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Nationalities Service Center is partnering with local tech companies to find refugees jobs

WebLinc with Mayor Jim Kenney on World Refugee Day. June 22, 2017 Category: FeaturedMediumMethod
Refugee and immigrant nonprofit Nationalities Service Center resettles about 500 clients per year and assists 250 to 300 of those with their first job search in the United States.

The goal is for its clients to become self-sufficient as soon as possible, said Juliane Ramic, NSC’s senior director for refugee and community integration. One way it can help them do that is by placing them in employment.

On World Refugee Day this past Tuesday, NSC unveiled a partnership with local ecommerce company WebLinc in which refugees and other NSC clients with a background working in technology could be connected to the company for paid internships, as reported by Technical.ly Philly.

WebLinc has so far brought on two NSC clients — and according to Ramic, the company hires about 95 percent of its paid interns, so she’s hoping they’ll stay on. One is Abdul Kamara, a refugee from Sierra Leone.

“I urge Philadelphia businesses to take a page out of WebLinc’s book and play a part,” Kamara said at an event celebrating the partnership at City Hall on Tuesday.  “Seek out and help the refugees in your community, in any way you can, to become better Philadelphians and better Americans. I’m here today because NSC, Stacy and WebLinc stepped up in supporting me.”

"Seek out and help the refugees in your community, in any way you can, to become better Philadelphians and better Americans."
Abdul Kamara

Design firm Bluecadet has also pledged its support of the program.

The partnership actually started back in November, and NSC is now on the lookout for its clients who could fit with other tech companies. It’s tough, though: Of the refugees NSC works with, “the average person has spent 17 years in refugee camps,” Ramic said. “In those refugee situations, most of their work experience is in the informal sector” such as laundry and food distribution.

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Thus, most of NSC job placement is for low-level positions like stocking shelves or working in restaurants or hospitality, but Ramic said NSC is looking to expand this new type of partnership with Philly-based companies in other sectors that can act as an “open door” to meaningful employment.

So in the case of, say, an asylum seeker who worked as a physical therapist in their home country, NSC could hook them up with a job transporting patients in a hospital that’s committed to training them for upward mobility.

(This reminds us of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians’ International Professionals Program, which helps immigrants who have earned at least a Bachelor’s degree from their country of origin and are looking to re-enter their field in the States.)

Though there’s a “very small percentage” of refugees with tech training, Ramic said, refugees are “savvy in the way they use technology because they have literally used technology for survival.”

See BBC’s visualization of that reliance on technology here.

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