Skip to main content

Intensive English Program Helps Local Company’s Employees Improve Their English Skills Inside and Outside The Classroom

As a land-grant university, NC State has as its mission the essential function of improving life for all North Carolinians. The Intensive English Program (IEP), a sub-unit of the Office of Global Engagement created in 2011, does just that by helping to internationalize undergraduate departments on campus.

Last fall, Cate Madden, the director of the IEP, met with executives from an NC-owned business named Cooper Electrical Construction Company. This female-owned company continuously strives to offer development and training opportunities to employees. Company executives outlined their goal of investing and supporting select Cooper Electric employees with English language instruction. 

Over the course of her career, Ms. Madden has created various English as a Second Language (ESL) programs for local and national business entities, such as 1-2-hour in-house and/or on-site English classes per week. However, Cooper’s vision of employee support was truly unique. They saw English communication improvement as a business investment and as an investment in the quality of their employees’ lives in North Carolina.  

A NC State podium with two hats on top of it.

“Not only does the leadership team want to provide opportunities for employees to continue developing their English language skills and boost their confidence when communicating in business settings, but we also want them to enjoy themselves inside and outside the classroom,” remarked David Chase, Executive Vice President of Cooper Electrical Construction Company. 

The result of this request lead to the creation of an English language program in which 40-45 Cooper Electric employees arrived on campus every Friday for 12 weeks.  

IEP-Cooper English Enhancement Program instructors. From left to right: John Noonan, Ann Marie Tamayo, Stephanie Pruitt

For members of the IEP-Cooper English Enhancement Program, Fridays were fully paid 8-hour days of language instruction and afternoon activities. English classes were designed to accommodate beginning to advanced levels of proficiency and focused on all aspects of ESL instruction. Instructors created a Cooper Electric-specific curriculum to address both personal, but also workplace-specific English including field-specific role-plays and articles, and Cooper proprietary materials and forms. Afternoon activities were created as a means to use their English skills while having fun, focusing on team-building, and introducing the group to all NC State has to offer. The latter was particularly enjoyable for a quarter of the participants whose children are current NC State undergraduates.

It is worthy to note that while most members of this initial cohort drove to NC State from the Triangle area, there was a group that would drive to and from campus from their worksite in Southern Virginia. Cooper Electric’s cohort was truly international, including long-time North Carolina residents originally from Mexico, Central and South America, the Middle East, and Asia. Plans for a second cohort of this program are currently underway for April and August. 

Thanks to our campus partners at Talley, Rave Catering, Motorpool, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Carmichael Gym, Reynolds Coliseum and Facilities Management, the Crafts Center, Hunt and DH Hill Libraries that worked with the IEP to coordinate tours for program participants. Highlights included a low- and high-ropes team-building activity organized by Wellness and Recreation and an “electrical” tour of Reynolds Coliseum by Erich Weis, Preventive Maintenance Engineer, and Bob Erickson, Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities, Operations and Capital Projects.

Participants posing for a group photo in front of the NC Science Museum in Raleigh, NC.
Group photo in front of the NC Science Museum in downtown Raleigh.

The IEP looks forward to continuing this unique partnership with Cooper Electrical Construction Company which believes in and sees the business benefit of caring for all aspects of dedicated employees’ lives, including English communication skills. If you know of other companies interested in supporting their employees in a similar fashion, please call the IEP office at 919-515-4002, or contact Cate Madden directly at