Editorial: Classes to teach English needed for Dickinson workersEveryone must practice patience, but it doesn’t mean business owners can’t be more proactive in who they hire.
Everyone must practice patience, but it doesn’t mean business owners can’t be more proactive in who they hire.
Finding and retaining employees is tough in southwest North Dakota. An oil boom is calling many to work in The Patch, leaving few to take on customer service-related positions. Dickinson’s 2 percent unemployment and extreme housing shortage has created real challenges for all employers but you can’t blame consumers' frustration when those who speak English as their first language are working in the background while the person waiting on them can’t read the menu.
However, retail outlets and fast food chains need clerks that can speak English — at least a little bit .
Walking into a fast food restaurant and waiting behind 15 people because a clerk doesn’t understand more than the numbers of a combo meal means turning around and walking out for many. While we know it is hard to find help, placing non-English speaking workers in a frontline customer service position is not only unfair to the worker but the customer waiting to be served.
And it’s not just fast food establishments; convenience stores, retail outlets and other business are guilty, as well. Every new employee has a learning curve that requires specific training and the ability to communicate with customers should be at the top of the list.
Productive employees will enhance any business and there must be other positions those working on their English language skills can fit into. It’s likely they will be more productive if they aren’t expected to try to interpret a language they don’t understand. It’s likely there will also be a sense of relief when taken out of a position where there are likely angry and impatient people.
Just like the creative thinking being used to find homes for new workers a solution needs to be put in place to address their language problems at work and allow them to function in the community. Saying they should learn English or else doesn’t address the real problem of finding help to replace those who have left for The Patch.
America was built by immigrants who all had their own language struggles. There may be an opportunity for employers to work with schools, churches or the university to provide English classes for workers with language challenges to function in Dickinson’s rapidly changing environment.
Dickinson Press Publisher Harvey Brock and Managing Editor Jennifer McBride sit on the Editorial Board.