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'Grateful for English class': Longtime Sheboygan County company offers language classes during workday

Richco Structures offers both English and Spanish classes to its employees. The goal is to have better communication amongst the staff.
Posted at 10:13 AM, Sep 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-07 11:13:33-04

HAVEN, Wis. — A company that's been around for 175 years is investing in their employees.

Since February, Richco Structures in Haven has collaborated with the Workplace Literacy Program. The program is offered by the Sheboygan Literacy Council through the Family Resource Center.

Employees at Richco say they’re grateful for the English classes offered at the company. The classes are three times a week. The program offered a beginner’s class and a more advanced class. The 30-minute classes are paid for by Richco and happen while the employees are on the clock. Each

Gail Wilke is the instructor at Richco and says "The employers actually contract with Family Resource Center, Workplace Literacy Program to teach English on site."

She’s a retired teacher who travels to various companies to teach English around Sheboygan County. She teaches everything from parts of the trusses they manufacture to everyday sentences. She even taught them about cheese curds and root beer floats.

Wednesday’s class consisted of how the employees felt, what the weather was like, and how to fill out an R.S.V.P. to the company’s anniversary celebration.

"This type of programming not only helps the employer, but it trickles down in our society. Because these are individuals who are living in our country. They are learning the language, they're children are going to school and learning English. It's a fabulous program” Wilke explains.

Wilke says many of the employees are refugees from Nicaragua. She believes Richco has truly embraced the program.

"A lot of them will say it real simply and they say it really helps them will their life and they're grateful. And I think that's awesome" Production Supervisor, Aaron Lindeman explains.

Lindeman is one of the supervisors who is a part of the literacy program as well. However, he's learning Spanish.

The director of Human Resources, Kathy Kane, says “Not only are our Spanish-speaking employees excited about learning English, but our English-speaking employees are really excited about learning Spanish so they can communicate with them too.”

The employees say it has opened the doors to more conversations while on the job.

"I've just actually learned a ton from the students being eager to talk, to practice English. For me to be willing to speak Spanish with them has been great,” Lindeman said.

Wilke says her students are her heroes, “I have seen students go from coming in barely being able to say my name is, to now having conversations in English and being so excited about it."

The Family Resource Center that oversees this program can serve manufacturing and agricultural companies throughout Sheboygan County. The program offers more languages as well.

If you’re interested in having the program at your company, email