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St. Louis program connects immigrants with jobs

A new program that starts in January in St. Louis will seek to help connect new immigrants with their career goals.

St. Louis Public Radio reported that the International Institute of St. Louis is launching Immigrant Career Path Services to help immigrants quickly transition into career fields of their choice.

“This program was designed for folks that had come to St. Louis with advanced degrees or years of extensive experience, and because we knew that many were working at entry-level jobs or doing Uber driving or working in a factory line — brain waste was occurring, and we weren’t able to really leverage their skills and abilities to positions immediately,” said Chelsea Hand-Sheridan, the institute’s workforce solutions director.

The program is aimed at people like Zikrullah Habibi, 32, who migrated to the St. Louis from Afghanistan in 2014 with his immediate family. Though he had a business degree and work experience under his belt, the cultural barriers made it challenging for him to even drive, grocery shop or job hunt, Habibi said.

He connected with the International Institute’s refugee resettlement program and said it made assimilating smoother. The institute paired him with various companies to try to get him a job in the field he worked in before leaving his home country.

“I took some classes in the institute and met with the caseworkers, and they really did help me and my kids; and that’s why I’m still standing,” Habibi said.

The institute’s new career initiative will offer help with resume writing, interviewing sessions, job training and assistance with higher education. Counselors will assess certifications and foreign degrees, as well as offer re-certification services and other employment-related courses.

“I believe this program can help fill the much-needed roles that our employers and our industries are seeking at this time,” Hand-Sheridan said. “There’s a lot of concern about the aging workers, the population of workers and folks not being able to fill these roles. And so we really want to see those folks living to their full potential and helping our region grow to its full potential.”