Orange County Expands ESOL Pilot Program for International Drive Employees


With preliminary research indicating positive outcomes in student learning and employer experience, Orange County Government recently expanded its ESOL for Working Adults pilot program to include local employers IMA Medical Group and Paramount Hospitality Management. On July 13, 2023, $450K in funding was approved by the County to extend the program through 2023-24.

The two organizations join inaugural employer Rosen Hotels & Resorts, which reported growth in confidence, speaking and understanding of the English language by employees who participated in the program. They were engaged and committed, and the opportunity to attend while at work, both from a location and cost perspective, was invaluable. IMA and Paramount hope to realize similar outcomes.

“The program aligns seamlessly with our core belief of investing in our employees,” said Marco Manzie, founder and president of Paramount Hospitality Management. “English language proficiency is a critical tool for effective communication and personal and professional growth. This will enable our workforce to enhance their language skills and bridge the gap, fostering a more inclusive and diverse workplace.”

IMA Medical Group Chief Executive Officer Donna Walker shared similar sentiments. “We’re committed to the professional and personal development of our employees, which results in a joyful place to work and exceptional care for our patients,” she asserted. “Aligning with our vision, we’re excited about this new partnership with Orange County and UCF Global to offer free English classes to our team members.”

To address local talent shortages, Orange County’s International Drive Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) advisory group recommended an investment in English Learning language to support professional growth and retention. In September 2022, the County partnered with UCF Global, Rosen Hotel & Resorts and Aeras Foundation to launch a pilot program aimed at providing onsite English language instruction tailored to the needs of working adults in the I-Drive area.

Early findings from the pilot program indicate that participants made significant learning gains in listening, grammar, vocabulary, reading and speaking. Classes were offered in-person and online, and both groups reported a high level of satisfaction. Qualitative data analyses and individual conversations suggest that instructors created a safe and flexible learning environment, especially to decrease students’ affective filter and increase communication and participation.

“I’m pleased that IMA and Paramount are jumping on board, as this allows us to understand different opportunities within our I-Drive community,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “Early data indicates clear benefits to our workforce and employers when public and private businesses come together to remove barriers to instruction like income, transportation and childcare.”

Additional findings point to improvement in guest experience and employee morale, which has led to increased demand. The County will use data and information collected from these pilots to design and implement a sustainable ESOL program.

For more information, go to Orange County Pilot Program.

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