Training Immigrants in the Culture and Language of the Workplace – Part 2: Using Data to Design Programs for Immigrant Student Achievement


The staff at NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute accelerated the use of data in the redesign of its Part-Time ESL Career Readiness program, which offers workforce-contextualized English classes for students at high-beginning through intermediate ESL levels and helps them successfully transition to further college and careers.

ACLI staff and administrators use the results of regularly administered student surveys to evaluate program outcomes and guide any program changes. This included the evaluation and redesign of the Career Readiness Program in 2017, which now includes pathways between part-time ESL and workforce credential programs.

A key data point that influenced the redesign came from survey questions asking students about their current employment and their desired future employment. Survey results in both fall 2016 and spring 2017 showed a distinct trend for students currently employed in low-paying jobs (e.g., childcare, food service) wanting to move into high-paying, high-demand jobs (e.g., IT, healthcare, business).

Cynthia Hatch, the ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer for ACLI, said that, after reviewing the survey data and in response to employer needs, it was clear “there was a definite pathway from our ESL programs into our workforce programs. It’s incumbent upon us to capitalize on that interest and help students get where they want to go.”


Figure 1 above illustrates the multiple entry and exit points for ACLI students in the redesigned Part-Time Program. Each of the five levels takes approximately 100 hours to complete during an academic year. Students may take Part-Time ESL classes at any of five different skill levels (low-beginning to intermediate) and either continue to College ESL or shift into Career Readiness classes (starting at the high-beginning level, i.e., level 3), which lead to Workforce Credentials courses in education, IT, healthcare, and business/management.

Subject matter experts from NOVA’s Workforce Credentials program–a state grant program for Virginia residents in industry-specific certification courses–will interact with ESL students through guest lectures, interviews, and noncredit Workforce Credentials classes. Career Readiness classes provide a “reality check” so that students can be confident about their eventual Workforce Credentials choices.

Optional Support ESL classes such as grammar, pronunciation, and a learning lab provide supplementary “soft skill” instruction to promote students’ persistence and prepare them for the workforce. These support ESL classes for ACLI students usually begin two weeks after the Part-Time ESL and Career Readiness classes, and last for eight weeks. Support ESL classes take 20 hours to complete.

Next in this blog series: Overcoming Challenges to Build Strategies for Success


Please share your comments @CCCIE or success stories in a short paragraph description on Facebook. Let us know why it was a success. How does your college use data to drive immigrant student achievement? How does the data inform your college about the needs of immigrant students in their transition from ESL to the workplace? We’d like to hear from you! 


For more information, contact:

Keila Louzada, ESL Program Coordinator, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Cynthia Hatch, ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Jill Casner-Lotto, Director, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education,