ESL Works Delivers English Language Training to the Food Industry

by Justin Taylor

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: ESL Works

What they do: ESL Works designs and facilitates work-related, on-the-job English language training to employees at every level within the food industry. Their goal is to change the way professional development is delivered. With this training at work, employees thrive and grow, managers retain their team, companies attract talent, and the food industry in general becomes more productive and profitable. Everyone wins.

Employers can and want to invest in their team in order to cultivate their talent, but there are few options for professional development training geared toward employees who aren’t fluent in English. By delivering language training directly to the workplace, ESL Works makes it easy for students and businesses to carve out time for learning.

How they do it: Let’s say you work 50 hours a week, sleep 55 hours a week, commute 15 hours a week, and get personal time the remaining 48. Why not use work as a training ground? ESL Works delivers English classes directly to employers, both online and on-site. Plus, everything employees are learning in English class relates to the work that they are doing, so they can put their knowledge to use immediately. Their curriculum is entirely original and developed by certified ESL instructors who have lifelong food industry experience.

Mission: “To co-create happier work environments and help employers retain their diverse talent by eliminating communication barriers in the workplace.”

Latest project/campaign: So, what happens once someone learns English and is promoted? Master Classes is a workshop series that focuses on leadership, communication, and English for leaders of any level. Each workshop gives managers and managers-to-be the opportunity to explore the nuances of behavior, language, and culture in order to solve sensitive problems at work. The classes explore diverse leadership styles so that students can identify and perfect one that works for them.

Major Funding: The cost of ESL Works’ classes are covered by food industry employers who hire them to train their employees.

Profit/nonprofit: For-profit

Annual Budget: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: The food system is one of the largest employment sectors in the US, yet food employers struggle to recruit and retain the staff they need to run their businesses effectively. ESL Works believes that the food industry’s labor pool has to be widened and deepened. Twenty percent of food industry employees in the U.S. don’t speak English as their first language. They want to close that gap by helping employers eliminate communication barriers and develop their talent internally.


Location: New York City

Core Programs: English classes taught on-site and online for food businesses

Number of staff: 5

Number of volunteers: N/A

Areas served: New York Metro Area

Year Started: 2016

Director: Rachael Nemeth (Founder & CEO)

Contact Information:

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