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English Classes For Construction

Chamber of Commerce partnership moves into its second phase.

Non-English speaking residents in Herndon have been given the opportunity to sign up for classes to not only learn English, but also focus on construction and landscaping terminology.

Through a grant awarded earlier this year to the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce's workforce committee, classes have been set up at three locations to help area residents learn English.

Classes began earlier this month at the Neighborhood Resource Center marking the second phase of a collaborative effort between the workforce committee, the Neighborhood Resource Center, Fairfax County Public Schools and Northern Virginia Community College.

In February the Chamber's workforce committee announced it was the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation in Washington, D.C. Awarded by the foundation's "Washington Area Partnership for Immigrants: Investing in Our Region's Workforce" fund, the money was put toward English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training courses.

The 60-hour training courses for the future teachers of the ESOL classes began in March. Offering courses for introductory and advanced speakers, 32 adult students graduated in June from the introductory class. The advanced class completed earlier this month.

EILEEN CURTIS, president and CEO of the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce, said two years ago the Chamber learned that speaking English was the number one priority for residents from other countries.

At the request of its Workforce Committee, the Chamber held a multi-cultural summit where they were able to gain feedback from residents regarding immediate issues in town.

After discussing input and holding a follow-up session, the committee created six subcommittees to address pressing concerns like housing and legal issues.

"It was a very long progression," said Curtis earlier this year about the process before applying for the grant. "The number one issue that had been declared was a lack of English speaking skills."

To better serve members of the community wanting to learn English, the Chamber realized it had to train ESOL teachers so they could properly address community needs. In this case, teaching courses specific to professions such as construction and landscaping.

"It's an opportunity to have all the volunteers come up to a standard proficiency level to be prepared to teach ESOL," said Linda Morgan Malami, director of continuing education and workforce development of Northern Virginia Community College, during phase one of the program.

Through the training, volunteers learned how to effectively teach English while also keeping the interest of their students.

BECAUSE THE GRANT was awarded as a workforce grant, the courses taught have to focus on work-related English, said Curtis and Malami.

At the start of last week the first six-week non-native English speaking construction class began at the NRC. A landscaping class began later in the week and will run for five-weeks. Both classes are already full. Because of the grant as well as additional funding from area businesses, individuals and Chamber initiatives, the classes are being offered at no cost.

"It would be nice if this could become a template for other chambers," said Malami of the Chamber's success.

Classes are being taught by Northern Virginia Community College faculty members and Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Adult and Community Education instructors.