Iowa pays 11 employers to provide language programs

(The Center Square) – Eleven Iowa employers will receive a share of $357,470 in state funding for programs that will reduce language barriers, Iowa Workforce Development announced Wednesday.

The Iowa Language Learners Job Training Program grants will help the companies increase dual language instruction, communication with customers, and recruitment and retention efforts with new staff, according to the IWD news release.

ALPLA, Inc., Iowa City; A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co., Dubuque; Catalyst Project Management, Iowa City; Country Maid, West Bend; Heritage Building Maintenance, Des Moines; Interstates, Sioux Center; Ironwood 53 Design and Build, Rock Valley; Neumann Monson, Iowa City; New Hope Village, Inc., Carroll; Shearer’s Foods, Burlington; and VGM Group, Waterloo received the grants.

VGM Group received $163,500 for an internal language training program for 144 participants. The company’s grant description said its program will address growing issues with employees stemming from language barriers between employees and lack of access to language training during the workday.

Its goal in the next two years is to develop a program to educate cohorts of 12 employees at each of its main locations in six-month durations. The company anticipates the program will help VGM employees who lead non-English speaking employees by improving their ability to communicate with all employees under their supervision.

“Additionally, the retention, attendance, and morale of VGM employees in this program will be improved by their employer’s investment in them, allowing them access to training that will not only increase their likelihood of promotion at VGM, but also help them interact more confidently in their community,” the award description said.

Shearers Foods’ program, which received $33,550 for an estimated 80 participants served, is developing short-term training English as a second language instruction for employees to address the communication barriers between English and non-English speaking employees.

The training’s supposed to increase production capacity, move entry level positions from packers to machine operators, decrease the communication barriers between supervisors and employees, and address the shift in hiring/recruiting in a tight labor market.

The employers had to provide plans for sustaining the language program. Courses were encouraged to be conducted onsite or with several, flexible transportation offsite options.

“Over the last two years, Iowa has put a significant focus on identifying remaining workforce barriers and overcoming them with innovative solutions,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in the release. “I applaud the leadership of today’s awardees.”

The grant funding will help sponsor language programs in Spanish, English and Mandarin. A total of 465 people will participate in the program, based on applicant estimates.

“Communication is always key to success in the workforce, but its importance is even more critical for growth and overall recruitment today,” Director of IWD Beth Townsend said. “Today’s grants are an important recognition of a workforce barrier that Iowa employers can overcome with the right support.”

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