Literacy Center named a finalist for $750K national education challenge

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The Literacy Center proposed a pre-apprenticeship program and a full apprenticeship program for women with English language proficiency needs. Courtesy Literacy Center of West Michigan

The Literacy Center of West Michigan has moved to the second phase of a $750,000 U.S. Department of Education challenge to advance pre-apprenticeship programs for adults.

The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit said Thursday, Jan. 14, it was named as a finalist in the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink Adult Education Challenge, a national competition. The Literacy Center’s proposal creates a career pathway for Latinas to enter the mechanical, electrical and plumbing trades by providing English instruction, workplace readiness and skills training.   

“The mechanical trades train and employ primarily men, and the vast majority of these men are white,” said Wendy Falb, executive director, Literacy Center of West Michigan. “With construction representing the seventh-highest share of employment in West Michigan and a significant number of Latinas impacted by pandemic-related unemployment in the service industry, we know that the demand for apprentices through this program will be high.”

The Literacy Center’s proposal is for a pre-apprenticeship program as well as a full apprenticeship program designed specifically for women with English language proficiency needs. The proposal is a partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors of West Michigan, West Michigan Works!, Talent 2025, Windemuller, Wolverine Building Group and Allied Mechanical Services.

The challenge received 203 submissions across a range of industries, including manufacturing, health care and technology.

A panel of national experts in the fields of adult education, workforce policy and social services advanced the Literacy Center’s proposal to stage two of the challenge and an opportunity to compete for $750,000 in prizes. During stage two, the Literacy Center will have access to expert support and digital resources to further develop its program proposal.

Challenge finalists hail from 32 states and two territories and include higher education institutions, local educational agencies, community and faith-based organizations, and correctional facilities. 

More information about the ReThink Adult Ed Challenge is at rethinkadulted.com

The Literacy Center of West Michigan

Founded in 1986, The Literacy Center of West Michigan’s mission is to bring about a just and vibrant West Michigan through the power of literacy. The organization works with adults — native speakers of English and English language learners — who read below the ninth-grade level and want to improve their literacy. The Literacy Center instructs over 700 learners annually through three core programs that are free to learners: one-on-one tutoring, workplace-focused classes and family literacy opportunities. 

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