English as a Second Language (ESL)

In January 2005, the University of Virginia became one of the first employers in the area to offer on-site English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to employees.

This unique benefit was the result of a partnership between Facilities Management and Housing who identified a need for improved English language skills for a significant number of their employees.

Our arrangement with Charlottesville City Schools’ Adult Learning Center to teach two levels of ESL classes has attracted many students.

With workforce diversity on the rise, the native languages of our ESL students range from Swahili to Tibetan to Vietnamese, just to name a few.

Stronger speaking and reading skills not only improve communication in general, but also assure better understanding of labels, signs and direction which enhances both employee safety and customer service.

Each year, approximately 20 employees participate in the ESL program. Taught by instructors from the Adult Learning Center, classes are offered on-site during working hours in the fall, winter and spring quarters.

“Our tests show that our students’ English is improving,” according to Susan Erno, director of the Adult Learning Center. “Many who started the course knowing very little English have completed the first level and have advanced well into the second level.”

As a testament to the achievements of ESL students, the UVA ESL classes have had more than 10 winners in Voices of Adult Learners, a Virginia Festival of the Book event which features the work of ESL and GED students.

Enrollment process

ESL enrollment for the Sept.-June academic year occurs in August. Since class attendance is required during working hours, employees interested in ESL classes must request their supervisor’s approval.

Each year, Human Resources & Training notifies employees of the GED class enrollment period and deadlines. It is at this time that the supervisor must review the FM Education and Training Agreement Form with the employee and ensure that expectations and responsibilities are clearly communicated.

Following discussion, both the supervisor and employee must sign the agreement form and return it to Human Resources & Training. Past participants must re-enroll each year. Employees are then registered for class, as space allows, based upon the receipt of their education and training agreement.