Beautiful Day/Providence Granola Project has worked with 45 employees representing 11 nationalities. This includes men and women with minimal or no first language literacy. Of these 8 currently work for us and 28 are employed elsewhere. One opened her own business. Others have made valuable community connections gaining access to a broader network of career opportunities.
As point of reference, the annual rate at which refugees nation-wide enter employment is about 50% (as of 2013), with a growing number in part-time or temporary jobs.
Between fifty and eighty thousand refugees are resettled annually in the United States as part of our country’s humanitarian response to the growing world-wide crisis of over sixteen million documented refugees. While refugees receive most of the rights and privileges of citizens, including the legal right to work, they have always been among our country’s most vulnerable residents.
Most refugees arrive with no belongings or resources, minimal exposure to western culture, and a traumatic personal history. Many lack an established ethnic community to help them adjust and integrate.
Rhode Island’s refugee population represents a fairly small yet incredibly strategic target. When the first arrivals of a new ethnic community succeed economically, they pave the way for an entire new community and the generation that follows to integrate and live with hope and a sense of belonging.
If we can mobilize refugee employment in a state like Rhode Island that already struggles with lagging growth and high unemployment, then we know our model will have profound, broad applications everywhere.
1) Get employment education out of the classroom. Keep it practical and experiential.
2) Offer a first work experience that is culturally relevant, encouraging, and confidence-building.
3) Place employment training in a context of comprehensive services and ESL education.
4) Pay participants. This increases motivation and decreases dependence on social services.
5) Involve our community as they buy products, volunteer, make donations, and build relationships. We are a means for our communities to show hospitality and to develop appreciation for refugees.
6) Widen the number and kinds of job opportunities available to vulnerable populations.
7) Make sure our efforts contribute to the development of a model that can extend and transcend beyond our local efforts.
OUR CURRENT PROJECT
Our goal for 2016 is to train 30 newly arrived refugees at two competency levels. 20-22 refugees facing exceptionally high employment barriers will work in our kitchen to develop the confidence and skills to enter the job market. 6-8 potential entrepreneurs will work independently at farmers’ markets, with a goal to define a clear and realistic career path while learning sales and marketing skills..
The project coincides with the launch of a new product (spiced nuts) to expand production, job-training positions, and sales, which in turn will educate many more consumers about refugees and other vulnerable populations.