Flyover companies teach immigrants the language of success
The Mediterranean Cafes of Cambria and Taziki are among the small businesses in Flyover Country that have joined some of our larger corporate citizens, including Walmart and Target, in recognizing a truth that is becoming increasingly important to our economy: more immigrants Legal can be learned by learning English, the more valuable they will be as employees – and the more fulfilled they will be as Americans.
All of these companies have programs that teach English as a second language to attract, retain and develop entry-level employees. Cambria, a manufacturer of quartz countertops in Le Sueur, Minnesota, spends between $ 400,000 and $ 500,000 a year on its four-teacher English program in a program started by CEO Marty Davis ago several years.
And Taziki’s, based in Birmingham, Alabama, worked with an AI-based language learning platform to teach English as an advantage and create cohesion with workers in an industry that is arguably hit harder by pandemic workforce dislocation than any other.
âWe invest in language learning for our employees because it’s the right thing to do and because it results in dedicated and loyal employees who excel at their jobs,â Dan Simpson, CEO of Taziki.
The immigrant tradition
Davis told me Cambria âinvests in these people. We want them to grow up. The first generation immigrant workforce has been the backbone of America’s manufacturing industry for a hundred years: Irish, Germans, Poles, Hispanics. This is how first generation immigrants rose through the ranks of capitalism. “
About a third of Cambria’s 900 employees in Le Sueur are Hispanics from local families who are “rooted in our community, our churches and our schools,” said Davis. The company uses E-Verify to try to make sure they are US citizens.
The company has embraced this cohort of the workforce, Davis said, with Hispanic cultural vacation celebrations at the plant, for example. But most of those workers were “stuck in cleaning jobs and jobs where communications weren’t essential except for safety,” Davis said. âWe didn’t like it. We didn’t like to see the same guy cleaning part of the plant for four years.
Cambria determined that helping these employees learn English would be the best way to unlock their potential for themselves and for the company.
âJust putting up a bunch of Spanish signs around the plant wasn’t going to be enough for me,â Davis said. âIt’s not fair to a Hispanic employee. You have to give them an opportunity. What happens when they leave here? We felt that we had an environment that was holding back their growth and that we had to offer them opportunities.
A path to promotion
âWe had a lot of them in a room and we said to them, ‘We’re going to teach you English. It’s the only way to become a manager, a technologist, an engineer – or even my job, âDavis said. “They adopted him.”
Thirty-seven Cambria employees have completed the program – grade eight English equivalency – and there are about 110 participants in total at one time. âA lot of them are now line operators, supervisors and managers, which has proven to be a success for them and for us,â said Davis.
âWe need a growing workforce that can extend its impact in our business. If you don’t help these people grow and allow them to do stagnant jobs, you lose them. Most people like to evolve.
Read the rest of this article on Overflight Coalition.
Dale buss is Founder and Executive Director of The Flyover Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping revitalize and promote the economy, businesses and people of the region between the Appalachians and the Rockies, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes. He is a longtime author, journalist and editor of magazines and newspapers, and contributor to General manager, Forbes, the the Wall Street newspaper, the New York Times and many other publications. Buss is originally from Wisconsin who lives in Michigan and has also lived in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Photo: Courtesy of Flyover Coalition