Hundreds attend refugee job fair in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Sunday, hundreds of refugees living in Austin showed up to a local mosque looking for resources and job opportunities.

Several non profits partnered to host the hiring fair at the North Austin Muslim Community Center.

The organizations that set this up include:

  • The TENT Partnership, a coalition that supports refugees in the United States
  • Combined Arms, a national organization focused on supporting veterans and individuals who arrived in the United States after having assisted the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Global Impact Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education programming and workforce development for marginalized communities

Dozens of employers

30 different employers from a variety of industries filled the community center.

Landscapes Unlimited Chief Development Officer Jake Riekstins was among the employers in the room.

“We’re looking for folks with entry level skills all the way up to those that are career minded,” Riekstins said. “We talked about their transferable skills, how we can apply those and make them feel comfortable.”

Barriers to employment

Global Impact Initiative said 400 people from places like Ukraine, Africa and Afghanistan attended.

“We have a number of recently resettled refugees in the Central Texas area, that are really in need of employment, and they don’t know how to navigate the employment system,” said Global Impact Initiative Volunteer Global Ambassador Stefanie Grasty.

Grasty said many refugee families will go into a business asking for work only to be redirected to apply online.

“The issue here is many of our refugee families don’t have electronics,” she said. “They don’t have a laptop. They don’t have internet.”

Many refugees agreed that they face different obstacles when looking for jobs.

“Many people, they don’t speak English,” said Afghanistan refugee Saidrahaman Purdily. “Sometimes I have a struggle to fill a form online. If I do not ask somebody about something, I cannot fill it.”

‘It’s not just a paycheck’

Combined Arms SIV and Allies Program Manager Khalil Arab said this event breaks down those barriers. Arab said it gets refugees face to face with potential opportunities.

“Our job was to bring them in the same room,” Arab said. “There’s a potential employer and there’s a potential employee.”

Not everyone came to find themselves a job. Some attended the fair to help gather information for others in their community.

“I collect and now I can share more specific organizations, what company, what business for some people who need jobs,” said Ukrainian refugee Elizabeth Arhunova. “I hope when I share with Ukrainians, they go to apply.”

Ultimately, many said this was about supporting refugees along their journey in a new country as they build a life here.

“It’s not just a paycheck,” Arab said. “It’s a way they can actually make a livelihood, it’s the way to independence.”

Along with job opportunities, the organization raffled off 12 computers and hundreds of dollars worth of Walmart gift cards.

Refugees also left with bags full of food provided by the Capital Area Food Bank.

Both Global Impact Initiative and Combined Arms said they are supported through donations.

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