ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Marcos Torres gets his diploma for finishing workplace-based English classes.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
LYNN — Sidekim Foods, a Lynn-based catering company, is partnering with World Education, Inc. to teach Spanish speaking employees basic English at the workplace.
World Education, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides training and technical assistance in literacy, workplace, and HIV and AIDS education around the world.
Sidekim is owned by Peter Mikedis, who said teaching his entry-level employees English is beneficial to his staff and business.
“For us, it’s important (the employees) learn because it helps us as a company,” Mikedis said. “Maybe in six months, their English will be better and they will qualify for a supervisor position. They already know Sidekim foods. You can teach someone how to operate a machine but you can’t teach them values like dedication and loyalty.”
His father, who immigrated from Greece, spent time learning English in a classroom after working a factory job to provide for his family, he said. To make learning the language more convenient, he is allowing his employees to take a two-hour class twice a week while getting paid.
The 28-week program, which will be offered three times in three years, is paid for with a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education totaling about $120,000, said World Education coordinator Kathleen O’Connell. The money covers the cost of educating 10 employees during each session.
“Every adult ESL program in the state, if it’s any good, will have a 100-person waiting list,” said Silja Kallenbach, vice president of World Education. “So this is really special.”
Teacher Dakota Robinson said a lot of the lessons centered on vocabulary and grammar that may be used in the workplace.
“They’re learning names and words for things that are helpful for the job,” said Robinson. “To be able to say in English ‘I’m having a problem with this packing machine’ is very important.”
Robinson also taught the students about workplace safety and the reasons behind wearing hair nets, gloves, and taking other safety precautions, she said.
Mildred Escobar, a student who moved to the United States from Guatemala, said she enjoyed the class most because she now has “a little more confidence speaking and writing.”
The class will begin again in the fall with 10 students.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.