I’m a language-learning junkie, so I love Iowa’s decision to provide grant funding to employers implementing language learning programs in the workplace. $5 million in funding was announced by the governor for this initiative, and in October, 2022, and about $360,000 in grants were recently awarded to the first 11 companies. This program is part of the toolkit of initiatives under the Future Ready Iowa umbrella, and recognizes that language skills can be a barrier to hiring, to workplace efficiency and safety, and to career advancement. I’m especially impressed with the decision made by some of the grant recipients to include two-way language learning – providing opportunities for both English and non-English speaking employees to broaden their skill sets.
As often is the case in these types of program, community colleges play an important role as partners in delivering these programs but curriculum development doesn’t seem to be a stumbling block. Several of the grantees mention using existing applications like Rosetta Stone and Babble as part of the learning experience. There are even some plans to extend access to the materials to family members of the employees.
If you would like to read about the details of the program and the grantees plans, you can find them here.
Another example of start small and grow – in my opinion some of the best workforce initiatives out there begin by successfully serving tens or hundreds of employees. My message to decision makers would be to support small scale pilots – they are designed to fit into the nooks and crannies where you will find labor market gold.
Even before these grants were available, Pella Corp. had a program in place for two-way language learning that was profiled here.