Learning one’s craft and advancing one’s career can present challenges for any of us. Imagine what it’s like when the very language your coworkers and work materials use is not the one you grew up with.
That is the situation for a group of Mid-States Aluminum Corp. employees who are Hmong. The five employees just completed an eight-week ELL course conducted at the Fond du Lac company. A third session will begin this spring. Bee Vang, a Mid-States employee and Moraine Park engineering technologist student, was chatting with Moraine Park Diversity Relations Associate Bill Green and mentioned the need for ELL training for his fellow Mid-States workers. Vang helps interpret at Mid-States when needed. He and Green discussed the idea with Sandra Huenink, Moraine Park dean of basic education, and Vang told his supervisor about the customized ELL training offered by the College.
After connecting with the leadership team at Mid-States, Moraine Park worked to customize a solution that would teach the employees the fundamentals of English language in a way that was relevant to their work. “Our goal was to develop a solution to close the communication gap that existed in the workplace, and prepare employees for advancement opportunities at Mid-States Aluminum,” said Kathy Schlieve, Moraine Park’s economic and workforce development business representative.
“We have partnered with Moraine Park many times over the years for our training needs, so whenever we are considering training, Moraine Park is one of our wonderful community resources,” said Joanne Schneider, associate involvement team leader at Mid-States.
Workplace training benefits both employers and employees. “The employees gain skills that enable them to progress; the company gains reliable, responsible and skilled employees,” said Huenink. Certain safety, quality control and cost issues are resolved as employees are better able to understand instructions. Moraine Park can tailor the instruction to the company’s needs, using their equipment, views of their computer screens, photographs of machines, etc.
“It is helping me to learn English better,” said Bruce Xiong, 35, of Fond du Lac, a CNC machine operator at Mid-States. “I can read the written instructions better. The class is good; it is very fun.”
“We love the flexibility of Moraine Park's onsite training,” said Schneider. “This is not only a benefit to our company but to our associates as well. The excellent instructor we have works very hard helping the students be the best that they can be. It is a win-win situation. The associates taking the class are better able to understand and function at a higher level in their job. We take great pride in seeing our associates succeed and move up within the company.”
Moraine Park instructor Amy Jacobson covers a variety of topics related to the workers’ job tasks, including basic word recognition, basic math, creating written descriptions of different photos detailing their current jobs as well as future jobs, deciphering blueprints and using measuring tools like calipers and height gauges. Jacobson asserts that there are also benefits to the students’ personal lives as they become increasingly self-sufficient in everyday English.
“We worked with materials provided to us by Mid-States, as well as those brought to us by the students,” said Jacobson. “Our goal is to improve both conversational and written literacy so the students have a better chance for promotion opportunities. The class is wonderful – the students are eager to learn, and their attendance is fantastic. The students have a tremendous interest in the workings of their employer – they want to learn more English as well as the skills needed to apply for and receive a promotion.
“I am amazed at ELL learners’ tenacity,” she added. “English is a very difficult language to learn, and I am glad to have a hand in their success.”
Technician Pang Yang Vang, 40, works on the assembly line and is grateful to Mid-States for providing this training. “I need to understand the English language and read the work instructions on the floor,” she said. Vang also hopes that the training will help her advance within the company to a higher-paying job.
Vang enjoyed the one-on-one instruction with Jacobson. “Amy is teaching what I need to be learning,” she said.
Moraine Park Technical College recognizes the increased diversity within its district and addresses a need among those for whom English is not their first language by providing English Language Learning (ELL) classes. This service is offered free to Moraine Park students on the three campuses and at the Hartford Regional Center. In addition, for a fee Moraine Park provides customized on-site ELL training for any business in the Moraine Park district that would like to help its employees improve their English skills and have a better opportunity for advancement.
“The ELL training is a wonderful benefit that Mid-States is providing for its employees,” said Huenink. “The company has the wisdom and vision to value education, creating a better situation for everyone.”
In addition to ELL, Moraine Park offers basic education for the workplace, which includes upgrading basic reading, writing, comprehension and math skills, as well as working toward a GED/HSED.
For more information about Moraine Park’s customized training for business and industry, call 920-924-3449 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.