Refugees and Asylees Shine at IRC’s Fall Job Fair
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Silver Spring, Maryland hosted its second job fair this year, which connected refugees and asylees with community employers. Nearly 200 IRC clients attended and met with representatives from 36 local businesses that were actively recruiting for current job openings.
The job fair, held at the Silver Spring Civic Center, was unique for many reasons but most unusual was its prompting by the employers for IRC to hold the event. After attending the IRC’s first job fair held in March 2013, employers urged the IRC employment team to provide them another opportunity to meet quality candidates. The “annual event” soon became a bi-annual opportunity for IRC clients to showcase their skills, talents and experience to actively hiring employers.
A range of businesses were in attendance, representing the Banking and Finance, Manufacturing and Production, Hospitality, Security, Service Industry, Retail and Education sectors. While some companies were looking to fill one type of job, many employers had a variety of needs. “Even within a single company, such as a hotel, we find that their hiring needs span varying backgrounds, skills and qualifications,” commented IRC Senior Manager Matthew Fortier. “IRC clients can fill positions from the housekeeping and laundry departments to the food-service and banquet areas and even to the higher skilled positions such as front-desk reception, auditor, engineer and administrator.”
Much of the event’s success was due to the preparation done by the IRC employment team under the leadership of employment specialist Melissa Saucedo. Melissa worked with staff to develop and facilitate workshops that 90 refugees and asylees attended prior to the job fair. The workshops covered topics such as resume preparation, interview skills, networking and professional appearance. Many clients were further assisted by the non-profit organization A Wider Circle, which provided professional interview clothing that they could keep. Each client was given 2 or 3 full suits.
One of the best parts of the day was when participants learned that some of the employers running the booths were success stories themselves. Ahmed Mahmood, a former IRC client from Iraq, worked his way up from Shift Leader to Assistant Manager and to his current role as General Manager at Cosi. His colleagues at Cosi said that their positive experience with Ahmed and other refugee clients keep them coming back. “We are here because we believe in the experience we have had with the IRC,” said Cosi Regional Manager Yasmin Contreras. “When we think about hiring the right people, we think of the IRC.”
Employers new to the IRC job fair experience had only positive things to say. “I have never seen such a professional and smooth job fair before,” said Sherlin Jimenez of East Coast Fresh Cuts. “Everyone I met was so eager, so pleasant, and so very professional; its hard to believe their background! I only wish more of our natural-born citizens were this motivated about making it ahead in life.”
Genaro Reynoso from Marriott Hotels thought the event was so inspiring that he invited his wife and kids to come down to the convention center to see what he was getting the opportunity to be a part of. “I have been doing this for 13 years and this is the first time I have attended in something like this,” said Genaro. “I won’t just be hiring, I will be making a difference”.