English as a Second Language offerings bridge the gap between employers, employees
Nov. 2, 2009
Harrisburg, PA – Communications gaps and challenges understanding various cultures are addressed in Workplace English, a new program offered to the region’s employers by HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.    
The program breaks down barriers, said Steven Berwager, adjunct faculty member at HACC’s Gettysburg Campus. “That is primary. (Workplace English) not only addresses differences in language, but culture as well, and puts employees in a position for promotions and other opportunities for training. It gives them a future.”
HACC’s Workplace English component is offered to both employers and employees through the college’s English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. The individual noncredit courses are taught at four levels, beginner to intermediate, and are offered in six-week intervals.
Classes help individuals become accustomed to the English language and culture, as well as life skills needed to succeed professionally and individually, including resume building, interview skills, job etiquette, computer literacy and punctuality.
Cultural differences also are addressed during the training to help individuals understand the American culture. For instance, in Arabic speaking countries, eye contact is a sign of disrespect, whereas in the U.S., eye contact is seen as a sign of attentiveness.
Companies may also implement customized training, based on the needs of employees and employers. This can be scheduled on an as-needed contract basis.
 “The ESL classes also help to increase safety, communication and productivity because they are tailor made to address the employer, employee and industry needs,” said Barbara Seasholtz, coordinator of the ESL program at HACC’s York Campus.
HACC professors teach English and industry terms needed to exceed in the workplace for ESL employees. Employers can also learn the native languages of their employees to communicate effectively. The program helps both employers and employees become more efficient and productive and can also help to boost workplace morale.
Languages from almost all countries are offered under the Workplace English program, including French, Arabic, German and Spanish, which has seen the largest demand.
Since HACC began offering courses in Workplace English earlier this year, classes have been taught at five businesses in the region, including hospitals, manufacturers and national entertainment companies. Currently, there are 120 students enrolled in the individual noncredit Workplace English classes this fall.
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