Microsoft Excel Work Readiness Pathway for English Language Learners
Providence Public Library (PPL) announced the second in a newly-launched RI DLT-funded program series to begin March 5 and run through May 20. The Intermediate Microsoft Excel Training is the second in the planned four-level Work Readiness Pathway program series and is made possible with continued funding of $79,000 (slated for 2nd & 3rd series sessions) from the RI Department of Labor & Training (DLT), as well as renewed funding from the RI Department of Education (RIDE) and the Verizon Foundation. This program is also part of the RI SNAP Employment & Training program, administered by LISC RI and supported by RI Reconnect, an initiative of the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner.
A pilot group of 16 learners successfully completed the first specially designed Microsoft Excel training program at PPL in December. The 30-class instruction series took place over 12 weeks and ran with $36,000 in funding by the RI Department of Labor & Training (DLT) and an additional $10,000 from the RI Department of Education (RIDE), $3,900 from Verizon Foundation. The program focuses on serving high beginner/low intermediate English language learners, as well as those who are unemployed or underemployed and working in or interested in careers requiring knowledge of Excel.
“This initiative aligns with our mission to empower individuals, especially those from diverse linguistic backgrounds, with essential skills for career advancement. By investing in this program, we aim to uplift learners, break down language barriers, and contribute to a more skilled and inclusive workforce in Rhode Island,” said Matthew Weldon, Director, RI Department of Labor & Training.
The Excel Work Readiness Pathway for English Language Learners builds upon the PPL’s five years of experience delivering Microsoft Office Certificate classes and entry-level MOS classes for mostly non-native speakers of English who have earned industry-recognized credentials and advanced in the workforce with high-demand skills. Over the past year, 54 adult learners participated in Certificate courses, including those who “on-ramped” from the entry-level course, which served 20 students.
“PPL’s industry partners across banking, health care, and technology have underscored the need for multilingual capabilities as an increasingly critical workforce asset,” said Siyamala Sumanthiran, PPL’s Technology Pathways Coordinator. “This new program series aims to address these workforce needs by upskilling English Language Learners with the technical and language skills they need to occupy higher-paying jobs, many of which will put them in service to the immigrant communities of which they are part.”
PPL is uniquely positioned as it leads this responsive program, leveraging a 25-year track record leading English language and citizenship instruction through the RI Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI) as well as a robust spectrum of digital literacy and workforce development programs offering multilingual, culturally competent instruction and holistic support.
PPL’s previous Microsoft Office Specialist offering was highly successful and in consistent demand. In designing this newly refined program model to align as closely as possible with current industry needs, the Library has worked with input from local businesses and target employers, including BankNewport, Centreville Bank, and IGT. In addition, some of these local partners have agreed to provide support in facilitating job shadowing and internship experiences for participants.
“BankNewport is proud to partner with PPL for the Excel Work Readiness Pathway for English Language Learners,” said Ryan Camara, Vice President, Human Resources Manager, BankNewport. “Level 1 of the pathways training provided participants with a strong foundation in spreadsheet management, data manipulation and prepared participants for the technology demands of today’s business world. BankNewport will continue to work closely with PPL to create immersive programs and support participants through their continuing education.”
“I am thrilled to work with Providence Public Library and its Job Readiness Basic Microsoft Excel Training Workshop,” said MeaLea Pannullo, IGT Workforce Partnerships & Outreach Partner. “This program will help IGT, and other local businesses build a workforce that is representative of the communities in which we serve. Providence Public Library’s job readiness program has formed an exceptional team of experienced volunteers and its commitment to workforce development speaks volumes.”
The new program expanded to a four-level offering to better address learners’ individual needs in that many learners want to advance their Excel skills or gain work exposure without needing advanced-level certification.
The new suite of Microsoft Excel programs is rigorously designed for English language learners working toward career advancement across language proficiency levels. Students will receive holistic weekly instruction comprising technical skills training, contextualized English language instruction, and hands-on practice in workforce preparation.
DLT’s Real Jobs Rhode Island funding covers program setup and coordination, including screenings and registration process, instructor wages and training on employment readiness/coaching, as well as a stipend for participants to cover their expenses during the training sessions.
In addition, through this program, PPL’s Adult Education department is working with RI Reconnect – an initiative through the office of the Postsecondary Commissioner designed to help Rhode Islanders receive job training or enter into a post-secondary education opportunity – to provide program participants with supports to eliminate barriers to employment and education.
“From what we’ve learned about the experience of the population we are serving with this type of program, there are certain barriers and challenges, such as the need for computers for participants, as well as additional help,” said Kimberly Libby, PPL’s Head of Adult Education. “Therefore, we are thrilled to have the involvement and support from RI Reconnect.”
In addition to providing laptops with the necessary accessories (mouse, headphones and carrying case) for all participants, RI Reconnect was invited to the first session to inform participants about varied services and resources available to them that can help them be more successful during the training program or new job. Services include help with childcare, transportation, housing or even work uniform and clothing. Throughout the training program and into employment, RI Reconnect navigators will be helping participants, connecting them with resources, and helping to coach them on workplace skills.
PPL expected 60 percent of the participants to complete the initial course and enter into employment, while 40 percent of those who completed the initial course to continue academic and training advancement by proceeding through other levels. However, 100 percent of participants completed the initial course. The application process for the second level is currently underway.
“My journey through the Excel training at PPL has been nothing short of transformative, and I am eager to express my gratitude to the RI Labor & Training Department, the dedicated instructors at PPL, and the remarkable individuals who made this experience possible,” said Ingrid Mejia, a participant in the first-level program.
“I give a heartfelt thank you to the Labor & Training Department for recognizing the importance of equipping individuals with essential skills. Their commitment to cultivating education and professional development is the cornerstone of countless success stories, mine included.
One of the unique features of this program is that it provides those enrolled with the tools, including computers and supplies, necessary to be able to get through the program. This is a really nice feature because it removes barriers for participants and allows them to instead focus on acquiring the skills being taught rather than worry about having to pay for the equipment necessary in order to learn,” said Mejia.