Refugee young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 24 may have narrow educational and career training options due to low English language proficiency and a lack of formal education. Job Corps can offer refugee youth the opportunity to learn and live with American students, perfect English language skills, and ultimately achieve educational and employment goals. Job Corps is a free program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, available to help young people improve their livelihood and career prospects by empowering them to obtain professional jobs and become financially independent. Participants in Job Corps live on-site at one of 131 locations across the country, learning academic skills and training for a chosen career path. After students spend their morning in the classroom, they spend the afternoon learning a specific trade. Each location has different training programs based on the needs of the communities. For example, programs might include, advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, culinary arts, or transportation.
Job Corps is a self-paced program that takes between 8 months and 2 years to complete. When participants are close to finishing the program, Job Corps provides employment support, including job coaching, resume and application assistance, and networking referrals. These services continue for up to one year after graduation. Most students graduate with a job or enroll in college.
Job Corps and Refugees
The key to success in pairing refugee youth with Job Corps lies in creating a relationship with your local Job Corps center. For example, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) in Dayton, OH, worked with Job Corps admissions and career counselors to help create a space of welcome for refugee youth. CSSMV refugee program has been working with the Job Corps program in Dayton, OH since 2010, according to Teena Davis, Outreach and Admissions Counselor for Job Corps.
When CSSMV is advising a client on whether Dayton Job Corps would be appropriate, the two Job Corps components are considered: education and employment. Job Corps provides the educational component by assisting youth in obtaining their high school diploma or GED in addition to a trade. However, not every Job Corps site offers ESL. In Dayton, CSSMV facilitated a partnership between Job Corps and a local English Language program. As a result, ESL classes are now available for refugee participants.
Interested in connecting with a local Job Corps center? Ellenne Abraham, Job Corps Career Counselor, suggests that resettlement sites offer to assist with recruitment and work with their local Job Corps to find innovative low cost methods to offer ESL. Abraham also advises resettlement sites to refer refugee community members for Job Corps center position openings. Those staff members can be ambassadors to help avoid miscommunication and cultural mishaps. Refugee employment staff should also continue to be available to assist referred refugees when needed.
Bior was resettled in 2016 when he was 18. At school in the Kakuma refugee camp, Bior dreamed of becoming a scientist. After arrival in Dayton, Bior realized that in order to achieve his dream, he would need to take an indirect route. Bior’s Employment Coordinator at CSSMV spoke with him about Job Corps. Three months later, Bior entered the high school diploma program at Job Corps and then began the Medical Assistant trade program. Bior completed his high school diploma and Medical Assistant training in a year. Today, Bior continues to reside at Dayton Job Corps: “I work at a Pharmacy after classes and I am now in college studying Aviation Technology. Job Corps provides me with everything I need and everything is free, including books and transportation.”