Wheel 717x252 

(WHEEL) Plus - Worksite Held Employee English Learning program

Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce 80As the only First 5 Sonoma County-funded program that targets the private sector, the WHEEL program is uniquely positioned to address Sonoma County’s need for the participation of businesses as community advocates for early education. The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce created the Worksite Held Employee English Learning program (WHEEL) program to provide English language classes for employees at their place of employment. Through First 5 Sonoma County support, WHEEL has expanded to focus on the development of family-friendly policies and practices to support parents of children 0-5 in the workplace.  As a result of WHEEL’s efforts, the North Bay Business Journal has begun highlighting the most Family-Friendly Workplaces in its annual publication of the Best Places to Work in Sonoma County.

Upstreams Tier 3 InnovativeSince 2011, WHEEL has engaged 80+ businesses to teach employers about the importance of and return on investments in early childhood and inform them about community resources.  Participation in WHEEL provides local businesses with an opportunity to increase their productivity and profits while improving community conditions and supporting the growth of healthy families.

WHEEL supports businesses in implementing Family-Friendly Policies and Practices, such as:

  • Schedule Flexibility
  • Flextime
  • Flexplace/telecommuting
  • Choices in managing time
  • Parental/ family leave
  • Time off when important needs arise
    Associated business benefits include:
  • Improved employee morale and productivity
  • Increased employee recruitment

Lactation-Friendly Workplace

  • Mothers with infants are one of the largest and fastest growing segments in the U.S. workforce
  • Employers have a legal obligation to support breastfeeding and provide nursing mothers the time and space they need

Associated business benefits include:

  • A return of $3 for every $1 invested in breastfeeding support
  • Increased employee recruitment, retention and productivity
  • Reduced employee absenteeism and health care costs
  • A family-friendly image in the community

Provide Resources for High-Quality Child Care

  • Offer support as an employee chooses child care
  • Conduct a short workshop for staff on choosing child care
  • Offer a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account

Associated business benefits include:

  • Help ease the burden the employee is carrying as they return to work and maintain productivity
  • Improve employee morale

Provide Tax Preparation Resources

  • Offer resources about free, quality tax return preparation to low-to-moderate income households
  • Ensure that those who qualify take advantage of The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of the federal government’s largest resources for working low-income Americans
  • EITC reduces the amount of income tax low to- moderate income families are required to pay
    Associated business benefits include:
  • Tax refunds are beneficial to families as well as the local economy
  • More jobs are created, more wages are paid, and eventually more tax revenue comes back to state and local governments

Provide Onsite Training and Education

Provide a safe environment for employees to learn and offer customizable programming including:

English classes

  • English classes offered to employees at the workplace
  • Tailored curriculum can include industry specific language
  • Employees average a 15% gain in life skills and reading assessment during first 8-week session of English classes
  • Employees that participated in eight 8-week sessions increased their basic English skills 88.9%

Financial literacy

  • 2-4 hour workshop offered at the workplace
  • Features topics such as household budgeting, money management, establishing and building good credit and financing a car or home

School engagement

  • 1 hour workshop offered at the workplace
  • Connects employees with representatives from their child’s local school district to educate parents on what they can do to ensure their child’s success

Volunteer opportunities

  • Help your employees become involved in community-wide efforts, either for a one-day project or on an ongoing basis

Associated business benefits include:

  • Improved employee morale
  • Lower turnover and absenteeism
  • Improved safety
  • Improved workplace communication

Most WHEEL elements can be coordinated at low or no cost to participating businesses.

Contact Leslie Andersen at (707) 636-3662 to learn more about WHEEL and how you can get your business involved. 

WHEEL in the News:

WHEEL Evaluation Report: http://www.first5sonomacounty.org/documents/WHEEL_Plus_2014_Evaluation_Report_3_25_14.pdf