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Occupational English training

Published (3/13/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Anyone looking for a job in the middle of the recession knows how hard it is, but imagine doing it without being able to speak English.

That’s the situation many people face in the state’s Southeast Asian immigrant community, where unemployment is rampant and a lack of English language skills makes it difficult to find jobs.

Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls) offers what he thinks will be a partial solution to the problem in HF744. The bill would appropriate an as-yet-undetermined amount of money to fund a project in Hennepin County that helps Southeast Asians learn workplace English and overcome cultural barriers. The focus would be on refugees and immigrant welfare recipients.

“Under our present system, usually they have to take regular English, and that takes years for them,” Mullery said. “Meanwhile, they can’t become full citizens of society, working and paying taxes and things like that, supporting their families.”

Joe Vang, Minnesota Family Investment Program coordinator for the Centre for Asians and Pacific Islanders, said language and cultural barriers make it difficult for Asian immigrants to interview for jobs or even use computers to submit resumes online.

The House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division approved the bill March 11 and referred it to the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division.

Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park) sponsors the companion, SF1127, which awaits action by the Senate Economic Development and Housing Budget Division.

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