Training Immigrants in the Culture and Language of the Workplace – Part 2: Using Data to Design Programs for Immigrant Student Achievement

The blog post was originally published here. 


The staff at NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute accelerated the use of data in the redesign of its Part-Time ESL Career Readiness program, which offers workforce-contextualized English classes for students at high-beginning through intermediate ESL levels and helps them successfully transition to further college and careers.

ACLI staff and administrators use the results of regularly administered student surveys to evaluate program outcomes and guide any program changes. This included the evaluation and redesign of the Career Readiness Program in 2017, which now includes pathways between part-time ESL and workforce credential programs.

A key data point that influenced the redesign came from survey questions asking students about their current employment and their desired future employment. Survey results in both fall 2016 and spring 2017 showed a distinct trend for students currently employed in low-paying jobs (e.g., childcare, food service) wanting to move into high-paying, high-demand jobs (e.g., IT, healthcare, business).

Cynthia Hatch, the ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer for ACLI, said that, after reviewing the survey data and in response to employer needs, it was clear “there was a definite pathway from our ESL programs into our workforce programs. It’s incumbent upon us to capitalize on that interest and help students get where they want to go.”

Figure 1 above illustrates the multiple entry and exit points for ACLI students in the redesigned Part-Time Program. Each of the five levels takes approximately 100 hours to complete during an academic year. Students may take Part-Time ESL classes at any of five different skill levels (low-beginning to intermediate) and either continue to College ESL or shift into Career Readiness classes (starting at the high-beginning level, i.e., level 3), which lead to Workforce Credentials courses in education, IT, healthcare, and business/management.

Subject matter experts from NOVA’s Workforce Credentials program–-a state grant program for Virginia residents in industry-specific certification courses–-will interact with ESL students through guest lectures, interviews, and noncredit Workforce Credentials classes. Career Readiness classes provide a “reality check” so that students can be confident about their eventual Workforce Credentials choices.

Optional Support ESL classes such as grammar, pronunciation, and a learning lab provide supplementary “soft skill” instruction to promote students’ persistence and prepare them for the workforce. These support ESL classes for ACLI students usually begin two weeks after the Part-Time ESL and Career Readiness classes, and last for eight weeks. Support ESL classes take 20 hours to complete.


Next in this blog series: Overcoming Challenges to Build Strategies for Success


Please share your comments @CCCIE or success stories in a short paragraph description on Facebook. Let us know why it was a success. How does your college use data to drive immigrant student achievement? How does the data inform your college about the needs of immigrant students in their transition from ESL to the workplace? We’d like to hear from you! 


For more information, contact:

Keila Louzada, ESL Program Coordinator, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Cynthia Hatch, ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Jill Casner-Lotto, Director, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education,

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NOVA Workforce Partners with Fairfax County Schools to Provide Career Awareness Resources for Teachers

Choosing a career path at any age is a difficult task. But selecting a career path as a high school student—without a full understanding of the career pathways available—can be an even more daunting task.

Fairfax County high schools are implementing training to provide teachers with resources to help students make more informed career decisions. By developing a greater awareness of potential career paths, students have the opportunity to pursue an educational and career pathway that will aid their success.

With the support of the Bank of America Foundation, NOVA Workforce recently participated in career awareness training at Mount Vernon High School. The primary goal of the training was to provide educators with resources to help students expand their awareness of potential careers by connecting class curriculum with the world of work. Students benefit from a broader awareness of potential career paths, beyond the well-known careers (e.g. lawyer, doctor, teacher) to more specific career pathways that are not as well-known (e.g. marketing, data analytics, social media management, etc.).

Alex Cooley, Labor Market Analyst for NOVA Workforce, led a portion of the training. He met with teachers and staff at Mount Vernon High School to provide data-driven resources for career awareness. Alex shared information about labor market data that can assist students in making informed career decisions. The training also included information on the importance of career awareness, work-based learning opportunities for high school students in Fairfax County, and a group discussion on innovative ways teachers can engage students in exploring career interests.

In an effort to promote career readiness and awareness for students, Mount Vernon High School will also be opening a new career center in 2018. The new career center was made possible by a generous contribution from the Bank of America Foundation.

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NVTC Titans Event: Deep Learning

Members of the NOVA Workforce team attended an event on deep learning hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) on January 31.
The event, titled “Deep Learning: Promise and Pitfalls,” was part of NVTC’s Titans event series. The event consisted of two panelists, Melvin Greer, Chief Data Scientist at Intel, and Dr. John Kaufhold, Managing Partner and Data Scientist at Deep Learning Analytics, sharing their insight on the topic of deep learning. The panel was moderated by Dr. Ravi Pappu, Chief Architect at In-Q-Tel.
Deep learning is defined as “an artificial intelligence function that imitates the workings of the human brain in processing data and creating patterns for decision making.” As businesses continue to adopt deep learning practices, the panel recommended that organizations begin by identifying a business problem. Then, address that problem with talent, data, frameworks, and hardware.
Organizations face a significant challenge, however, because talent and data are gatekeepers—and qualified, trained talent is lacking. As a result, job candidates with information technology skills are in high demand.
Since the demand for IT talent is so high, there are significant opportunities to develop a successful career in this field. NOVA Workforce offers high-quality training and certificates to equip you with the skills for which employers are searching.
Learn more about NOVA Workforce’s IT training opportunities here.
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NOVA Workforce at the Exploring Intersections Conference

Northern Virginia Community College’s VP of Workforce Development, Steve Partridge, is participating in a panel at the Exploring Intersections Conference, hosted by the American Association of Community College’s Workforce Development Institute.


The panel members will be sharing their insight regarding alternatives to apprenticeships. Apprenticeships and alternative work-based learning models address educational and workforce challenges of some employers. Panelists will discuss their experiences with alternative options to apprenticeships for employers who may not find apprenticeships feasible, in an effort to address the needs of regional employers.


In addition to Steve, other panelists include Diane Lee of St. Louis Community College, a panelist from Mott Community College, and moderator Eric Seleznow.


The conference is taking place this week, January 30th through February 2nd in New Orleans, LA. To see the full schedule of events, click here.


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NOVA Workforce’s Vice President Speaks on ACTE Panel

Northern Virginia Community College’s VP of Workforce Development, Steve Partridge, participated in a panel at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Career Tech VISION 2017 in Nashville.

The panel, titled “From Policy to Practice,” highlighted recent policy changes in each of the panelist’s states. The panel members discussed challenges and best practices of connecting educators with employers, among other workforce development topics.

The panel consisted of high level CTE educators from states that are successfully providing tools and incentives to engage employers and provide better education for students.

Click below to watch the video:

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Training Immigrants in the Culture and Language of the Workplace – Part 1: Designing Impactful ESL Offerings

This article was originally published by the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. 

When immigrants arrive in the U.S. and look for work, they must learn new culture and workplace norms. Many also need assistance with their language skills. Northern Virginia Community College’s Office of Workforce Development—known as NOVA Workforce—supports these students, as well as international students, through its American Culture and Language Institute (ACLI).  In the next three blog posts, we’ll describe ACLI’s programs, including its most recent ESL Career Readiness program; how ACLU is using data to redesign and improve the Career Readiness program; and ACLI’s current challenges and key strategies for success.

Part 1: Designing Impactful ESL Offerings at Northern Virginia Community College

In an effort to better serve the educational and career needs of NOVA’s immigrant students, ACLI is implementing a new Part-Time English as a Second Language (ESL) Program called Career Readiness, which will offer workforce-contextualized English classes for students at high-beginning through intermediate ESL levels. Subject matter experts from NOVA’s Workforce Credentials program—a state grant program for Virginia residents in industry-specific certification courses—will interact with ESL students through guest lectures, interviews, and noncredit Workforce Credentials classes.

The intent of the new effort is to assist in transitioning Part-Time Program students from contextualized ESL to sector-specific content instruction. Optional Support ESL classes such as grammar, pronunciation, and a learning lab provide supplementary, “soft skill” instruction to promote students’ persistence and prepare them for the workforce.

ACLI also offers tailored workplace training in collaboration with local businesses to develop their employees’ language skills and improve productivity. These services are provided at NOVA campuses and at the workplace. In both the Part-Time ESL and ESL for the Workplace programs, ACLI staff have accelerated the use of data to evaluate, redesign, and tailor curriculum to improve training and target student and employer needs more effectively.

Program Description and Background

ACLI evolved out of noncredit ESL programs that Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) established in the mid-1980s. These programs were operated independently at different campuses until 2009, when the college established a task force to coordinate all ESL programs and create a core set of noncredit courses to be taught on five NOVA campuses.

ACLI comprises an Intensive English Program and a Part-Time Program that provide instruction in the four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening). ACLI also offers specialty courses in test preparation and current events for higher-level students. The Intensive English Program prepares local immigrant residents (long-time and recent arrivals) and international students for college-level classes and associate degrees. The Part-Time Program prepares local students for future careers and improves their social skills in English.

ACLI has served more than 32,000 students since 2009. The average ACLI student spends two semesters in the program. As of spring 2017, the majority of ACLI’s 1,274 students were local residents who emigrated from more than 75 countries. International F-1 visa students represented 27 percent of ACLI participants. Approximately 41 percent of ACLI students are enrolled full-time and are high school graduates seeking associate degrees from NOVA. The other 59 percent are enrolled part-time and are seeking to improve their workplace English skills or enter workforce credential programs.

Key Goals 

ACLI strives to increase educational and career opportunities for its immigrant and international students in several ways:

  • Prepare students for successful transition into an associate degree or a workforce credential program
  • Develop students’ workforce and communication skills to become productive community members
  • Prepare students to move from lower- to higher-paying jobs


Please share your comments @CCCIE or success stories in a short paragraph description on Facebook. Let us know why it was a success. Is your college training immigrants in the culture and language of the workplace? How does your college provide immigrant students pathways from part-time ESL to workforce credentials? We’d like to hear from you! 

Next in this blog series: Using Data to Design Programs for Immigrant Student Achievement

For more information, contact:

Keila Louzada, ESL Program Coordinator, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Cynthia Hatch, ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Jill Casner-Lotto, Director, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education,

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Apply Today to Our New Veterinary Assistant Program!


Do you love animals? Do you have a passion for health and promoting well-being? Then consider pursuing NOVA Workforce’s latest offering: the Veterinary Assistant Program!

NOVA’s brand new Veterinary Assistant program prepares students to assist and support licensed veterinary technicians and veterinarians in the health and handling of small domestic animals and exotic species.

Earn valuable industry stackable credentials and become a designated Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA)! NOVA is one of 18 community colleges in the United States that has received approval through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).

Upon successful completion of this course, students will sit for the AVA National Exam administered by National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).

In the Veterinary Assistant Program, you’ll learn:

  • Communication and client relations
  • Pharmacology
  • Small animal nursing
  • Examination room procedures
  • Surgical preparation and assisting
  • Laboratory procedures
  • Radiology


The program is 150 hours of didactic and hands-on learning and 100 hours of clinical experience. Clinical hours and dates will be discussed in class.

NOVA Workforce also offers an additional certification during this course: Fear Free Practitioner Certification. Books, Fear Free Training, and NAVTA Exam fee are included in tuition.

To learn more about the program and application, click here: Apply Today!

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HIRE Education Conference

Leaders from community colleges across Virginia gathered last week at the 2017 HIRE Education Conference. The HIRE Conference is an annual event serving leaders at community colleges by creating a forum to share best practices and learnings about the evolving economic landscape as it relates to education and career pathways.

The conference focused on best practices within the field of Workforce Development, a critical division within local community colleges that connects economic trends and labor market research with talent development opportunities and training for students.

Glenn Dubois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, gave the keynote speech on opening night. He spoke about the influence of Virginia’s community colleges and about the value of the Fast Forward VA initiative, which helps Virginians quickly develop more opportunities within their careers by gaining necessary training and credentials.

The NOVA Workforce team participated in the event and had the opportunity to lead two breakout sessions.

The first breakout session led by NOVA Workforce was titled “Leveraging Labor Market Research to Inform Your Business Engagement Strategy.” The speakers were NOVA Workforce’s Melanie Stover, Director of Strategic Business Engagement, and Alex Cooley, Labor Market Information Analyst. John Shaw, partner of NOVA Workforce and representative of Northern Virginia Technology Council, also led the discussion.

The second session led by NOVA Workforce, titled “Using Internships Effectively as a Career Readiness Tool,” was led by Erika Coddington, Student Engagement Coordinator, and Michelle Crespo, Career Services Specialist.

The conference also included a showcase for each of the colleges at the event to highlight their work. NOVA Workforce demonstrated how it addressed the issue of unqualified students seeking credential programs simply because the programs are a low cost and increase employability.  NOVA Workforce’s process of pre-assessments, certifications as prerequisites, and advising for proper programs has nearly doubled the pass rate of certification tests. Building on this concept, NOVA Workforce believes it can continue to increase enrollment and success rates, and ultimately, employment outcomes for students. Viewers of the showcase, from college to VCCS staff to the Chancellor himself, were impressed and eager to learn more.

At the final session on Thursday, a graduate on the Virginia Community College system shared how her educational experiences have empowered her to change her career and her life. The student’s testimony was a moving reminder of the impact of workforce development opportunities within the community, not just at a broad level, but also on an individual level as educational and job opportunities change lives.

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Northern Virginia Community College Announces Amazon Apprenticeship Program

This will be the first Amazon apprenticeship program to be launched on the East Coast.

November 2, 2017 (Herndon, VA) – Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced a new innovative apprenticeship program designed to train veterans in northern Virginia. The announcement marks the launch of the first-ever apprenticeship programs for AWS on the East Coast.

The apprenticeship program is designed to fill a growing need for tech talent in the northern Virginia region. In October 2017, there were 23,000 job postings for employment opportunities in the tech sector in northern Virginia. The apprenticeship program will train individuals for Associate Cloud Consultant (ACC) positions. This all-veteran cohort entered training at NOVA for 16 weeks and will continue with on-the-job training at the AWS Herndon headquarters. Throughout the course of their program, apprentices will earn a series of highly-technical industry certifications that are in-demand by the technology sector, including: CompTIA Network+, Linux+, and the AWS Solutions Architect.

“The Amazon Apprenticeship program takes veterans who are a great fit for Amazon culture and helps them build the technical skills that they need to be cloud support associates — a high-demand technical role,” said Ardine Williams, Vice President of Human Resources for Worldwide Operations at Amazon and Army veteran. “Thanks to our strong and experienced partner the Northern Virginia Community College we have a great curriculum for our veteran cohort in Northern Virginia and are excited to launch our program here. Together, we’re looking forward to learning and growing with our apprentices so that we can refine and scale the program to help meet America’s growing demand for tech talent.”

The northern Virginia region has three times the average number of IT workers when compared to the rest of the United States. This apprenticeship program is an example of how business and education can creatively and successfully collaborate to address unique workforce challenges. NOVA’s large student veteran population and diverse offering of technology training programs help businesses find the highly-skilled tech talent they need to succeed, ensuring that the region remains economically competitive.

“NOVA is honored to partner with AWS to address the increasing demand for highly-skilled tech workers,” said Dr. Scott Ralls, President, NOVA. “Advanced training programs like the AWS apprenticeship are core to NOVA’s mission to meet the needs of regional employers and provide career pathways for students in high-growth industries.”

For additional information about apprenticeship programs at Northern Virginia Community College, please contact Steven Partridge, Vice President of Workforce Development at

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NVTC and NOVA – A Partnership that Matters

By Dr. Scott Ralls, President, Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia’s technology companies have an urgent need for talented employees. I heard that loud and clear the other day when one of our region’s leading CEOs called me to discuss strategies for the challenges he and other tech employers are facing. The challenges are clearly reflected in the data, validating the angst that our technology employers are feeling and the urgency for our region to be laser focused on workforce development.

Approximately 30 percent of all job openings in our metropolitan region last year were in information technology, translating into 161,000 total IT positions. We have more than double the number of cybersecurity job postings of any area of the country, and last year actually had more vacancies advertised for cybersecurity analysts than we had people working in that job category. At only 8,000 IT graduates produced annually across all degree categories from all colleges and universities in our region, we are barely scratching the surface to meet the demand for new IT workers required by one of the nation’s leading technology hubs.

That is why the partnership between NOVA and NVTC is imperative. Meeting a significant regional challenge will require collective input across employers and educational institutions, and NOVA is committed to aggressive, strategic partnering with our employer community and educational colleagues to address this challenge. Doing so is the right thing for the future prosperity of our region, and it opens doors of opportunity to our students who already live in this region and aspire for good local careers.

It is critical for educational institutions and businesses to partner together to attract and retain a talented workforce. This type of partnership will better serve to develop training and workforce needs within the Northern Virginia region, ultimately allowing businesses to remain economically competitive. We hope to better prepare our students for the labor market once they complete their studies at NOVA by providing them with the right resources to enter the workforce. We also want to collaborate with the technology business community by responding to changing employer needs and providing a qualified pipeline of workers with the right skills needed for the job from day one.

Aggressive partnering also helps us maintain one of the most notable attributes of our college. Even though we have never lost a football game, NOVA doesn’t appear in any top 20 college football rankings or hardly any other traditional metrics by which colleges are often compared. But research by a Stanford economist recently indicated that we are one of the best colleges in the nation for fostering socio-economic mobility for our students. This is an accomplishment made possible by having a region with a wealth of job opportunities paired with our college focus to prepare our students to grasp those opportunities.

We value our partnership with NVTC because it allows us to strengthen and grow workforce development efforts, to ensure that our investments and efforts are hitting the right targets, and to maximize our impact for our students and the communities and region we serve.

This opinion editorial was originally published in the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s The Voice of Technology magazine in October 2017.

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