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.
Why is the program being offered?
With nearly 90,000 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?
Employers within the International Drive CRA can to extend the opportunity to participate in ESOL classes to their employees. At this time, the funded program is limited to employers and employees within the I-Drive CRA footprint. Employees do not have to live within the CRA, but they must work here.
Who is paying for it?
Funding for the instructional elements is being paid by Orange County Government from CRA funding. The FY23-24 funding for the program is $450,000.
How is the effectiveness of the program being measured?
Metrics are being collected through participant needs assessments (demographics, barriers to learning, reasons for participation), skills assessments (speaking, reading, writing, listening), student satisfaction, and employer operational impact.
What kind of classes are they?
The program runs in 8-week cycles, and provides participants with three course options:
- Face to face: 2 in-person, on-site or near-off-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. Employers are asked to compensate participants for their time in class so that they do not have to choose between learning and earning.
Is it available at other hotels?
The program will accommodate as many students as the FY23-24 approved funding allows.
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 Renuka Sastri with the Office of Economic Development at Renuka.Sastri@ocfl.net.