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English classes serve a vital workforce need

Imagine having a doctorate degree. After years, maybe decades of study, you’d anticipate that your work life would be clearly laid out for you. Opportunities would abound, and you’d be able to support your passions and your family. 

Now imagine that one day, you have to leave your home, and effectively your education, behind. You move to a land where you don’t know the language, and you’re suddenly struggling to find a job because your education isn’t recognized by your new nation. This is the reality for some of our immigrant neighbors living in Memphis. 

At HopeWorks, we desire to help all Memphians find and retain meaningful work through education and workforce training. Recently, we realized that a new sector of our population needed workforce support – our friends who’ve recently immigrated from other countries to the United States. 

The scenario described above is a difficult reality for many immigrants living in Memphis. So, we knew we needed to find a way to support these families and help them find job security. 

Now in our new space, we’re offering English as a Second Language, or ESL, classes. No matter your country of origin or native language, Memphians are welcome to our space to learn English. In fact, our ESL class is diverse, with more than 211 participants representing 38 countries. This class not only allows them to better assimilate to life in America, but it also gives them essential English language skills needed to compete for work. 

While many of our students have achieved high levels of education in their birth countries, these accolades and accomplishments may not transfer to the United States. So, many enter the workforce without the equivalency of a high school diploma, making it even more difficult to find work that will support their family. At HopeWorks, after completing the ESL course, immigrant students can transition to other programs to help regain academic accomplishments they’ve previously earned.