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Learning AllianceWill Help Train Employees at Businesses

Businesses in need of employee training are in luck. This month the Learning Alliance will launch. A collaboration of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and the eight adult centers of the Los Angeles Unified School District in the area, the Learning Alliance will provide course instruction to employees in industries such as manufacturing, hospitality and retail. The instruction “will consist of English as a second language, academic math and English preparation, as well as career and technical programs,” Richard Wormus, principal of West Valley Occupational Center, explained. “We’re reaching out to offer quality educational services to local businesses to help improve their employees in their job skills, as well as their literacy skills.” Bert J. Seneca, general manager of Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn at Universal Studios, oversees a staff of approximately 130. His company is the first to sign up to use the Learning Alliance’s services. Five years ago, Seneca had employees take advantage of similar training through the Economic Alliance, and he was thrilled by the improvements made in their performance. “It not only helps them at work; it also helps them in life,” he recalled. Seneca said that the renewed sense of confidence staffers have, especially if they have been trained in English as a second language, enhances their ability to provide customer service. “If an associate learns the conversational side of English, they can direct (the customer) in a more detailed way. The customer thinks, ‘I’ve got someone who may be limited from a language standpoint but not limited in the ability to help me.'” In the warehouse industry, English skills can make the difference in how timely a shipment arrives, or if it arrives, according to Economic Alliance Director of Workforce & Education Kenn Phillips. “One of the big reasons why a person gets terminated in the warehouse is when they’ve shipped things out to the wrong location because their vocational English is not strong,” he said. “Here they could improve their error rate and language speaking and knowledge.” The Learning Alliance will also provide instruction in learning industry jargon, particularly in the area of healthcare literacy. “For example, if I worked in the hospital, but my assignment did not have anything to do with patients, I would learn the type of language necessary to understand basic hospital matters, improving customer service,” Phillips said. Flexible schedules Flexibility will be paramount in the services provided by the Learning Alliance. Classes may be held before work, at lunchtime or after hours. Also, when a “semester” starts and stops is at the company’s discretion. The locations of the classes will also be up to the business. “Even though there’s eight adult centers, there’s 350 satellite locations where things can be taught,” Phillips said. “Most of those sessions could be held at a park, a neighboring high school, community center, a WorkSource California center, or it could be done at a business site.” While classes held in the centers need to have a minimum of 20 people, companies who would like to enroll a smaller number of employees in the course could supplement the difference. Seneca appreciates the flexibility the Learning Alliance affords to businesses. “They will offer more locations throughout the Valley versus some other organization that will have limited resources,” he said. The fact that Los Angeles Unified School District will have a role in the training makes it even more unique, according to Wormus. “We have a history of working with adults in providing services,” he said. “We have a proven track record in terms of working with people to improve their English and helping people to improve their lives through better skills. The adult program offers individualized training, and the teacher will be placed at the job site, so they can work directly with that employer to serve those particular needs.” In celebration of its launch, the Learning Alliance presents a “Coffee Session” with Los Angeles Councilman Tony Cardenas Aug. 16, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., at the Economic Alliance, 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., Suite 200, in Sherman Oaks. The event is on a first come, first served basis. For information, call (818) 379-7000.

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