Santa Ana Chamber Promoting English in the Workplace for Economic Development

Working with businesses of all sizes, they understand the connection between communicating in a common language and the bottom line. Improved customer service, reduced accidents, increased employee retention are all benefits of occupational English and Spanish training. This article shows that not only are employers seeing the benefits, but cities, and business chambers are seeing the benefits too.

“Two jobs?” blares a poster at a bus shelter here. The words are in Spanish over a picture of a tired-looking Hispanic woman in a janitor’s uniform. “Work and Work but You Still Can’t Get Ahead?” reads another ad on a bus shelter down the street. At the bottom, the small print: “Free English classes . . . in 60 locations.

The ads are part of an unusual campaign by the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce to spur the city’s 150,000 immigrants to learn English. Here in the most Latino big city in the country — where fewer than one in five residents speak English at home — business leaders decided that simply offering free English classes was not enough. The chamber is spending $4.5 million to cajole residents to take the classes and get English workbooks into their hands.

It’s an economic development plan, not a political statement, said Michael Metzler, president of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce. After surveying the city’s manufacturing, service and transportation businesses, among others, he said, the chamber realized that employers “could not find enough qualified employees, because when they found somebody who had enough qualifications, they didn’t speak English.”

And here’s a link to the program on the Santa Ana Chamber site.