By AARON MUDD firstname.lastname@example.org
A new program at Pan Oston is bringing English as a second language courses into the workplace to benefit its employees.
For Robert Boone, president of the Southcentral Workforce Development Board, the program is a way to tap into the area’s large immigrant and refugee population.
“These individuals are learning while on the job,” he said. “When you do that sort of learning, you have a context for it.”
Brian Becker, director of adult education at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, said the program is one of several ESL programs offered by SKY Adult Education. Along with classes that focus on immigrants and refugees, Becker said the new worksite ESL courses are an attempt to provide “workplace literacy.”
Pan Oston employees can take first- or second-shift classes, and Becker said there are about 10 to 12 students in each class. Unlike the program’s basic or intermediate ESL courses, Becker said the courses try to further contextualize the kinds of workplace communication employees encounter.
Pan Oston did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the courses.
After launching about a month ago, Becker described the program as a pilot that could potentially be expanded to other local companies. There’s a need for it too. As least 60 percent of students at SKY Adult Education are foreign born, and the program taught 381 students last year.
Cynthia Garrett, ESL coordinator for SKY Adult Education, said the program tries to cater to the different language needs of Warren County’s immigrant and refugee community. Students get instruction in cultural competency, such as learning how to greet someone and behave at work, and English they might encounter at work.
“We’re trying to target the whole person,” she said, adding the program has been trying to expand its services, including providing classes at the Parker-Bennett-Curry Community Center.
“We’re really looking to the community to focus and go into areas of need,” she said.
Boone, who’s been working to integrate immigrants and refugees into the workforce through job fairs and other efforts, said employers have responded well to foreign workers and that they have great potential “that I think is in a large degree untapped.”
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