Literacy's Impact on the Workforce

Friday, Jan 22, 2016

1 out of every 10 adults in the United States is considered to have Limited English Proficiency (LEP). For these adults, English is their second, third, or fourth language. Almost all of the adults who make up this number are immigrants, or foreign born. The number of foreign-born individuals in the  United States reached a peak in the second quarter of 2015 at 42.1 million people.

Many of these adults are highly educated, but their lack of English ability has a profound impact on their economic standing. 70% of these adults with Limited English Proficiency are part of the workforce (the amount of people engaged in/available for work, either in an area or an industry) of the United States, but these adults earn 25-40% less on average that adults who are proficient in English. These factors can negatively affect the academic (and eventually economic) future of their children. Despite this, adults with Limited English Proficiency provide revenue to the country, and to our state. In Tennessee alone, the spending power of Latino immigrants numbers in the billions of dollars.

Even with limited English proficiency, a large percentage of these adult workers are able to hold a job–albeit with moderate success. A lack of English skills holds them back from understanding crucial job-related documents and tasks, which hurts their chances of ever being recognized or promoted in their places of employment.

On the job English language proficiency training will begin to make foreign-born workers familiar with the English language. Additionally, it will allow them to:

  • Meet and make small talk with co-workers.
  • Give and receive help.
  • Call in sick or late.
  • Ask for clarification.
  • Understand instructions that are given by a supervisor.
  • Answer questions from customers (if necessary).
  • Understand safety symbols and terms.
  • Bridge the gaps between their home and work cultures.
  • Fill out forms and paperwork.
  • Read their employee handbook and other internal documents.

The number of people struggling with English, especially non-native English speakers, will continue to increase. These adults and their children are major assets towards our future, so it is up to us to give them the skills they need to find their place in this great country of ours. Together, we can continue to build a foundation of ambitious, literate, hardworking Americans.

Has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

Literacy Mid-South is now offering the training these workers will need to succeed in the workplace. Learn more at  Through this training, workers will gain the knowledge and self-confidence they need to excel at their jobs. Employers will benefit from the training as well, as employees with English proficiency will do better at their jobs, which will reduce turnover and allow the business to promote from within. This training will provide numerous opportunities for the workers that may have never existed before, therefore improving their morale in and out of the workplace. Higher morale leads to better performance, which leads to greater productivity!