The White House Champions of Change Strengthening the Economy through Citizenship were announced on October 22nd in a ceremony at the White House. The staff of Literacy Volunteers followed the proceedings by way of a live webcast. Les Lak, Sr. Vice President of Operations and Systems at Blasch Precision Ceramics, was honored as a Champion of Change. Since 2007, Blasch has hosted a workplace literacy program for English language learners which is administered and staffed by Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County (LVORC). Volunteer tutors are trained by LVORC to provide English language instruction to workers on first and second shift. Four dedicated tutors provide instruction twice a week, 52 weeks a year. Workers improve the literacy skills needed to succeed in the workplace and to pass the Naturalization Test and Interview. So far, six employees have become naturalized U.S. citizens.
As providers of literacy services to adults, LVORC is aware that when a learner takes a job, it often means the end of English language learning. Long shifts, transportation challenges, child care, and other adult concerns often act as obstacles to learning. For these reasons, LVORC is dedicated to providing workplace literacy programs. When English language learners are hired by local employers such as Blasch Precision Ceramics, Comfortex, and Hilton Garden Inn, their English language instruction can continue, thanks to the workplace literacy classes that are held on site. Students can study English in the employers’ conference rooms during a regularly scheduled break or before their shift. They have a chance to build vocabulary based on their actual jobs and their work environment, and to improve their ability to communicate with co-workers and supervisors.
The benefits of workplace literacy include improved job retention, increased quality of work, increased morale, reduced error rate, and improved health and safety records. All of this leads to greater profitability for businesses and better opportunities for our learners who are employed.
The employers who host workplace literacy programs also provide underwriting and in-kind support to LVORC, making it possible for us to increase the scope and duration of our programs and services. Blasch is an underwriter for Authors’ Night, an annual event that gives learners an opportunity to publish their own stories and to read them in front of a friendly and supportive audience.