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Washington Literacy Center and Learning Skills for Life: A New Winning Mix for D.C.

The next time you and a friend are sharing an alcoholic drink at a restaurant or bar and toasting each other’s good fortunes, you might want to remember a new initiative may have helped make it happen.  

Washington Literacy Center (WLC) recently graduated 19 adult students from its Professional Bartending Academy: Learning Skills for Life, an ongoing five-week intensive bartending and pre-employment experience designed to jumpstart participants’ career training, workforce readiness and employment opportunities. WLC offers this unique, no-cost learning opportunity in partnership with Diageo, one of the world's leading beverage companies, and The Professional Bartending School, Inc.   

Participants are from the D.C. area, are interested in careers in bartending and hospitality/tourism. and meet low-income or unemployment criteria. The students receive customized skills-building training and earn nationally recognized certifications as they enhance their readiness to enter the local workforce.  

Nahimana Robinson is a 24-year-old who graduated from the program and is also enrolled in WLC’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. “I honestly wouldn’t have been able to take this course without Washington Literacy Center’s support. I’ve always been interested in hospitality and enjoy being a barista, so bartending is a natural next step. Most of all, I really learned a lot from the financial literacy lessons that are part of the program. I understand that we can all be careless with money and now I look at money with more respect. I can genuinely say this was an amazing experience!”  

Robinson says the financial literacy lessons included recognizing and understanding key financial words and phrases, identifying spending habits and creating productive money management strategies. 

Most of Robinson’s classmates are already putting their lessons to work in new jobs and she’s confident she’ll join their ranks soon; she’d like to find a spot in a speakeasy.   

Jimmie Williams, president and CEO of WLC, says the program is an organic extension of their 60-year history of teaching and empowering residents by teaching basic skill and workforce preparation opportunities that help them secure employment or continue their education. WLC uses a holistic approach to ensure positive outcomes for adults and their families.  

He says, “Professional Bartending Academy: Learning Skills for Life is one of several programs we offer to help our learners thrive and succeed. Our vision is to expand to workforce skills development for marginalized adults and those facing financial hardship, who want to improve their reading and math skills and are eager to work. The goal is to offer parallel opportunities which could appeal to those struggling with employment or with low literacy skills.” 

Salah Czapary, director of the Mayor's Office of Nightlife and Culture, says, “All of us in the District appreciate and thank the Washington Literacy Center for offering these important lessons. We know WLC for its six-decade commitment to our community and it’s terrific to see it meeting the needs of today’s students. Most of all, we congratulate the graduates who are part of making D.C.’s hospitality sector even stronger.”   

“Diageo launched Learning Skills for Life globally in 2008 and since then it has grown into a premier job skilling program in the beverage and hospitality sector. WLC is our newest non-profit partner, joining a network of training programs in major markets across the U.S., and we are excited to celebrate the first LSFL graduates and look forward to their continued success,” says Jay Kairam, Vice President, Diageo North America. “D.C.’s tourism and hospitality sectors continue to thrive and we are thrilled to partner with WLC and Professional Bartending School to bring new, dynamic talent into the industry.” 

Williams says the next cohort of students is already forming. Those who enjoy imbibing in Washington’s favorite establishments say “cheers” to WLC and its partners for their success.




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