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The English Language Program at WashU’s School of Continuing & Professional Studies merges English language development with valuable workforce certifications. The program is specifically designed for refugees looking for career development.


In this Article:

  1. Purpose for the Program
  2. Key to the Success of the Program
  3. Key Actors and Participants
  4. Impact and Outcomes
  5. Implementation Steps
  6. Challenges Faced
  7. Resources and Partnerships
  8. Looking to the Future
  9. Contact and Additional Resources

1. Purpose for the Program

Thanks to an innovative grant from the Missouri Office of Refugee Administration, Washington University in St. Louis’ School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS) is stepping up to create unparalleled opportunities for a remarkable group of individuals: immigrants and refugees. These newcomers, often displaced by conflict and adversity, are seeking not just refuge, but a chance to thrive. WashU recognizes this and is poised to be their guiding light. CAPS will offer these students life-changing Career English skills through two intensive in-person courses leading to a Certificate of Completion in English Language coupled with a certificate program to meet needs that are specific to their circumstances and career trajectory. Students will also engage in a professional development workshop and have access to a Career Specialist to provide connections to employers. As these students flourish, they’ll become more than learners—they’ll be engaged community members. Their stories will intertwine with ours, creating a tapestry of hope and shared dreams.

2. Key to the Success of the Program

Participants who qualify for the Washington University program (through an English Language assessment), will have an opportunity to enroll, tuition-free into a Certificate of Completion in English Language after taking two English Language courses and a professional development workshop. In addition, students can enroll in a CAPS certificate of their choice to upskill or reskill into a professional career. Participants will have access to a career specialist to assist in resume building, interview preparation, and networking with companies.

3. Key Actors and Participants

The program will include in-person intensive English Language courses, so participants will need to reside in the St. Louis region and have one of the following immigration statuses:

  • Refugee Section 207 of INA
  • Asylum Section 208 of INA
  • Cuban/Haitian Section 501 Refugee Ed Assistance Act
  • Iraq/Afghan Special Immigrants Public Law 111-118
  • Trafficking Victims (under the TVPA)
  • Afghan Special Immigrants and Humanitarian Parolees
  • Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees

5. Impact and Outcomes

The program successfully secured a $500k grant to begin and a $10M endowment to sustain it.

More information on the impact and outcomes will be provided as it begins.

6. Implementation Steps

Here are a few steps to implement a similar program:

  1. Understand the market and where the gaps exist in educational opportunities. For instance, the institution found a gap in intermediate English support coupled with a workforce certificate for upskilling and reskilling.
  2. Secure funding to offer tuition-free educational courses and certificates 
  3. Network with organizations that support immigrants and refugees to help recruit participants 
  4. Develop an assessment process (intake) to understand participant’s needs and skill level

7. Challenges 

No specific challenge was identified as the program prepares to launch, with its first of learners starting in May 2024.

Additional information will be provided as the program formally begins.

8. Resources and Partnerships

This program requires partnerships with St. Louis workforce partners and companies to help secure career opportunities for immigrants and refugees. It is also essential to consider national companies networking if there are remote work opportunities.

9. Looking to the Future

We will evaluate the program and outcomes and plan to change and grow as needed.

10. Contact Information

Name: Kathleen Blackburn Brown
Title: Director, English Language Program
Organization: School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS), Washington University in St. Louis

State: Missouri

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