Iowa Language Learners: Grants to Improve Workplace Communication

HNI Corporation in Muscatine noticed several years ago that the company and its community had an untapped pipeline of workforce talent – English language learners.

“We realized that we need to make our internal and external hiring practices better to recruit and retain candidates who do not speak English as their native language," said Mandy Parchert, manager of university and community relations for HNI.  “We are working to be a more inclusive company. Better supporting our members who want to learn English and providing communications translated into multiple languages are just a couple of opportunities."

The state of Iowa is working to help with that goal – for HNI and everyone else.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds earlier this month announced a new $5 million grant program to help employers reduce language barriers in the workforce. The Iowa Language Learners Job Training Program will help employers provide sustained programs for dual language instruction to increase proficiencies that support improved communication with staff and overall recruitment and retention.

Employers can get help with programs that increase English language proficiencies for work-related duties, policies, or procedures, as well as programs that support English speakers learning a second language.

Parchert said HNI Corporation currently is considering whether grant money could help advance the company’s work on making itself more inclusive to non-native English speakers. HNI, which earlier this year received a $48,820 grant from IWD’s Employer Innovation Fund, has been working on ways to provide translated communications through the use of new technology for front-line workers in addition to revamping policies to explain promotion job possibilities  possibilities in multiple languages.

“Our employees don’t need to be perfect in English to have a successful career,” Parchett said. “We need workers, and they’re here! This grant will help employers answer the question, 'How do we support this pipeline of talent to be successful in our business?”

Applications for the Iowa Language Learners Job Training Program are now being accepted on IowaGrants.gov. They must be turned in by 11:59 a.m. on December 2.

For more information, email Sara Bath at sara.bath@iwd.iowa.gov or visit FutureReadyIowa.gov and watch this video of an October 11 webinar.