help open up better job opportunities.
We’re helping this community get back to work at more sustainable jobs through our work readiness programs, especially the ESOL classes. These classes, held virtually during the pandemic, have been offering a critical job skill to Spanish-speakers who want to get ready to work. Many of the available jobs are within the hospitality industry and require applicants to speak English.
The Encore Boston Harbor, for example, is one of the city’s largest hospitality employers, and requires all staff to speak English. In this 5-star resort, the staff need to be able to communicate with their customers, and participation in our ESOL program can be an important step towards meeting this job requirement.
“Our programs are about creating business opportunity for a group of residents who oftentimes get denied good wages, even though they have years of job experience,“ says Dinanyili Paulino, La Colaborativa’s Chief Operating Officer.
These learning opportunities go beyond ESOL classes. We’re also helping people create their own childcare co-ops, which gives everyone, especially undocumented immigrant who are unable to work traditional jobs, the opportunity to open their own business.
“These readiness programs are ultimately part of a path to citizenship,” says Paulino.
Our ESOL program has been especially busy over the past 8 months, serving more than 1,000 people. As a result of its popularity, Harvard sent us teachers from the Phillips Brook House Association (PBHA) to assist. The PBHA is a Harvard-based non-profit foundation that is critical to helping us serve the massive influx of people interested in ESOL classes.
“Despite being a community of mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants, the job market in the Chelsea area has some dependency on English proficiency. For community members who cannot secure employment in Spanish, learning English represents a foundational component of their assimilation to local labor markets and secure economic stability for themselves and family,” explained Philip White, Workforce Development Manager at La Colaborativa.
We plan to meet with PBHA senior leadership in September to fully align both organizations’ ESOL strategies. Our aim is to optimize our program and continue to help our community establish this valuable skill so they may be ready to enter new job positions.
The ESOL cohorts are also about so much more than learning English. They become a tight-knit group of friends, neighbors, and peers who share skills, experiences, stories, and insights.
“I hope you continue this program,” says one participant, Lilian. “It is very important to learn English. I am very thankful for the support that La Collaborative gives to Hispanics.”
And we are so very thankful for your donations, which help us create, maintain, and grow programs like this. Together, we can get our community back to work!