Non-English speakers face a dilemma in leveraging the opportunities your workforce board provides; they may be some of the people most in need of your services, but the least likely to take advantage of them due to language barriers. Serve those who speak Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese or any other language spoken in your community by hiring bilingual employees. Let's look at how hiring bilingual employees benefits your clients and your career center:

Expands Your Center's Offerings

Hiring bilingual employees enables you to offer and participate in programs with a bilingual appeal. For instance, the Bilingual and Diversity Job Fairs travel around the country helping connect job seekers with employers in need of bilingual employees.1 This year the Chicago Bilingual and Diversity Job Fair joined forces with participants from local school districts, the University of Notre Dame, major corporations such as American Family Insurance, and federal government agencies to serve bilingual job seekers in the Chicago area.2 Candidates receive a job fair orientation before attending employer booths. Examples of other bilingual programs career centers can offer or participate in include English as a Second Language, English targeted at workers in specific industries such as hospitality, and resume writing workshops for Spanish speakers.

Increases Community Outreach

Bilingual employees can also help you promote your events and services to non-English speaking audiences and network with immigrant communities. For example, in partnership with Prudential and the State Department, YouthBuild recently organized a Prudential YouthBuild Service Day which brought together Opportunity Youth from Arizona, Mexico, and El Salvador to build green homes for low-income families.3 Having bilingual employees on your staff can help you organize these types of events with local non-English speaking communities to help raise awareness of your career center. In the process, your organization can build partnerships with businesses seeking to hire bilingual speakers. Bilingual employees who understand the cultural complexities within your local community can help you organize these types of events and build bridges to the local business community, while at the same time helping you network within the immigrant communities.

Improves Your Bilingual Communication and Online Presence

Bilingual employees help you improve your communication both within your workforce center and when communicating externally. For instance, having a bilingual Spanish/English employee in the office can help you talk to Spanish-only speakers who visit your center; having a bilingual Chinese-English employee can also help you field phone calls from Chinese-speaking callers. Likewise, having a bilingual proofreader on staff helps ensure that letters you send to non-English readers are properly worded and don't sound like a computer translated them. Bilingual proofreaders can similarly help you avoid costly mistakes when signing documents or preparing packages to mail.

In addition, bilingual employees can help you prepare a version of your blog in the language(s) spoken by members of your community. For instance, the Literacy Information and Communication System Learner Center offers both English and Spanish resources on its website.4 Providing such bilingual content makes it easier to develop an online presence among Spanish speakers and reach your target audience through your online promotions.

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Resources: Photo credit(1) Diversity Jobs (2) Chicago Bilingual and Diversity Job Fair 2016 (3) Prudential (4) Literacy Information and Communication System