On Monday, December 5, the Literacy Center of West Michigan received a grant from the Michigan Office of New Americans to (MONA) to create a construction career pathway, including ESL instruction, for refugees in West Michigan. One of only five recipients statewide, the Literacy Center will be partnering on the project with West Michigan Works!, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. West Michigan Chapter (ABCWM), and Grand Rapids Community College’s (GRCC) Workforce Training.
Through this partnership, West Michigan Works! will recruit refugees who are interested in learning English for the construction sector. The learners will begin with 10 weeks of ESL instruction from the Literacy Center in preparation for ABCWM’s 13-week Construction Core class.
Learners are expected to graduate from the 23-week course with an OSHA 10-hour certification, a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Core Construction certification, and a rough terrain forklift license.
Providing English instruction is one part to the process of finding a job, but providing English instruction with concurrent skilled-trade instruction helps learners establish a career.
A recent report from Talent 2025 showed that the construction sector represented “the largest percentage [of employment] growth” out of the six sectors on which they reported. The Grand Rapids Business Journal reported that “While the labor shortage [in construction] hasn’t brought any projects to a screeching halt, it has made projects take longer.” In the same article, one employer commented: “From our standpoint, communication is the most important thing. We have to look in every direction and ask, ‘Are they performing in a quality to our standards? Can they manage the deadlines? Can we still do projects in a year, or does it become 13 or 14 months?”
The Literacy Center is proud to partner with leaders in workforce development and training to provide pathways for refugees to find gainful employment in the construction sector.