ATLANTA, May 5, 2003 — With Hispanics the largest minority group in the U.S., Apogee Interactive, Inc. and a consortium of energy utilities have created a first-ever web-based “Situational Spanish” course for energy industry employees.
Developed jointly by Apogee and leading utilities such as Southern Company (NYSE: SO), Exelon (NYSE: EXC), FPL (NYSE: FPL) and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, the course teaches essential words and phrases necessary to communicate with Hispanic customers and contract crews in utility company settings.
“It’s effective for utilities in all regions since it utilizes a controlled response method of simplified Spanish,” said Joyce Robledo, Spanish advisor to the course and adjunct professor of Spanish at several Georgia state colleges. “This method ensures employees will be understood by all Hispanics regardless of their country of origin and ensures employees phrase questions in such a way as to receive understandable answers in return.”
“Difficulty scheduling traditional class time was one of the primary drivers for moving to electronic learning, or eLearning,” said Al Martin, director of employee learning at Southern Company, which has 25,000 employees in four states. “Traditional and conversational Spanish courses didn’t really fit our needs either,” he explained. “We’re not looking for our employees to be fluent in Spanish, just comfortable with the phrases they need to understand and use on the job,” Martin said.
The Apogee web-based course reduces class time by about 75 percent, from nine 2-hour classes to about four hours total. Students begin with Hispanic culture and language fundamentals and then select the “Job Tracks” they need, bypassing material that applies to other jobs.
Current Job Tracks apply to meter readers, energy auditors, linemen, tree trimming and construction supervisors, and customer service, marketing and office staff. Several more are under development, including one for power plant workers.
Susan Gilbert, president of Apogee Interactive explains, “Our clients are looking for ways to reduce costs and increase the effectiveness of training. ELearning accomplishes this through 24/7 access without advance scheduling or travel, increased retention, self-paced study and ease of use,” she said.
Other learning techniques featured in the “Situational Spanish for the Power Industry” course include flash cards, practice sessions, an online translator, a searchable word index, and printable pocket guides for quick field reference. Narration in the course allows students to hear and practice correct pronunciation.
Apogee Interactive (www.apogee.net) is a leading provider of Internet solutions to the energy industry, having pioneered electronic learning for power companies in the early 90s with CD-based courses. The company now operates the largest web-based portal of specialized energy courses for the industry (www.study-center.com) as well as offering custom course development.
With 4 million customers and nearly 37,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is a super-regional energy company in the Southeast and a leading U.S. producer of electricity. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are 15 percent below the national average. Southern Company has more than 500,000 shareholders, making its common stock one of the most widely held in the United States.