According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the U.S. workforce grew by 16.7 million people during the 1990s. And 38 percent of these workers were immigrants. These days, roughly one in every seven U.S. workers is an immigrant [source: NCSL]. Employers are responding by offering on-the-job training in non-English speakers' native languages to help ensure they develop the skills necessary to perform their jobs. By doing so, employers can make sure their staff are properly trained and have reasonable opportunities for promotion and advancement in a predominantly English-speaking environment.
To understand the necessity of providing non-English instruction to employees, you have to consider that according to the 2000 U.S. Census, one out of every five U.S. residents speaks a foreign language at home. In strict numbers, this translates into more than 45 million people. But this data is approaching the end of its shelf life. Of course, this is not to say that their native language is their only language; most respondents report being able to speak English, too. But when you consider the number of workers in the U.S. whose primary language is not English, effectively training such a large percentage of the workforce is critical.
Providing training in someone's native language becomes even more important in work environments that may be dangerous, such as construction sites or jobs in which heavy machinery is involved. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the division of the U.S. Department of Labor responsible for enforcing safety and health standards for workers, mandates that training be provided in a language the worker understands [source: Occupational Health & Safety].
In the next section, we'll take a look at some of the specialized methods for conducting professional development programs.