Young workers and immigrant populations experience some of the highest rates of occupational injury and illness in the United States. Among young workers, reported incidents can be generally attributed to inexperience in their field, less information and training, and other factors specific to the occupation, industry sector or career cluster. Additionally, many young immigrant, migrant, and refugee workers are unaware of state or city wage and labor laws, and thus are at-risk of being taken advantage of by employers. This situation is also in part due to language barriers, lack of adult support, and feeling as if they are often left to navigate the employment system on their own, i.e., with neither agency nor school support. Moreover, these students have no clear voice for advocacy, are unaware of their rights as a worker, and typically do not have the same mentorship to provide occupational information or support. At present, there are no formalized free, online training programs tailored to young adult, immigrant students which teach occupational safety and health (S&H), child labor laws, and wage and hour laws. This study analyzed effectiveness, and student and teacher perceptions of an online introductory training course on occupational S&H.
The New Jersey (NJ) Safe Schools Program at Rutgers University, as an initiative in reducing young worker occupational injury, modified an existing training course for adult teachers, supervisors, and administrators on federal wage and labor laws to develop a new online training for students and young worker populations. The course was beta-tested and piloted summer 2018 and launched September 2018 to NJ public, private and charter schools. In 2018-2019, it was completed by 130 NJ students. In an effort to extend the reach of this training program, the course was made available to students at a public New York City metro area secondary school, multiple NJ secondary school ESL programs, and higher education newcomer programs which specialize in serving English language learning students. Course topics included wage and labor laws, workplace hazards, six “soft skills” and handling harassment and discrimination in the work place. The goal of this project was to expand knowledge and awareness of specific S&H issues and to provide relevant resources and information on securing work opportunities, as well as enhancing preparation of the students and their ability to self-advocate upon entering community workplaces by broadening professional knowledge. Thus, we further investigated the best method to administer an online course on occupational S&H, and wage and labor laws to the English learning student population. Information presented will include post-module assessment data analyses, to gauge student understanding of material, and post-training evaluation data to determine student and teacher perceptions of the course.
By further developing and disseminating this free online learning resource, we can give young, working immigrants the knowledge, and by extension, the power to advocate for themselves and make a difference not only in their own lives and that of their families, but also in their communities.