Workers' Education Program


© José A. Soler del Valle

Learn more about the Workers' Education Program!

As a key part of the Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center, the Workers' Education Program (WEP) was created and is supported by the Labor Education Center. The program began in 1986, to bring English classes to union Needle Trades workers in their factories and has grown steadily since.  This program offers free Adult Basic Education classes funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. These classes have included Citizenship, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and General Educational Development (GED). Over the years, the WEP has offered classes in factories, union halls, and community centers in the New Bedford and Fall River areas.  

Some Important Facts about the WEP
We are a Tier One Adult Basic Education Program: The WEP isone of only three programs in the state's 100 plus programs to maintain consistently high performance in all areas including Attendance, Average Attended Hours, Pre/Post Assessment Administration, Learner Gains, Student Goals, and Level Completion.  Students attended 46,530 hours of classes last year.
We have earned Excess of $4 Million in grants and contracts.  These funds have provided hundreds of classes to adult learners allowing them to develop literacy skills needed to qualify for further education, job training, and better employment, and to reach their full potential as family members, productive workers, and citizens. 
We are a service learning placement site.  More than 80 UMass Dartmouth undergrad students have completed service learning at the WEP.  They volunteer in our program and work with our teachers and students as teaching assistants.  Currently, we have 6 university students working in this capacity.

Our workplace education programs help area companies and workers improve language, literacy, communication, and problem solving skills essential for survival in today's global economy.  The WEP has extensive experience in all phases of workplace education including grant writing and reporting, workplace needs analysis, assessment, and contextualized curriculum development. Past partners include Esterline-Kirkhill TA/Haskon Division/UE, A.J. Wright Distribution Center/UNITE HERE, Brandon Woods Nursing Home/1199SEIU, and Stop & Shop Distribution Center/Teamsters. 
The Workers' Education Program goals are: to develop communication, reading, writing, and computer skills to increase knowledge of workers' rights to develop skills which may lead to job placement, retention, or advancement. As our adult learners work towards these goals, they develop increased self-esteem. They become more confident and better able to participate in their classes, children's schools, unions, jobs, and communities.
Some ways that unions can participate in supporting WEP are:

  1. Helping place students in good jobs through contact with the program about open positions
  2. Referring union members to the Hi-Set classes, formerly GED, to earn their high school diploma 
  3. When the grant cycle is open, working directly with WEP and company management to offer classes in your workplace

The key to the success of this program has been the dedicated and often unsung heroes, the teachers, teacher's aides, advisors, support staff and of course, the tireless and very talented leader, Director Lisa Jochim.  We'd like to recognize the tremendous staff:
Crystal Jones, John of the Trinity, Peg Riley, Judith A. Gaseidnes Donald W. France Jr., Donna Teixeira, Matt Ryckebusch, Susan B. P. Alves, Joanne Pinsonneault, Carla Melo, Paula Barry, Sophia Rose and Lori-Ann DeResendes.
The working people of this area founded this university. The Workers' Education Program is for these very same people. Our staff and teachers look forward to continuing to bring the resources of the state and university to the Greater New Bedford and Fall River communities.

Meet a Teacher!

To learn more about the committed staff of WEP, we would like to introduce one.  Matt Ryckebusch has been teaching at the WEP program for 15 years.  He has also taught English classes for credit on the main campus for these years.  He is now full time with WEP.  Matt was inspired by the popular education teaching approach, made known more broadly by the work of Paulo Freire.  The Labor Education Center's Labor Extension Program is also guided by popular education in facilitating workers to respect themselves as learners, understand their problems and come to collective solutions together.  Matt believes in empowering people to change their lives through literacy.  Matt, as does WEP on the whole, believes in seeing students holistically, not only as students in the classroom.  With this approach he understands that through adult education, everything students learn impacts other parts of student lives.
Matt has been deeply inspired by his mother, a long time leader of the labor movement through her union at Bristol Community College.  She is honored in the Labor Education Center's labor history mural in New Bedford.

Mission Statement

To provide each and every adult with opportunities to develop literacy skills needed to qualify for further education, job training, and better employment, and to reach his/her full potential as a family member, productive worker, and citizen.