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Partnership With Local University Helps Teammates From Refugee Group Improve Language Skills

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  • MFG SD teammates with their ESL instructor from Northern State University.

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A partnership between MFG South Dakota and Northern State University in Aberdeen is giving a helping hand to new teammates by offering company-sponsored English as Second Language training.

Approximately 30 Karen teammates — an ethnic group from Myanmar — are taking the MFG-sponsored ESL course that involves six hours of instruction weekly at the factory. These teammates came to the USA as refugees of the political unrest in their homeland and are now working in wind blade production at MFG SD. Another new class of potential teammates is also meeting twice a week at the NSU campus.

It is a big investment by MFG, but one that yields many benefits. “First of all, we are doing it for our teammates,” said Mark Klumph, training coordinator. “In the company’s team-oriented environment it will help improve communication as well as help them in the community. Ideally, they will eventually earn their GED which strengthens the company.”

Lay Kler Htoo, who has worked for MFG for almost two years and lives in Aberdeen with his wife and daughter, said he plans to stay here. He said he appreciates living in America. “The refugee camp in Thailand was a hard place. The Thai Army surrounds the camp, so we could not leave,” said Htoo, who grew up in the camp and received approval to immigrate at age 22 after many years of waiting.

“The classes are open to all nationalities,” Klumph said. “Right now, it is just Karen participating, but we foresee others taking advantage of it as well.”