Frequently Asked Questions
What is the I-Drive ESOL Pilot Program?
The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program for workers in the International Drive Resort Area offers English language instruction tailored to the needs of working adults in the I-Drive corridor, and is provided in partnership with area employers. Currently a pilot program, the classes began in September 2022 and consist of three 8-week sessions. The second session began in mid-January 2023 and the program will conclude in June 2023.
Who is offering this program?
Orange County Government is offering this program, and the pilot partners are UCF Global for the language instruction and data analysis, Aeras Foundation for digital devices, and Rosen Hotels & Resorts as the participating employer providing students (Rosen associates) and class space.
Why is the program being offered?
With nearly 75,000 workers, the International Drive Resort Area is the heart of economic activity for Orange County’s tourism industry and is home to the Orange County Convention Center, major theme parks, hotels, restaurants, and shopping venues.
Orange County’s I-Drive Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Advisory Group that guides CRA strategy in this tourism corridor suggested a learning opportunity for area workers because limited language proficiency leads to challenges in communicating with visitors to Central Florida, as well as with simply living in a largely English-speaking community.
As with many major industries around the country, hiring and retaining workers is a challenge, and the opportunity for these workers to upskill is seen as a benefit.
What is a CRA?
Under Florida law, local governments can designate areas as a Community Redevelopment Area when certain conditions exist, so that resources and funding can be used to foster and support redevelopment of the targeted area. There are currently over 220 Community Redevelopment Areas in the State of Florida. To obtain a current list, visit the Florida DEO website.
The International Drive Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) was created in 1998 based upon a finding of the existence of transportation-related blight within the area. A robust redevelopment plan was drafted and since that time, numerous transportation related projects have been completed. To be more inclusive, collaborative and innovative, the International Drive CRA Redevelopment Plan expanded the scope and utilization of CRA resources to impact more than transportation. Four additional areas of opportunity have been identified. They are:
- Affordable and Attainable Housing
- Economic Development
- The ESOL instruction program is related to economic development
- Community Cultural and Institutional Programs
- Beautification and Aesthetics
Who can take the classes?
For the pilot program, select hotel and resort properties within the International Drive CRA were invited to extend the opportunity to participate in ESOL classes to their employees. Only Rosen Hotels & Resorts accepted the offer and nearly 60 associates signed up for session one, with some 100 more expressing interest.
Who is paying for it?
Funding for the instructional elements is being paid by Orange County Government from CRA funding to UCF Global. The total investment for the pilot program is $127,510 for program design, delivery, digital devices, and data analysis.
How is the effectiveness of the program being measured?
Metrics are being collected by UCF Global, these include participant needs assessments (demographics, barriers to learning, reasons for participation), skills assessments on speaking, reading, writing, listening), student satisfaction, and employer operational impact.
What kind of classes are they?
UCF Global leads the program design and delivery of coursework and instruction. The program runs in 8-week cycles, and provides participants with three course options:
- Face to face: 2 in-person, on-site classes per week with an instructor
- Hybrid: A mix of in-person and online classes with instructor-led and self-paced components
- Online immersion: Asynchronous coursework with 2 virtual meetings with instructor
Do the workers have to pay to attend?
No, classes are presented at no charge to the participants. In fact, recognizing the value this brings to students, Rosen Hotels & Resorts is paying their associates to attend classes, so they do not have to choose between work or home life and learning English. In addition, Rosen Hotels & Resorts elected to provide space for the pilot program classes.
Is it available at other hotels?
The opportunity to participate was offered to select hotels but only Rosen Hotels & Resorts chose to participate. With the success of the pilot program, it is anticipated that other hotels will see the value and choose to offer the classes to their employees. As the pilot program reaches an end, Orange County will review the data collected and determine the best way to operationalize the program.
What languages are offered?
Currently, the instructors are fluent in Spanish, Creole (Haitian), and of course, English.
Are there plans to offer instruction in other native languages?
While there are no specific plans to expand the curriculum in that manner, the program will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community as directed by Orange County’s I-Drive CRA Advisory Group.
What ESOL opportunities are available today outside of the pilot?
ESOL instruction is offered through Orange County Public Schools, the Orange County Public Library, and our community and state colleges.
How can other businesses get involved?
Businesses who wish to learn more about the program, it’s offerings and opportunities to partner with Orange County in the future can visit www.ocfl.net/ESOL or directly email Marthaly Irizarry with the Office of Economic Development at Marthaly.Irizarry@ocfl.net.