Employment and Jobs

Business investment in upskilling for incumbent workers: lessons from a Pre-Lean ESOL Program in Massachusetts

July 9, 2018  • Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

UpSkill America is an employer-led movement to expand opportunity for America’s workers and allow our economy and communities to thrive. As part of our mission to advance the upskilling movement, we are pleased to share the following piece from National Skills Coalition, a founding partner organization of UpSkill America.

Three people in a library reading a piece of paper.

In a tight labor market, companies across the United States are mulling how best to upskill their incumbent workforce to meet business needs. A particular challenge is adults with foundational skills gaps in reading, math, or spoken English. These kinds of skill gaps can prevent workers from even being able to participate in occupational training opportunities that can help them improve their earning prospects and better contribute to the business bottom line.

In Massachusetts, one effort is demonstrating the value of employer-informed training approaches that capitalize on strong public policies and partnerships with experienced training providers.

The Pre-Lean English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program was created by the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) in collaboration with the nonprofit English for New Bostonians (ENB).

Formally known as Principles of Lean Manufacturing for English Language Learners, the program was sparked by the discovery that businesses eager to realize cost savings by training workers in Lean Manufacturing techniques faced a challenge: Workers who were English learners were not able to participate in the training on an even footing with their English-speaking colleagues.

National Skills Coalition spoke with Jim Gusha of MassMEP, Mark Camus of Russelectric, and Franklin Peralta of English for New Bostonians to learn about the program and the policies that facilitate it.

This piece was excerpted from “Business investment in upskilling for incumbent workers: lessons from a Pre-Lean ESOL Program in Massachusetts” by Amanda Bergson-Shilcock and originally appeared in National Skills Coalition’s Skills Blog. Click here to read more.



#Upskilling English learners can improve their earnings and boost the bottom line. Learn how @MassMEP, @EnglishNB_EW, & @RusselectricInc partnered to make it happen.

“It’s a tight labor market. Everybody’s trying to find good workers. Sometimes the worker you need is already on your payroll – they just need a little boost, and training can provide that boost.” @james_gusha @MassMEP h/t @AmandaWorking #upskilling

“Whether you are thinking about how to help immigrant workers build their skills, or how to help small businesses find the talent they need… you can create a win-win. Partnerships are what make it possible.” -Franklin Peralta @EnglishNB_EW #upskilling


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UpSkill America is an employer-led movement that promotes training and advancement practices to help workers progress in their careers and move into better-paying jobs. UpSkill America is an initiative of the Economic Opportunities Program.

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