Literacy Center partners with Spectrum Health on employee ESL training

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Since 2001, the Literacy Center of West Michigan has provided Customized Workplace English programming to more than 80 companies. Courtesy Literacy Center of West Michigan

The Literacy Center of West Michigan is partnering with Spectrum Health to provide onsite contextualized English literacy training for employees.

The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit said Wednesday, Oct. 6, that customized English language education taught in the context of the workplace provides employers with a solution to the high-demand talent market and gives employees opportunities for personal and professional development, and this new partnership with Spectrum will aim to do both.

The Literacy Center of West Michigan’s Customized Workplace English (CWE) program offers English as a Second Language (ESL) training focused on the use of English in the workplace, personalized Spanish instruction for midlevel staff, accent modification coaching and a seminar to educate English-speaking employees on how to effectively communicate with nonnative English-speaking employees.

“Literacy is a profoundly essential need for anyone to achieve a proper quality of life and contribute to our local economy, and it often goes overlooked,” said Wendy Falb, Ph.D., executive director of the Literacy Center of West Michigan. “Our workplace English program is truly adapted to meet the needs of each organization. By improving employees’ literacy skills in the workplace, employers are filling talent gaps while strengthening companywide culture and efficiencies, increasing safety and reducing costly employee turnover.”

CWE services are tailored to meet the requirements of each employer. Each curriculum is created to teach language that is relevant to improving employee retention and safety while building potential for career development within the organization.

For Spectrum Health, English proficiency is a critical career development component for many employees. The health system is teaming up with the Literacy Center of West Michigan to offer an English Proficiency Program for its environmental services employees. The program focuses on improving verbal and written literacy, including reading and listening.

The English Proficiency Program directly aligns with the Spectrum Health’s broader plan of developing training programs that fit into its employees’ career pathways.

“Spectrum Health is committed to investing in our team members. In fact, growing and cultivating our talent is one of our priorities,” said Kevin Vos, senior director, hospitality support services and clinical nutrition, Spectrum Health. “Implementing the workplace English Proficiency Program supports Spectrum Health’s broader talent development plan by providing training that allows team members to achieve their career goals.”

Since 2001, the Literacy Center of West Michigan has provided CWE programming to more than 80 companies.

According to Lacks Enterprises, which has partnered with the Literacy Center of West Michigan for CWE literacy services since 2003, the program has helped employees excel within the company and grow in personal areas.

“Literacy is a key skill to participation in society. Our partnership with the Literacy Center of West Michigan not only benefits us as an employer but enables our employees to live fuller lives within our community,” said Gabrielle Calkins, director of training at Lacks Enterprises.

Literacy Center

Founded in 1986, the Literacy Center of West Michigan is committed to bringing about a just and vibrant West Michigan through the power of literacy. The Literacy Center works alongside adults — native speakers and English language learners — who read below a ninth-grade level.

The Literacy Center instructs close to 800 adults each year via nearly 300 volunteers, and yet the need is still great. With 1 in 8 adults in Kent County struggling with low literacy, the Literacy Center is eager to grow its capacity to serve even more learners and draw attention to the issue of low literacy among adults in the community.

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