Last month, a group of refugee high school students spent the day at Celtic Bank in downtown Salt Lake City to learn more about career opportunities available in the financial sector and shadow Celtic Bank employees for a portion of their workday. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City’s youth education & empowerment program supported the day where youth participated in workshops with a variety of Celtic Bank staff, including team members from marketing, loans, compliance, credit, IT and HR. The refugee youth also participated in a career panel where Celtic Bank employees shared their experiences working for the bank and described their education and career path up to that point.

Refugee youth gathering with IRC volunteers posing for a photo.
Refugee youth, Celtic Bank employees and IRC in Salt Lake City's education team came together to discuss careers in banking.
Photo: Maggie McCormick/IRC

The IRC’s goal for the career shadow day, Krysti Nellermoe, education programs supervisor, explained "was that as students walked into the event, they thought ‘I could work here, I could belong here if I wanted,’ and for them to think past 2 years, past 5 years and to start to dream and to understand what it would take—what kind of education and mindset they would need—to reach some of these higher-level careers.”

The group of 15 students, most of whom have been in the United States for 6 months or less, were split into three groups based on language—Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and Dari—with an interpreter for each group. The students engaged in learning about various aspects and careers within investment banking, asking impressive questions to Celtic Bank employees about different aspects of their jobs.

Refugee youth meet and IT department of Celtic Bank in a office room.
15 refugee youth met with Celtic Bank employees throughout the career shadow day, learning more about marketing, compliance and IT careers and the necessary education for their career paths.
Photo: Maggie McCormick/IRC

“I think our kids really got a sense of welcoming and got a sense that one day they could be in that person’s shoes,” said Alaa Al-Barkawi, the IRC in Salt Lake City’s college & career readiness specialist. “I think what really helped was Celtic Bank has [many] people who have taken different career paths—there were people who had gone traditionally through school but then there were a lot of people who didn’t …go that route, so [the students] got to see [that maybe they don’t have to take] the traditional route.”

In fact, many refugee youth don’t get to follow the “traditional route” of education, due to years of interrupted schooling. Alaa continued: “I think what was great about [the job shadow day] was that the students got to see different ways that you can set yourself up into a higher position of a great organization or company.”

Abdul Moeez, one of the students who participated in the career shadow day, learned a lot about preparing for his future career: “I learned about education and opportunities to get a job and make your future better and happier. You can be happy if you work hard, that’s what I learned today. The people here gave us advice on what we can do right now to make a better future.”

Celtic Bank’s efforts to welcome the youth through their doors and spend time empowering youth to see a path to achieve their dreams and future career goals is exceptional. The IRC in Salt Lake City is grateful to have partners, like Celtic Bank, in our community who continue to welcome refugees and provide opportunities for refugee youth and their families to succeed.

This event was the first of a two-part series learning about U.S. banking and financial systems, including the basics of financial literacy. This month, the students will visit with employees from Goldman Sachs to learn about individual banking and to set up their own checking and savings accounts.

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