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The Literacy Center of West Michigan has been named as a finalist in the U.S. Department of Education’s $750,000 Rethink Adult Education Challenge, a national competition to advance pre-apprenticeship programs. The organization is one of five finalists from Michigan and the only one from outside metro Detroit. The Literacy Center’s proposal creates a career pathway for Latinas to enter the mechanical, electrical and plumbing trades by providing English instruction, workplace readiness and skills training.   

“The mechanical trades train and employ primarily men, and the vast majority of these men are white,” said Dr. Wendy Falb, executive director, Literacy Center of West Michigan. “With construction representing the seventh highest share of employment in West Michigan and a significant number of Latinas impacted by pandemic-related unemployment in the service industry, we know that the demand for apprentices through this program will be high.”

The Literacy Center’s proposal is for a pre-apprenticeship program as well as a full apprenticeship program designed specifically for women with English language proficiency needs. The proposal is a partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors of West Michigan, West Michigan Works!, Talent 2025, Windemuller, Wolverine Building Group and Allied Mechanical Services.

The challenge received 203 submissions across a range of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and technology.

A panel of national experts in the fields of adult education, workforce policy and social services advanced the Literacy Center’s proposal to Stage 2 of the challenge and an opportunity to compete for $750,000 in prizes. During Stage 2, the Literacy Center will have access to expert support and digital resources to further develop the program proposal.

Challenge finalists hail from 32 states and two territories, and include higher education institutions, local educational agencies, community and faith-based organizations, and correctional facilities. To learn more about the ReThink Adult Ed Challenge, visit

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