Job Promotions One Result of Better English Skills

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Lamb Weston/BSW recognized employees’ promotions achieved through participation in BBCC Workplace ESL classes. From left to right: Plant Manager Andy Bateman, José Ricardo Hernandez, Dimitar Mandavski, José O. Martinez, Ruth Colunga, and Lamb Weston Continuous Improvement Specialist Pete Ortega. –BBCC photo

For Immediate Release

November 30, 2011

Contact: Doug Sly 509-793-2004

Job promotions one result of better English skills

Lamb Weston/BSW employees in Warden are getting job promotions due to hard work in the classroom and the company’s commitment to adult literacy education.

The importance of adult literacy education—to the company and its employees– was highlighted during recognition of four Lamb Weston/BSW employees at their worksite classroom Nov. 18.

All four employees were promoted to more responsible positions after improving their English skills. “We learned early on we need to invest in our employees to promote from within,” said plant manager Andy Bateman. The program started in 2007 and more than 50 employees have attended English classes since then.

Lamb Weston/BSW provides a classroom at the potato processing plant, and pays the students their regular wage for time spent attending classes.

“They work 12-hour shifts, they are tired, and they come to class after work, ” said Joanne  DeLaRosa, who teaches the class for Big Bend Community College. “They are dedicated and  motivated.”Many workers at the Warden plant commute from Moses Lake, Othello, and Royal City.
“It affects their work life, and their family life,” said Pete Ortega, Lamb Weston Continuous Improvement Specialist. Ortega, a BBCC alum who graduated from the University of Washington, was the first instructor for the program in 2006. He developed models to improve skills needed by the company.

Jose Hernandez has worked at Lamb Weston for 20 years. He started in packaging, but has been
promoted to operator. “I want to be a lead in the future,” he said. “Lamb Weston has given me the opportunity. We don’t even have to go to the campus, the instructor comes to us.”

Dimtar Mandavski came from Bulgaria two years ago. He started at Lamb Weston as a general laborer, and has been promoted to Quality Assurance Auditor since improving his English skills. “This gives me opportunities for other advances here at Lamb Weston, he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn English and better my life.”

Jose Martinez has been with the company for three years. He has been promoted to operator. “It is nice to be able to communicate better with the people I work with, he said. “I like coming to English classes after work. I don’t have to travel to attend classes. BBCC comes to us.”

Ruth Colunga has been in the state 11 years, and she and her husband have three children. She’s worked at Lamb Weston for nine years. “I’ve studied English for three years now. It is helping me and my family.”

All four employees gave short speeches in English at the recognition ceremony. “It’s difficult to speak in a language that is not your first language in front of the plant manager,” said Sandy Cheek, BBCC Basic Skills Director. “They did a great job, and we were proud of them.”

“It is important to recognize this type of partnership. We don’t have enough skilled workers to fill many important positions. This is what innovation looks like,” Cheek said.

While most of the students are Spanish-speaking employees, several are from Eastern Europe, and in the process of taking the English course, they learned Spanish, Ortega said.

Classes follow the BBCC quarter system, are available to all employees, and are voluntary.
“In addition to developing their English skills, the classes have increased team building and teamwork at the plant,” Ortega said.

More than 300 employees work at the Warden plant producing french fries, hash browns and other products. The Warden plant was named by Wendy’s as its Supplier of the Year in 2008 and 2010. The plant strives to be the preferred supplier for both Wendy’s and Burger King, said company officials.