Gwinnett Tech Evaluation of Workforce Needs Leads to Major Expansion of Communication and Language Programs
GTC increases ESL class enrollment by 80 percent to serve changing demographics in the region
Anticipating and responding to the area's changing workforce needs, Gwinnett Technical College has dramatically expanded its communication and language programs, moving quickly to embrace the changing demographics of the region.
This year, Gwinnett Tech has conducted English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for 80 percent more students than last year, and plans are in the works to increase offerings even more. The growing class offerings are directly related to the college's evaluation of future workforce trends in the county.
"It's the hallmark of a two-year college to respond quickly to market needs and to implement changes and programs that are representative of the needs of a changing workforce," said Sharon Rigsby, president, Gwinnett Tech. "The new ESL and language classes and increased enrollment figures are indicative of Gwinnett Tech's responsiveness to the community and to the needs of both students and businesses."
In just three classrooms on the campus of Gwinnett Tech last quarter, for instance, there were students from 35 different countries that came together to learn English as a Second Language.
In addition to the growing Hispanic community in Gwinnett, Gwinnett Tech has also seen a rise in students from Asia, Europe, Brazil, Germany and Russia, to name a few.
"There's an amazing camaraderie there," said Stephanie Garcia, continuing education program director at Gwinnett Tech, of the ESL classes. "These students are struggling everyday to learn English, and bonding through the process - no matter what countries they are from or what native language they speak."
Last year, Gwinnett Tech served more than 1,300 students through its continuing education ESL classes. And those numbers are expected to increase throughout this year. Fall quarter enrollment figures alone are already exceeding more than 450 registered students for these classes.
New to the program is the ESL intensive four-day course. Students attend class four days a week (either mornings or nights) to learn grammar, writing, pronunciation and conversational skills. Previously students attended classes only two days a week. The four-day-a-week option provides the speediest route to mastering the language. "The more you're exposed, the faster you learn it," Garcia said.
"We're not just giving survival skills of English, we're helping students to advance their English skills so they can advance in their jobs and the community," Garcia said. "We don't just want them to make it in the grocery store - we want our students to make it in life."
Gwinnett Tech's ESL courses, from the most fundamental - meaning the student knows no English - to the college level, are always at full capacity. Gwinnett Tech also offers specialty courses for those interested in bettering their English conversational or speech skills.
English-speaking students are also flocking to Gwinnett Tech to learn a new language - Spanish. The college's Spanish I, II and III classes are constantly full. "There's a huge, wide range of students enrolled in the Spanish classes. Sometimes the student's workplace requires it (often to better customer service); other times, students are enrolled to learn the language for travel purposes; and, too, some students just want more formal training to add to their existing, basic language skills."
Whether its learning English or Spanish, learning another language helps to "open you up as a person, and broadens your mind,' according to Garcia.
For more about one of these or other language and bilingual skills courses at Gwinnett Tech, call 770.995.9697 or visit www.GwinnettTech.edu/ce.