This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Over the last few months, there has been positive attention about serving and helping refugees resettled in Utah. I applaud all those who have extended their hand of friendship, donated items or volunteered to lend support. These efforts are having a significant impact and are sincerely appreciated.
The Department of Workforce Services' Refugee Services Office has the opportunity to work closely with refugees daily at the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center. We see firsthand the challenges they face and have learned that one of the greatest needs for refugees to integrate into our society is gainful employment that allows them to provide for their families. There are several barriers they overcome in preparation for employment from learning English, to gaining the appropriate training and skills, and adapting to a new environment and culture.
Currently, the center has a full schedule of workshops and training programs for adults, youth and women. Our goal is to prepare them with the necessary skills and training to be a part of Utah's workforce. Since Jan. 1, we have welcomed more than 2,700 refugees to the center who have participated in various workshops, training programs and activities sponsored by Workforce Services, Salt Lake Community College, Utah State University, or hosted by the refugee communities.
We also have businesses stepping up and volunteering time and resources to help build training programs for refugee adults and youth. One of these programs is the Refugee Coding Project, where companies like Cotopaxi, Adobe, Goldman Sachs' Salt Lake City office and V-School are providing volunteers and teaching refugee youth valuable computer science and STEM skills. It is important to note they are also doing more than just teaching. They are providing mentoring, internships and scholarships. Programs like this one provide more than just computer skills. Participants are learning life skills and improving their English.
In addition, the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center is working closely with the Salt Lake Community College's Warehouse and Distribution Training program. The courses for this program dive into the critical skills needed for warehouse and distribution services. Several refugees are participating in this program and getting ready to jump into the workforce more prepared and qualified.
These are just two examples of programs at the center built to prepare refugees for higher paying jobs. We appreciate all the organizations and companies that are dedicating resources and time to train refugees. Working closely with business, industry and education partners is vital for additional programs to be built, more refugees to be trained and hired for jobs that will offer family sustaining wages.
Refugees resettled in Utah are diverse in their background and work experience. Some have a lot of education, while others have very little. What they do share is a strong desire and determination to learn, work and give back. I've seen this with the refugees that I'm honored to call colleagues at Workforce Services and the thousands we work with at the center.
One of the most powerful ways to help refugees integrate into Utah is to create access to higher paying jobs. It puts them on a successful trajectory for generations to come. My hope is for the spirit of serving refugees to expand to more employers who are willing to join the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center and our partners in providing additional training opportunities and jobs for refugees.
Jon Pierpont is executive director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services.