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NIACC Receives Grant to Help English Language Learners Prepare for High Growth Careers

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Individuals with limited English language skills are limited in their employment opportunities. With the help of a $75,000 grant from Iowa Workforce Development, North Iowa Area Community College and the local Workforce Development Center will offer intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for North Iowa residents interested in learning to read, write and speak English in a timely manner.

 “The NIACC Hispanic Advisory Committee had identified the need for an intensive ESL program in the area, and the state department was looking for innovative literacy and workforce preparation services, so the grant provided an avenue for us to reach our goal,” said Tammy Hove, NIACC’s associate director of Institutional Advancement, who led the preparation of the grant proposal.

Jessica Putnam, NIACC’s director of Learning Support, said the ESL classes, which will meet several days a week for several hours each day, will be held in locations with the greatest need and at times convenient for each particular group. Communities that are likely candidates include Hampton, Charles City and Mason City.

“The ESL curriculum will be infused with computer literacy training and other skill development to prepare people for the workplace,” Putnam said.

For instance, ESL instructors will supplement their learning materials with “Crossroads Café” curriculum which is being piloted in Hampton through NIACC’s ESL Program and the Hampton Public Library in collaboration with Iowa Public Television. The DVD series has a family literacy theme with many of the units aimed at job preparation.

Participants increasing their English literacy will have the option to enter pre-training programs for high demand career areas, including welding and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). The grant will make it possible for the intensive ESL instruction, as well as the pre-training programs, to be offered free of charge to those involved.

 According to Putnam, NIACC will be utilizing the pre-CNA curriculum developed by Northwest Iowa Community College through a grant from the Iowa Department of Health. It has been approved by the Regional Health Education Center, a partnership of NIACC and Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, which coordinates CNA training locally.

“The pre-CNA training allows participants to develop the basic skills and vocabulary needed to participate in the actual CNA course and to help them pass the CNA test,” explained Putnam.

CNAs are desperately needed by North Iowa’s long-term care facilities, and there is even greater demand for Home Health Aides – CNAs who care for individuals in their homes. Annual growth for CNAs and Home Health Aides is 2.5% and 4%, respectively, in North Iowa (2.5+ percent is considered rapid growth).

Through the grant, a pre-welding course will be developed for individuals interested in exploring this area before enrolling in NIACC’s welding program. Annual growth for skilled welders is 5% in Iowa and 6% in North Iowa.

NIACC has plans to expand its welding lab in the upcoming year to accommodate an increase in the number of welders trained to meet the needs of local industries. The expansion will be funded by the Accelerated Career Education (ACE) Program through the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

Intensive ESL program participants not interested in pursuing the CNA or welding tracks will be encouraged to continue to work with the Workforce Development Center to enhance their employability.

“The Workforce Center is truly a one-stop center with extensive resources for workplace preparation and placement,” Nancy Bair, regional director of the Workforce Development Center, said. “We offer career exploration, GED classes, job seeking skills classes, and much more.”

According to Bair, the grant-funded project will be supported in the form of services and referrals through the cooperation and coordination of many regional partners, including North Iowa Community Action, Proteus, Language Opportunities, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Promise Jobs, Iowa Department for the Blind, North Iowa Vocational Center, Elderbridge, and Experience Works.

The search has begun for a coordinator/advocate to lead implementation of the grant. For more information, contact the NIACC Human Resources Office at 641-422-4285 or 1-888-GO NIACC, ext. 4285.

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