Shipow said the employment specialists will help their peers find jobs by going into the community, helping them write strong applications and doing on-the-job training.
The second part of the plan, Shipow said, focuses on round table meetings that gather the newly hired peer leaders and community leaders, such as resettlement agencies, financial literacy experts and GED candidates at community colleges.
In the meetings, the leaders would choose topics to develop curriculums that can be taught to immigrants in their native languages.
“The goal is that employment will be by refugees, with refugees and for refugees and will hopefully lead to higher skilled employment,” Shipow said. “That will be empowering because a lot of refugees have identified as one of their primary needs that employment opportunities are really limited for them because degree transferability from their own country is really hard in the U.S.”
The lack of degree transferability leads to refugees being steered towards lower paying jobs which makes it hard to support larger families. This strain can cause negative effects on their housing and mental health statuses. The program aims to counter those effects by helping refugees find employment and including mental health training for the hired refugees.
Laura Garlock was one of the group facilitators of the original UNC Refugee Wellness support group. She now serves as an assistant secretary of the RIC.
“They were driven by their ideas of how they wanted things to be for refugees in the future,” Garlock said. “Its been a really neat thing to see all that develop and to just help in small ways, connecting them to the right people.”
Felix Iyoko, the president of the RIC and a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he feels the RIC has made serious progress since it began.
“When the RIC became official, that was when I knew that we really had started serious business,” he said.
Iyoko said more member have joined than anticipated.
“We are really growing beyond expectations,” he said.