Connecting immigrants to meaningful employment in the US

Giving By Emily Larson May 1, 2018

The following story, written by freelance writer Anita Hutner, shows how funding from the Western Union Foundation in support of Upwardly Global helped a new immigrant to the US find a job in his chosen field. 

According to Upwardly Global, there are about two million skilled immigrants in the US who have permanent residency and the legal right to work, but are unemployed or significantly underemployed. These are professionals – engineers, doctors and others – whose credentials may not be recognized in their new country, or who lack the soft skills needed to reenter the workforce. At the same time, many employers report having trouble finding qualified people to fill key positions.

Upwardly Global helps immigrants and refugees put their education and skills to work by breaking down barriers to professional employment, offering career preparedness and acculturation training, and job application and 1-on-1 coaching. In 2017, a Western Union Foundation grant supported their Job Seeker and Employment Services Program, helping lift more than 1,600 skilled immigrants out of poverty, while meeting US employers’ need for highly skilled workers.

Meet Almothana: This young computer engineer from Raqa, Syria was forced to flee his country and seek asylum in the US, arriving in Chicago in the dead of winter. “I knew I was going to face difficulties settling down in the US, but I did not imagine that it was going to be that hard,” he said. “When I first arrived, I didn’t know anyone and spent a lot of time worrying about my family back home. They were able to join me several months later.”

With little money, he took the first job he could find — a cashier in a supermarket, working the night shift. Wanting to continue his career in computer engineering, Almothana went on many job interviews, but he struggled with English. He also discovered that his Syrian degree was not recognized in the US. Discouraged, he feared he would never be able to find a job in his field.

One day, Almothana’s sister read a Facebook post from Upwardly Global. Almothana contacted the organization and immediately signed up. “The training associate guided me on how to develop my US-style resume, followed up to make sure I finished the required online training, and referred me to an Upwardly Global employment coach,” he said. “My employment coach encouraged me to apply for jobs, guided me through applications and taught me how to answer interview questions,” he continued. “For the first time, I felt optimistic about my future as an IT professional in the US.”

Today, Almothana is a full time IT Technician/Help Desk Analyst with big plans for the future. “It’s amazing how my life has changed because of Upwardly Global,” Almothana said. “I’m back on track and my entire family is happy and grateful to this organization.”