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Examining the Impact of Workplace Literacy Programs on the Structure of Social Networks: A Study of Low-Income Somali Refugee Workers
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on February 24, 2021 in categoryFacts & Research

In the most recent issue of our research journal, Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, Angela U. Nwude and Anna Zajicek, of the University of Arkansas wrote the article “Examining the Impact of Workplace Literacy Programs on the Structure of Social Networks: A Study of Low-Income Somali Refugee Workers.” In it, they look at how workplace literacy programs allowed Somali refugees to build stronger ties with co-workers, positively impacting their social networks.  


Read an excerpt here:  


Recognizing the low levels of literacy among large segments of the U.S. labor force and the need to enhance the economic mobility of America’s working poor (Bernstein, 2017), the U.S. government established the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). Pursuant to the WIOA (2014), workplace literacy programs have been recognized as useful strategies for improving the literacy of educationally disadvantaged workers. The term “workplace literacy program” simply refers to a literacy or education program typically carried out at the workplace or in a setting provided by the employer (Milkulecky & Lloyd, 1997). Rather than teaching abstract skills, workplace literacy programs are needs-oriented, and aim at strengthening literacy skills such as reading, writing, listening, computation, speaking/language, and critical reasoning skills (Morgan et al., 2017). Over the years, these programs have benefitted immigrants, including refugees, and non-immigrant workers equipping them with the skill set necessary to succeed in the workforce, improve organization’s performance, as well as advance their personal and professional development (Wood, 2010). In accordance with the provisions of the WIOA, workplace literacy programs are typically examined in the context of their economic benefits, conceptualized as human capital, essential for employment and productivity. However, emerging research suggests that the outcomes of these programs exceed economic benefits to include the promotion of social relationships– networks– that are fostered through learning (Kilpatrick et al., 2003; Schuller 2017). These social relationships have been associated with different outcomes – positive and negative – conceptualized and documented in the literature as social capital (Balatti et al., 2006; Field & Spence, 2000). 

 

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