Expanding Refugee Recertification Services Throughout Kentucky

It’s not easy for a refugee to resettle in the U.S. The process requires patience, flexibility and a will to succeed. These difficulties intensify when the new American was a professional in their country of origin or the secondary country they fled to on their path to the U.S. Refugee professionals must learn a new language and new systems, and they often have a hard pill to swallow. In their new environments, they are no longer respected and trusted as professionals — and, they quite possibly never may be again.

At Jewish Family & Career Services (JFCS), we work with refugee professionals to overcome disappointment and assist them with next steps to recovering the careers they once had. We provide guidance on recertification and career options, and we work with people to, in some way, continue their previous professional paths. JFCS serves people in the greater Louisville area, but what happens for professionals in other resettlement communities across the state? JFCS, in partnership with the Kentucky Office for Refugees, is beginning to answer this question by providing consultation for communities statewide that are resettling refugee professionals.

The Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and Northern Kentucky communities receive fewer refugees than Louisville, but the success of the JFCS program inspired these regions to seek training for staff working with individuals who want to recertify or who want to upgrade their current jobs to better support their families. The JFCS statewide consultation is aimed to help refugees better integrate into their communities. We know that when refugees have stable employment that can support their families, they are more likely to stay in the cities they have been resettled in, assist newly arrived refugees in their integration, and provide economic benefit to their new home communities.

The JFCS consultation is tailored to the needs of each city and the requests of current refugee professionals. In conjunction with local workforce development organizations, adult basic education providers, and higher education institutions, each city is receiving support so they can expand their current programming to include career counseling, educational advisement and recertification. Kentucky ranks seventh among all states in sheer numbers of resettled refugees and arrivals. Providing refugees with tools to unlock their full potential will not only allow these new Americans to better acclimate to their new homes but will also attract new talent and businesses to areas of our state in desperate need of economic growth.

Kristina Mielke, MSSW, a member of the JFCS Career Workforce Development team, has been passionately working with refugees and immigrants for more than a decade. She has been working at JFCS since 2014 as a Career Specialist for Career Academy, and loves helping newcomers translate their past experiences and passions into a rewarding career in their new country.

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