“There is no future without technology”: How our Affiliates make sure Latino workers aren’t left behind

Our Workforce Development Forum is coming to Los Angeles on November 19 and 20, and it will bring some of the best practices in the workforce development efforts, while brainstorming and identifying solutions to the challenges faced by the Latino and immigrant workers. This year’s theme is Latinos @ Work: Developing Talent for Today and Tomorrow, and it focuses on how to prepare our community to access the jobs of today and thrive in the jobs of tomorrow.

By 2024, one in five workers will be Latino, and UnidosUS’s Workforce Development initiative wants to ensure that our community is able to contribute to and share the nation’s economic opportunities. We work with community-based organizations throughout the country to deliver high-quality services to Latino workers. Our model? Designing linguistically and culturally appropriate programs (programs that treat Latinx language and culture as assets, not barriers), supporting existing programs that empower Latino workers, facilitating knowledge-sharing and developing best practices for the field.

At our Workforce Development Forum, we will provide an opportunity for that knowledge-sharing and development of best practices, hearing directly from our Affiliates working on these efforts. Building Skills Partnership (BSP), UnidosUS’s California Affiliate of the Year of 2018, will co-present the workshop Expanding Opportunities: Increasing Access to Quality Non-Degree Credentials for Adults.

In this workshop, Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, senior fellow at National Skills Coalition, and Luis Sandoval, chief development officer at BSP, will provide an overview of non-degree credentials and why they are important for Hispanic adults.

Opening the doors to opportunity

In 1994, the labor union SEIU-USWW partnered with responsible businesses and employers in Northern California to pilot a workplace class in Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL). They didn’t imagine that this collaborative would grow to become a comprehensive nonprofit working across the Bay Area, providing training in English, computer literacy, citizenship, health and wellness, basic literacy, and workshops to train parents to better support their children’s educational success.

Graduation of one of the first programs SEIU-USWW worked on. Courtesy of BSP.

Building Skills Partnership is now a community-based organization with the goal of improving the quality of life for property service workers (janitors; security officers; maintenance and custodial workers; stadium, arena, and airport workers; and other workers who provide important services to buildings or facilities) and their families by increasing their skills, access to education, and opportunities for career and community advancement. BSP today works in six different regions (Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego), and provides nine programs to serve our community.

This organization joined UnidosUS’s Affiliate Network in 2014, and shortly after became a grantee of our Comcast Digital Innovation Grant, an initiative launched in 2016 to close the digital divide among Latinos by equipping them with the skills and tools needed to thrive in a fast-changing, technology-driven world. The goal of this initiative is for our Affiliates to integrate the use of digital tools and create blended-learning programs to promote workforce-readiness, immigration services, and civic engagement.

“Through this grant, BSP was able to update outdated computer labs for its digital literacy courses at BSP’s training centers in San Jose, Mountain View, and Oakland. UnidosUS’s support in this area jump-started BSP’s growing regional and statewide efforts to begin a fully-fledged blended learning program,” Aida Cardenas, BSP’s Executive Director, explains. “After recognizing the impact and opportunity to realize anytime-anywhere learning, this grant gave us the flexibility to explore new ways to reach program goals.”

As a result of this grant, BSP has been able to scale both their Blended Learning Program, which integrates digital skills education and vocational English instruction, and their traditional Digital Education Program with in-depth digital instruction courses. “Both components introduce a stronger focus on mobile technology than our previous efforts. Without knowing how to access a smartphone, tablet or computer, immigrant workers are at disadvantage to find information, socially integrate, and fully participate in their community. Through blended learning, digital literacy becomes a tool to learn English, navigate real world situations, and improve technology use in the workplace,” Cardenas says.

Kevin’s Success Story

Building Skills Partnership has shared with us Kevin Aceituno’s story, a 23-year-old man from a Latino family like many of their participants. Here’s his story:

“Kevin’s father, Gustavo, is a janitor and works hard every day to support his family. Once Kevin graduated from high school, he began working in construction. He balances long hours and physical stress while supporting his family. One day, Kevin had an accident that left him unable to return to work. Luckily, Kevin learned of BSP’s Computer Literacy program through his father, a member of the SEIU-USWW labor union, which opened the door to new career opportunities.

Kevin Aceituno is part of Building Skills Partnership’s Computer Literacy program. Courtesy of BSP.

The Computer Literacy program is a multi-level, 42-week intensive immersion course administered by Monumental Impact in partnership with Building Skills Partnership that develops participant’s skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher, and PowerPoint, in addition to professional development, resume creation, mock interviews and, work experience skills. The objective is to prepare participants for today’s high-tech labor market with the potential to enter good-paying jobs.

“Kevin participates in the intermediate-level course where he practices coding and webpage development with the goal of finding a job in the public sector or a private company. When asked the reason why he enrolled in the program, he responded: ‘Nowadays technology is pervasive and there is no way to find a good-paying job without it. Starting from the job application itself, it has to be online now, so there is no future without technology.’

“According to a recent report issued by Capital One and Burning Glass Technologies, ‘even simple digital skills can make a big difference. Knowing how to do things like tackle an online spreadsheet or word processing document can open career doors and salary potential in today’s technology-driven age—even for workers without a college degree. Mastering skills like these can help workers land good jobs with higher-paying wages.’

BSP is proud to pave career pathways for young adults like Kevin.”

You can hear stories like these directly from our Affiliates at our Workforce Development Forum, November 19-20 in Los Angeles. Learn more here.

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