An organization in Minnesota helps highly skilled immigrants find work in the US in their specialty - ForumDaily
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Minnesota-based organization helps highly skilled immigrants find jobs in the US

Minnesota's local communities are racing to help recent immigrants from Ukraine and Afghanistan find skilled jobs as the state battles a labor shortage, reports Startribune.

Photo: IStock

Vadim Kholyuk has never looked for a job so hard.

Immediately after graduating from college, he got a job as an electrical engineer at the Ukrainian Railways. But after the Russian invasion forced him to flee to Minnesota, Vadim's sponsor helped him write a resume on a donated laptop and apply for 150 jobs in engineering and related fields.

Kholuk, 33, has gone through several interviews. He recently passed a computer test at a post office to operate a mail sorting machine. But, although he speaks almost fluent English, he had difficulty understanding some technical words. It's been three months since Vadim arrived in the US, but he hasn't got a job yet.

"It's discouraging because I know he's being turned down for a job he's really suited for," said his sponsor Mark Norlander.

On the subject: Chronicles of refugees: how Ukrainians got out of the war-torn homeland and build a new life in Florida

Over the past 16 months, at least 280 Ukrainians and Afghans have resettled in the United States. Among the many refugees who struggle to find work are professionals with advanced skills - engineers, doctors, officers, teachers, scientists. They are trying to find work in fields they excel at home, instead of taking on the usual refugee jobs in factories, warehouses and retail. However, they may face obstacles ranging from US institutions not recognizing their degrees to a lack of guidance in finding white-collar jobs.

This summer, a non-profit organization Prosperity Ready provided initial training to Afghan evacuees in manufacturing and hospitality. Founder and CEO Lisa Perez recalled being “confused.” The talent of the people who arrived, she said, “is simply incredible, and the work ethic, academic degrees, and experience are colossal.” Her organization also provides courses to help certified immigrants find jobs. The next intake starts on January 17th. Half of the upcoming group is from Afghanistan.

“There are hundreds of thousands of workers short in our state right now, and so to have such talented people on the margins is not normal,” Perez said. - I have the appropriate skills. Is there simply enough support from employers and community organizations to help them make the transition?”

She said the job market here is different from what immigrants are used to.

“There are so many barriers. There are elements of our employment system that are completely broken,” Perez said. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how much experience you have.” Without anyone's help, she added, "it's very, very hard."

Company Toro Co., which offers solutions for the external environment, makes presentations to Prosperity Ready immigrant students. Peres showed Afghan refugee Fahim Ludin the Bloomington firm. Ludin worked for Western companies in Afghanistan providing security and logistics services to the US government during the war. He joined Toro in May as a Customs Compliance Officer in the International Trade Department. It reminds him of his old job.

“I love my job,” Ludin said. “I love the environment.”

Zahidullah Zahid served as Acting Director General and Deputy Director of the Afghan Nuclear Energy Agency. He supervised several hundred employees who worked on the effective use of nuclear technologies in medicine, agriculture, environmental protection, public safety and other areas.

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But he has been out of work since August 14, 2021, when he saw people running past his office in Kabul talking about the approach of the Taliban. Zahid knew that his life was in danger. Its employees have been trained and supported by Western institutions, including the Sandia National Laboratories. He and his family hid in safe houses after the Taliban seized power. They spent five months at a US military base in Qatar before arriving in Minnesota in October.

He set about updating his resume. Zahid, 38, holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Kabul University and a master's degree in defense against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks from Tor Vergata University of Rome. He has documented his extensive experience in emergency preparedness and response, protection of radioactive sources. He wrote in his resume about his work as an officer for the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons, about cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other major international organizations. He has also traveled all over Europe over the last decade for conferences and teaching. Those trips, he noted in his summary, included participation in the NATO Regional Cooperation Course in Rome and the Preparatory Committee for the Biological Weapons Convention Conference in Geneva.

“This is a new place for me, a new environment - starting from scratch, you have to work for yourself, for your family,” he said two weeks after arriving with his wife and seven children. “And I know that I can’t find a job in my field... because they don’t accept educational documents from other countries.”

Zahid wondered if he would have to work in a supermarket or deliver pizza and how it would affect his psyche. Zahid, who speaks fluent English, wants to work in emergency preparedness and response, or at least manage the people in the office the way he's used to. While waiting for his official work permit, he applied for several jobs online. A friend of his brother's has approached a state legislator about linking Zahid to a job at Xcel Energy, and Zahid plans to enroll in the Prosperity Ready job search program.

“I am 100% confident that I can find a good job here, but it will take time,” Zahid said at his new home in Egan. According to him, he is ready to take the exam and undergo additional training. But from time to time he thinks that finding a job in the American job market is an overwhelming task. “There is no proper system where you can submit your papers and tell them, 'I am good in this field, I have experience in this field, please find me a job,'” he says.

The Minnesota International Institute noted that he has partnered with a number of refugees in search of work. The agency said it helped a Ukrainian get a job as a mathematics professor at Dunwoody College of Technology. The institute helped a Ukrainian refugee with a law degree connect with Mitchell Hamline Law School to get her law degree and network with local lawyers and a retired judge.

The Institute also assisted and interviewed a Ukrainian network of software developers, as well as an Afghan client who previously worked for international agencies, banks and nonprofits managing infrastructure and housing programs.

Reza Haidari, 25, was an Afghan Air Force officer. He became a helicopter pilot in the middle of his training in Slovakia. Then the Taliban came to power, and he could not return home. He sought asylum in the United States and initially found work as a janitor. Haidari then moved on to medical device assembler at Medtronic for $22 an hour. But he misses flying.

“If I could get any job in the Air Force, I would be happy. Right now, to be honest, I'm completely lost,” said Haidari, who lives in Richfield. “I have no idea what to do here.” I look for any purpose in my life."

Holyuk arrived in Minnesota in late September with his wife, 2-year-old daughter, and 11-year-old twin daughters. They recently moved into an apartment in Brooklyn Park and he feels the need to get a job as soon as possible.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New Y.

He wrote a cover letter to railroad companies in which he explained how the war had prepared him for the job: “Because we had to leave our home for the safety of my wife and three children, I had to adapt to new and unexpected circumstances and learn a lot. I look forward to using this ability to adapt and learn quickly in my new job.”

Holyuk said he misses work.

“I respond to jobs every day,” he said. “If a company calls me and asks if I can come to work the next day, I say yes because I want to work.”

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