A first of its kind pilot program that saw Orange County Government partnering with UCF Global, Rosen Hotels & Resorts and Aeras Foundation to provide English language instruction on the job to adult hospitality workers is becoming a fully funded program within the I-Drive Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). Due to the positive outcomes, including increased learning gains, high satisfaction scores from employees and employers and measurably increased guest satisfaction, Orange County Government announced it will expand the ESOL for Working Adults program in January.

“UCF is excited to be the instruction partner for this expanded effort to unleash the potential of those in our community by making high-quality language learning affordable and accessible,” says UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright. “We believe that education has the power to transform lives, and collaborations such as this have meaningful impact on our workforce, industries and region.”

UCF Global functions as the primary international hub for students, faculty and staff on campus.

“The University of Central Florida, in partnership with Orange County Government, aims to offer educational opportunities for a critical segment of the Central Florida population, targeting the I-Drive Community Redevelopment Area in Orange County, Florida,” says Jennifer Haddad, program director of engagement at UCF Global. “UCF Global is offering high-quality English Language Learning courses for the growing diverse workforce populace in the region, leading to higher earning potential for workers and value-added for employers.”

Through strong partnerships, UCF Global extends its reach to transform the lives of the global community through its multiple support services, she adds.

Since the program’s launch, there has been statistically significant gains across all areas of instruction, with speaking showing the most improvement.

“With public resources, the county is uniquely positioned to foster partnerships and prove the value of innovative approaches like this,” says Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “Not only does this program increase opportunity for growth among participants, but it also benefits employers at the center of our world-class tourism industry. I look forward to future workforce recommendations to how our private and institutional partners can work alongside the county to propel our community forward.”

Within the I-Drive CRA, Paramount Hospitality Management, the Orange County Convention Center and Hilton Orlando will now be joining the inaugural employer partner Rosen Hotels & Resorts to provide space, time, support and pay for their employees participating in the language learning coursework.

“Serving overseas as an Army officer, I quickly recognized the importance of understanding the language of the country where I was serving,” says Harris Rosen, president and COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts. “Making these classes accessible to our associates to attend, while on the clock, is critical to this program’s success. I am so proud of our associates for their desire to better themselves and for the partnerships that made this program so successful.”

Amazon, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) and Gaylord Palms are the employers who will offer upskilling for their employees on the job through UCF Global, building on the pilot program, which launched in September 2022.

In the Beginning language class, participants learn the words of fruits and vegetables and shopping terms. Their assignment involved creating a shopping list for a party they would host. When instructors brought in the weekly Publix flyer, they also learned real-world phrases like “BOGO.” (Photo courtesy of Rosen Hotels & Resorts)

“Last year, we launched English-language classes to expand our offerings and support employees regardless of where they are on their academic or professional journey,” Tammy Thieman, global director of Amazon Career Choice explains. “We’ve seen great participation in these offerings in Florida and we’re looking forward to continuing to partner with UCF and our other local partners to offer more options to associates — including more in-person language classes — in the Orlando area.”

For the January 2024 start date, instructional agreements are currently being finalized with UCF Global and Orange County Public Schools, while Orange County will continue to partner with the Aeras Foundation which provides digital devices that expand online learning opportunities.

“With 63.8% of our participants indicating ‘better work opportunities’ as the main interest in the program, once desired language needs have been met there is a compelling case to be made for additional support for vocational purposes.  In the interim, we have started to think through how to incorporate career and upskilling components to supplement the language instruction — all to reach the goal of the program as defined at the onset of the proposed partnership between UCF Global and Orange County: offering high-quality English Language Learning courses for the growing diverse workforce populace in the region, with the intention of leading to higher earning potential for workers and value-added for employers,” says Haddad of UCF Global.

ESOL Pilot Key Findings:

This innovative program removes barriers for workers to learn English while promoting upskilling and upward mobility with onsite instruction. Research findings indicate that employees found work schedules (49%), lack of time (27%), cost (26%) and availability of classes (22%) were top obstacles in the past.

Additional findings include:

  • Satisfaction: Overall perceptions of the program were overwhelmingly positive with a majority (89%) indicating a willingness to recommend. “My employer supported me.” ranked as the top benefit.
  • Learning Gains: There were statistically significant gains across all areas of instruction, with speaking showing the most improvement.
  • Scores for grammar, vocabulary, reading and speaking increased significantly from pre-test to post-test.
  • From employers, feedback included increased associate confidence, increased morale and associate retention. Results showed increased guest satisfaction scores on greetings from staff and increased opportunity for growth within the organization.

For more information and the full research findings, visit: ocfl.net/ESOL.