There are about 2 million immigrants and refugees currently in the U.S. with qualified academic degrees from their native countries. However, they are currently unemployed or working far below their skill level.
This is is why Zakat Foundation of America remains committed to refugee resettlement, and works to help migrants integrate into the American workforce by partnering with and funding U.S. organizations such as Upwardly Global.
Last year, with Zakat Foundation’s support, Upwardly Global trained 443 asylees in the U.S., furthering their professional skill sets and placing 229 in jobs. Again this year, the partnership is already producing great results. So far, 138 people have received training and 79 trainees — including 29 women — have secured professional employment. The goal is to train 350 people before the end of the year.
With offices in New York, Maryland, Chicago, and San Francisco, the program prepares refugees with comprehensive training including ESL courses, pre-interview coaching, and mock interviews. Job seekers also receive free access to WeGlo, an award-winning platform that features workshops on resume development, cover letter writing, and interviewing skills.
The positive impact reverberates much deeper. 51 children, whose parents are enrolled in the program, have been positively impacted by their parents new financial security. Job stability and higher pay also means access to quality health insurance coverage and other benefits for dependent children.
The work is crucial at a time when the U.S. government has severely cut funding for programs helping immigrants and refugees.
“Finding a job in the U.S. wasn’t easy,” said Belkina, one of the program’s beneficiaries. Belkina came to the United States as an asylee from Venezuela and settled in Chicago. Back home, she earned a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics.
“I was struggling with the language and many of the positions required fluency in English and work experience which I did not have.”
Belkina spent nearly a year working as a babysitter and in the meantime picked up ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. She also spoke with a friend, a fellow immigrant from Venezuela, who referred Belkina to Upwardly Global.
Belkina received help to polish her professional resume, edit her cover letters, and gain insight on how to successfully handle a job interview. A job coach provided one-on-one personalized assistance and checked in on her daily.
“It was like we started the journey together,” Belkina said. “Having someone that I could trust, who recognized my accomplishments and previous experiences in my native country and helped me learn to sell myself as a candidate, made a great difference.”
Nearly six months after she first enrolled in the program, Belkina secured a job at the Rush University Medical Center for a Diet Clerk position, utilizing her previous experience and her degree.
“I am grateful for the first-class attention and service that Upwardly Global offers to professional immigrants without distinction to achieve our goals,” Belkina said. “When you have a dream, the sky’s the limit.”