by Chris Rippee, Career Counselor, JFCS Career Development Center
Finding a job is rarely easy, but when you are foreign-born, the process can be even more challenging. Many immigrants and refugees struggle to find meaningful work as they adapt to American workforce culture. For more than 5 years, the Refugee and Immigrant Career Fair has been here to help.
Held in early May, this year’s event was coordinated by JFCS in partnership with Literacy Pittsburgh, AJAPO and the Allegheny County Dept. of Human Services. The fair brought more than 30 employers, resources, and educational opportunities together.
One attendee summed it up: “Getting a job can be so frustrating, so it’s really nice to meet people from companies face-to-face.” Another one echoed that sentiment. “It’s hard to get them to know you when you have to apply online. It’s different when you actually meet people. They can see you smile, shake your hand, and know that you’re a person.”
This specialized fair features employers large and small who value diversity and have demonstrated their interest in working with foreign-born job seekers, including UPMC, PNC Bank, Amazon, Roadbotics, Global Wordsmiths, Public Allies and many more. Interpreters were on hand to help English language learners effectively and confidently communicate.
Employers return to this fair year after year. “Our refugee employees are some of our best workers,” said one local company representative. “We’re always looking to meet more, and I think that we met a lot of good candidates today.”
Some service, resource and educational organizations were also represented. Immigrant Services and Connections (ISAC) staff were there to help immigrants and refugees connect to local supports and services. Others included the All for All Professional Connector Program and the Pittsburgh City Commission. Local educational organizations included CCAC, Bidwell Training Center, Triangle Technical Institute and New Century Careers.
This year, high-schoolers from the JFCS and ARYSE Refugee Youth Programs attended for the first time. Fifteen juniors and seniors met employers, social service providers and representatives from schools. “It was great for them,” said one JFCS AmeriCorps staffer. “They practiced speaking with employers, learned about the sorts of jobs they might find interesting, and talked to schools, which is really important in helping them plan for the future.”
Sarah Cole Welch, director for JFCS Career Development Center, reminds all job seekers that “JFCS Career Development Center is there for anyone seeking to upgrade their job search skills, re-enter the workforce, or change careers. Our commitment to diversity and equal opportunity means we take a personal approach to the specific needs of clients with different challenges.”
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