DuPage Workforce Innovation Board settles Ukrainian refugees into jobs and training
Thanks to a willing Bensenville employer and the collaborative efforts of the DuPage Workforce Innovation Board/workNet DuPage, newly arrived Ukrainian community members are finding stable employment and pursuing new careers.
Since the beginning of the war, DuPage County has welcomed over 250 Ukrainian refugees.
In September of 2022, WIB member Susan Ryan, vice president of human resources for Victor Envelope in Bensenville, began to see a spike in newly arrived Ukrainian refugees applying for job openings.
Ryan knew she wanted to make full-time job offers, but she also recognized that limited English skills could hinder the applicants' ability both at work and in their new communities. She reached out to WIB colleague Dan Deasy, manager of adult education at College of DuPage.
College of DuPage offers English Language Acquisition courses to residents and companies throughout DuPage County.
Deasy and his team visited Victor Envelope, conducted placement testing for 14 new employees, and put plans in place for offering on-site English language classes for those individuals while at work.
In addition to making this valuable resource available, Victor Envelope also agreed to pay for any overtime incurred during class time.
"Victor Envelope Company's partnership with the College of DuPage has enabled us to offer on-site English Language Acquisition classes for our Ukrainian employees. It's an honor to be a part of their journey as they acclimate to their new lives in the United States," Ryan said.
Concurrently, the workNet DuPage Career Center has seen nearly 50 Ukrainian refugees come through their doors since September 2022. The workNet DuPage Career Center serves as the workforce development arm of DuPage County and administers federally funded job training grants and other career services for eligible individuals.
Career counselor Mark Dennison knew that the language barrier could prove problematic for refugees in completing the paperwork and process needed to fully take advantage of everything workNet has to offer.
To ensure accessibility, Dennison leveraged workNet's partnership with the Language Access Resource Center.
The center assists organizations with solutions to meet the access needs of English Language Learners.
With the assistance of a Ukrainian interpreter through the center, Dennison developed a customized, seamless intake process for newly arrived Ukrainian jobseekers, which has allowed them to access necessary services faster.
"I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be in a position to have to leave the only life you have known ... I am privileged and humbled to make a small difference in their new beginning," Dennison said.
The DuPage Workforce Innovation Board is a business led policy- and decision-making body tasked with oversight of workNet DuPage and the federally funded local workforce system.
Business and labor leaders provide insight into the workforce and skill demands of the DuPage economy; education providers strive to ensure training opportunities align with those needs; and community-based organizations and public service agencies connect residents to both employment and training opportunities.
As part of the national network of workforce boards, the WIB strives to bring systems together to achieve a stronger local workforce and economy.
For more information, visit www.worknetdupage.org/workforce-board.