Employees at Aaon finish their shift at the Tulsa-based manufacturer by walking off the floor right into an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. The ESL classes are part of an expansion of a workforce initiative to remove both language barriers and transportation barriers.

“At Aaon, we believe in a corporate social responsibility that includes career readiness and lifelong learning,” said Stephanie Cameron, Aaon community relations administrator. “For us, this is about empowering our team members and developing leaders from within. We’ve seen great results by offering the classes on-site.”

Aaon makes semi-custom HVAC equipment and employs individuals from 39 different countries. ESL classes, which Aaon began providing in fall 2017, are offered four nights a week at the company’s facility.

“The partnership with Aaon is an example of workforce development by helping individuals advance in their job, and at the same time, working with a local company on how best to serve their employees,” said Leigh B. Goodson, TCC president and CEO.

More than 200 employees have participated in the three levels of ESL classes: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The beginning level covers everyday or “survival” English.

“As the individuals move through the classes, we begin to cover industry- and Aaon-specific vocabulary and technical writing in the intermediate and advanced levels,” said Daniel Chaboya, TCC ESL director.

Aaon believes this project creates a more welcoming and inclusive workplace. Following the ESL classes, additional support is given for those who go on to earn safety certificates or move into college-level coursework. The company has even promoted employee participants to supervisors or managers.

TCC and Aaon believe the collaborative effort supports the recently launched New Tulsans Initiative, a citywide effort that focuses on welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into the community.

“We value our employees. We’ve had tremendous success because our employees know they are a priority.” said Eneida Guerrero, Aaon human resources manager.

Publication date: 4/24/2019

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