TMCC widens its offerings of workplace Spanish classes

As Spanish-speaking immigrants become a bigger part of the workforce, managers in all disciplines are signing up for a quick course in Spanish to improve employee relations or simply to get the job done.

So says Anastasia Sefchick, program manager, for Truckee Meadows Community College Workforce Development and Continuing Education.

Enrollment in the classes the first year was 29, which grew to 123 the second year. Now in its third year, the program offers an option for nearly every industry.

The TMCC class line-up includes: Workplace Spanish, Spanish for Hospitality Industry, Spanish for Health Personnel, Court Interpreting Fundamentals, Contractor's License Preparation for Spanish Speakers, Bilingual Office Assistant/Medical Office Assistant Certificate, Bilingual Managers Certificate, and Spanish-English Translation Certificate.

Spring semester, which starts in January, will add Spanish for Human Resources, Spanish for Construction, Spanish for Customer Service, Spanish for Court Systems, and Spanish for Banking and Financial Institutions.

The program started after a major construction company requested Spanish classes for supervisors in addition to English classes for employees.

A landscaping company asked next. Then came a major area hospital. A large distribution center ordered two classes.

"We recommend at least 15 hours of instruction," says Sefchick, "but will provide one day or 200 hours." Some supervisors, she says, want just enough to get by, to be able to say, "Hold on 'til I get someone who can speak Spanish."

Class fees depend on how much customization is required, whether the class is offered at an odd time, and distance of location. The instructors come from a cadre of independent contractors.

Currently, the college runs eight Spanish classes plus Mandarin and Cantonese for locals doing business in China.

But it's considering requests to teach Tagalog, spoken in the Philippines, and Tongan, a language of the South Pacific. However, the language most requested, says Sefchick, is Spanish because that population has been growing so fast.

However, she notes, while customized classes may be all well and good for large firms, they may not be affordable for a small companies with few employees. So weekly classes and intensive all day sessions are offered at the college's Meadowood Center on Neil Road.

After warehouse employees took the class, says Sefchick, the students said they love being able to communicate. And managers say their employees were not offended by their halting attempts to speak Spanish; rather, they greatly appreciated the effort to speak their language.

"I see it growing tremendously," Sefchick adds. "I see us offering more and more classes."

And what might those classes be?

"We try to be out in the community and network with business and non-profits, she says. "We want them to tell us what they need."


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