READ/SAN DIEGO AND ITS PARTNERS
Partnerships with businesses bring READ/San Diego to the workplace to teach literacy and other work-based skills. Some workplace programs function much like one-on-one tutoring, with employees matched up in tutor-learner pairs. Other programs offer courses customized to meet the needs of a specific employer and workforce.
At the City of San Diego's Water Department, a READ/San Diego staff member teaches reading comprehension and test-taking skills to employees in preparation for a newly mandated certification test. Unlike other READ/San Diego programs, however, participants in this class, called "Club 70," use reading materials taken directly from the water department. READ/San Diego staff believe that using materials relevant to their work motivates learners in the workplace who have been out of school for quite awhile.
The course name, Club 70, comes from the passing score that test takers must achieve to be certified by the state. This test requires not only literacy, but also specific occupational knowledge. If employees fail the test, they risk losing their jobs. Concerned about large numbers of employees at risk of failing the test, the training staff at the water department decided to offer an intensive, customized on-site program to help employees meet the new guidelines.
After investigating various adult literacy providers, the water department decided that the services offered by READ/San Diego would best serve their employees' needs. Club 70 runs for fourteen weeks, for two hours a week. The city pays for half of each employee's time; employees attend for the remaining hours on their own time. At first, it was a challenge to convince employees to enroll in Club 70. Many resisted, believing that eventually the law would change and they would not need to take the test. Others feared the stigma of being seen as someone with poor literacy skills, something the name Club 70 was devised to diminish. To encourage participation, READ/San Diego partnered with the water department to distribute flyers and newsletters and spread the word among employees.
So far, the program has seen much success; 63 percent of learners who take the Club 70 course pass the certification test, a pass rate higher than the state average. The water department measures success on an individual level, too. As a department staff member noted, "We are successful if one person passes the test that couldn't before the class, because he keeps his job and can be promoted." In addition, employees who pass a certification level higher than their current job receive a raise. Managers and employees now see Club 70 as an important route to career advancement.
The Club 70 partnership greatly benefits both the water department and READ/San Diego. READ/San Diego provides an instructor, training, and the customized curriculum, and the water department receives high-quality training and retains employees it might otherwise lose. Besides compensation for its services, READ/San Diego also gains visibility among other city agencies that may want to implement similar programs. A similar program recently began at the city's wastewater department. According to water department staff, READ/San Diego's services are invaluable to the city because "overall, the city of San Diego will have better employees."
Both partners are gratified by the impact of Club 70 and are looking for ways to supplement their success. In addition to continuing the weekly Club 70 classes, the water department is now offering intensive seminars on topics discussed in Club 70 classes. READ/San Diego has begun to refer learners who may have learning disabilities to specialists, so that these employees can receive special testing accommodations.