Story by Chris Miller
Many of Akron’s resettled refugees were restricted from working during their time in the camps. Now that they’ve resettled, they’re excited to enter the workforce and form a sense of identity and independence, says Tiffany Stacy, regional manager of employment services for the International Institute of Akron (IIA).
“A lot of our clients come from situations where they were refugees in countries where they did not have the right to work, so for many years they couldn’t work; all they could do was live off the food rations they were given,” she adds. “That has an effect on people; it’s demoralizing. You don’t feel a sense of control over your own destiny. When people get here, they’re very excited to get a job, they’re excited to work for something, to have a purpose. They come alive, their demeanor often changes.”
Among the array of services the agency offers, the International Institute helps place resettled refugees in jobs, mainly in manufacturing, because it enables them to work in groups and to carpool, as transportation can be a barrier for resettled residents.
The employment program follows a series of IIA courses that start with basic English. Before working, clients must attend mandatory job safety and readiness classes that cover everything from helping them overcome cultural barriers to proper attire and helping them through the interview process, says Bishnu Sunar, Job Skills Teacher & Employment Counselor for the International Institute of Akron, who adds he teaches refugees about cultural points that are taken for granted by Westerners, like punctuality. “We teach them time is money and to be regular and on time.”
Mike Carney, branch manager for Select Staffing Canton, echoes this sentiment about refugee employees. “They want to work; they’re very trainable. If you send them on a task, they do it that way over and over again.” Carney helps keep Rubbermaid stocked with employees from IIA’s employment program.
He’s so confident in the clients referred by IIA that Carney says, “When I’m taking on new business and they’re struggling with turnover and quality of employees, the first or second thing out of my mouth is, ‘Have you ever thought of working with the international institute and with refugees?’”
“The refugees are willing to work; they have an absolutely amazing work ethic and they are there every day,” says Joan Pritchett, HR manager for Flambeau, a plastics manufacturer. “They want to be there, they want to help their family.” She adds that the carpooling employees also help alleviate the facility’s parking issues.
For info about the program (including employers interested in hiring clients), contact Tiffany Stacy, regional manager of Employment Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (330) 376-5106, ext. 115.