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Refugees get closer to achieving goals at annual job fair

Pablo Cespedes and Ahmed Mohammed of Uptown Bakers Photo: Eric Rasch

The IRC in Silver Spring held their annual job fair on May 24 in downtown Silver Spring. The event was attended by 144 refugee job seekers and 24 employer partners. In the month since the job fair, there are 87 documented client interviews and 10 refugees who have started new positions, with more new jobs anticipated. A special thanks to Uptown Bakers, Hilton, and Foodhini for sponsoring the job fair and making it a success!

In addition to connecting refugees with jobs, the job fair is an opportunity for refugees to learn about the job search process and to attend a first job fair with the support of IRC staff. Prior to the event, all 144 attendees finalized a U.S. style resume, acquired professional clothing and completed Job Fair Readiness Training at the IRC. During the Job Fair Readiness Training, participants discussed professional expectations for a job fair and learned about the employers and available positions through the IRC event.

Yebralem, from Ethiopia, arrived in the U.S. two years ago after spending time in South Africa. Yebralem grew up cooking with her mother at home and at her family’s restaurant in the Red Sea fishing town of Assab. Ever since starting a new life in the U.S. with her husband and teenage son, she has dreamt of returning to a career in the food and restaurant industry. At the job fair, Yebralem spoke with representatives from Foodhini, a catering business featuring the cuisines of local refugee and immigrant chefs. She impressed them with her passion for and knowledge of food and cooking and her willingness to experiment with new recipes and meld flavors from her experiences in East and Southern Africa. She was hired as a chef at Foodhini and can’t wait to share her love of food with others.

V. (name omitted to respect confidentiality) came to the job fair looking for an entry level job to get acquainted with the U.S. job market and develop her customer service skills. While her long-term career goal is to launch a career in the healthcare industry, she first wanted to obtain a position to ensure her financial stability. After reviewing the many employers attending the job fair, V. identified Hilton as a company that would provide her with professional development opportunities and valuable customer service skills. She spoke with representatives from Hilton and was encouraged to apply to open positions. V. was hired and has successfully begun work in housekeeping at a Hilton location in DC. She expressed that she was happy to take this first step with Hilton on the journey to achieve her career dreams.

Beyond the job fair, the Economic Empowerment Program at the IRC assists refugees and other eligible individuals on their path to economic self-sufficiency. In Silver Spring, the Economic Empowerment Program assists beneficiaries with finding their first job through services including group job readiness training and individualized goal-setting, resume writing, application support and interview preparation. Career development services are available and offers post placement support and career reintegration. Career development services include soft skills, financial literacy, and networking, and access to free and low cost training opportunities in a variety of fields, such as information technology, healthcare, engineering and construction.

Want to learn more about how you can help refugees in Maryland? Contact IRC in Silver Spring Volunteer Coordinator Mark Youmans at mark.youmans [at] rescue.org.