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Introducing Employers To An Untapped Pool Of Skilled Newcomers

A screen shot of a video resume created by Newcomers Support & Development fo...

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: A screen shot of a video resume created by Newcomers Support & Development for an immigrant looking for employment as an engineer in the U.S., Oct. 25, 2017.

The goal of the Skilled and Foreign Credentialed Newcomers Job and Resources Expo is to connect certified and experienced immigrants with training and employment opportunities in their fields.

A job opening at the Cajon Valley Union School District calls for an Arabic-speaking aide to assist English-language learners in the classroom.

Michelle Hayes, the district's assistant superintendent for personnel services, said a refugee who was a teacher in their home country would be an ideal candidate for the job.

“Their language skills are essential in providing support for our students and they have a unique experience in order to support our kiddos that are acclimating to a new environment," Hayes said.

It is this kind of opportunity that organizers want to feature at the first Skilled and Foreign Credentialed Newcomers Job and Resources Expo. Mohammed Tuama, who planned the Thursday event, said the objective is to help certified and experienced immigrants gain employment in their field instead of an unskilled entry-level job.

"We have a few goals, not only one goal, but the main one is to tell the community, the mainstream community, — the employers, training providers — that newcomers, a lot of them have skills, and those skills are really needed by the local workforce," said Tuama, who arrived as a refugee from Iraq after working for the U.S. military.

He founded Newcomers Support & Development several years ago to provide certified immigrants with resources, such as training programs and test preparation opportunities, to meet American requirements. Tuama said his organization helps agencies fill about a dozen jobs each month, but that there are hundreds of experienced workers available — from healthcare professionals, teachers and IT workers to a few lawyers and plenty of engineers. The career fair will connect them directly with employers and other opportunities.

“We have an issue of marketing our skills, that’s why we’re trying to bring everyone together," Tuama said.

Deona Dorsey, who co-chairs the nonprofit San Diego Refugee Forum's employment task force, said the expo could help address a stigma often attached to newcomers who speak little or no English.

"Very few and far between are we seeing successful highly skilled professionals actually working in a field that they were working in their countries or their passion, because the stigma is, 'You don’t speak my language, then you're not educated," said Dorsey, also an operations manager at San Diego Metro Region Career Centers.

She said that's how engineers who worked professionally in their native countries may sometimes wind up as janitors in America.

"So they look at them like they’re not intelligent, and furthermore, refer them to something that’s entry-level when they can do these technical skills," Dorsey said.

More than a dozen employers are expected to present about job openings and discuss pathways that can help interested parties get hired in positions where they can grow.

Cajon Valley Union School District's Hayes said she is eager to bring foreign educators on board for non-credentialed opportunities while helping them earn the requirements to eventually fill higher-up teaching positions.

"We’re trying to connect with them on ways that they can go about getting a teaching credential, having their transcripts transcribed and finding out what classes they need in order to get a teaching credential for us,” Hayes said.

The Thursday job and resources expo is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan Community Center in El Cajon.

Photo caption: A flyer for the Skilled and Foreign Credentialed Newcomers Job and Resources ...

Photo credit: Newcomers Support & Development

A flyer for the Skilled and Foreign Credentialed Newcomers Job and Resources Expo, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 in El Cajon.

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