Wood Ming Tam and Shan Tam chose to study English as a second language while taking professional-technical classes at Pierce College in preparation to begin new careers. The couple, who are recent immigrants from China, learned about Pierce College and the new, Integrated Basic Skills (I-BEST) program on base at Fort Lewis while Wood Tam was serving in the military.
The I-BEST program pairs students with an academic support instructor while they take workforce classes. The approach provides students with both basic skills training and the workforce skills needed to earn a living wage job. Students learn faster since they’re studying academic and job skills at the same time. This helps students to enter the workforce quickly.
“I wanted to improve my English and train for a job that helps people”, said Shan Tam who chose the Certified Nursing Assistant program. “My ESL (English as a second language) teacher really helped me with my pronunciation as well as with the medical terminology which she knew well since she had been working in the field,” Shan said. “I learned during my internship that seeing patients smile is really satisfying.”
Wood Tam enjoyed his military career and wanted to find a career that provided similar training. He decided to take classes in the Corrections/Protection Officers program and is currently employed as a corrections officer at McNeil Island Correctional Facility. “The most important thing that helped me succeed was the support from my ESL instructor,” said Wood. “She was one of the best and helped me with my writing, grammar and spelling. I could ask as many questions as I wanted. By the end of the quarter I was able to write a report with less errors,” he said. In addition, Wood cited the help he received from his criminal justice instructor who helped him prepare for the interview and online job application.
Jon Kerr, director of integrated basic skills at Pierce College, says that the experiential learning approach allows students to apply what they’ve learned immediately to their life. Shan claims that the program improved Wood’s life skills. “I’m really satisfied and happy how he’s improved. He’s totally different now.” Wood explains that at the beginning of the program he was shy and quiet and didn’t talk much. He said that “after I finished the class, I talk and talk. I don’t have that fear of talking because I’m not afraid of making mistakes. I have the confidence now.”
Other I-BEST programs at Pierce include Early Childhood Education, Business Technology, and Roofers Apprenticeship. For more information about the I-Best programs call (253) 964-6447.
Pierce is a great place to begin your path to a career through the Integrated Basic Skills program or other career programs. Pierce has programs in business, computers, health careers, science, art, digital design, music and theater just to name a few. To learn more about all that Pierce has to offer, visit www.pierce.ctc.edu. Begin your path to success now and register for spring quarter. Classes begin April 2.