Kubana Alexis joined the International Institute of New England in 2018 as a Skills Training Specialist. Today, he is the Associate Director, Workforce Initiatives, managing and innovating our job skills training programs. Kubana discussed his journey from client to employee at IINE, his advice for prospective IINE employees, and how he enjoys spending his free time.
What brought you to the International Institute of New England?
I came to IINE as a client in 2017. I was resettled here as a refugee after living in Uganda for thirteen years. I had worked with refugees for around nine years before that, and I was passionate about continuing that work no matter what. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy. I did a year of service as a Commonwealth Corp member. I oversaw sourcing and recruiting volunteers to support education, skills training, and career coaching programs, and expanding the organization’s volunteer outreach systems. In 2018, my year of service ended, and I started to look for a new job. I wanted to stay in the U.S. and be an inspiration to others. Coming here as a refugee, you have a lot of expectations for yourself. It can be hard to fulfill them. I was determined.
Throughout the year, I stayed in touch with my caseworker at IINE. They offered me a job as a Skills Training Specialist. I wanted people to see that IINE can resettle you, and you can work for them, too.
It’s been five years since you first joined IINE as an employee. Congrats on the work anniversary! How has your role evolved over time?
Kubana teaching a Hospitality Training Class
As a Skills Training Specialist, I focused on coordinating skills training programs and training clients. In 2019, I was promoted to Training Manager, and I continued that work until 2021. Then I was promoted to Associate Director, Workforce Initiatives. In this new role, I have expanded our existing skills training programs and implemented new initiatives.
Can you tell us more about these new initiatives?
Sure, let me share two in particular. One of the first new programs we piloted was a professional development course across our three sites (Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire). The course was designed for a range of English language levels, from immigrants who are still beginners to those who are very advanced. Many of our clients are highly educated and had successful careers in their home countries. I wanted to design a course that would help them find good jobs in the U.S. too. We cover topics like professionalism & soft skills, customer service, professional email etiquette, transferable skills, teamwork/collaboration, professional resume and cover letter writing, job search strategies, mock interviews, professionalism/work ethics, and salary negotiations. Five individuals just successfully completed the course, and we are running the next cohort soon!
Another program I have led us in piloting is called lfCorps. With this program, we want to make sure that we don’t just support our clients in getting jobs, but also in integrating into their communities. When we come to work, we bring our issues from our homes and communities with us. People are dealing with mental health issues, financial issues, police reform, etc. I want to help people balance their personal lives and work and to connect with resources in their communities. So, that’s the focus of the program.
You definitely keep busy! What does your day-to-day look like?
Every day is different. Right now, I’m very involved in community engagement, so I’m working closely with external partners, attending conferences, and setting up meetings about recruitment and training, etc. That might be my Monday, and then on Tuesday, I’m working on a grant proposal. Wednesday, I’m working on budgeting. It’s always changing!
I also try to work across our three sites, so I can collaborate with our different teams – whether that’s discussing our programs with a career navigator, talking with marketing about how to promote our programs, or collaborating with HR to think about recruitment and outreach. I am always looking to see where I can be most useful; I want to support wherever I can.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy most?
I enjoy being able to advocate for our clients. They have inspiring stories to share.
I also enjoy highlighting the work we are doing to support them. I’m proud to say that IINE has served 7,000 refugees and immigrants this year. That takes a lot of work and a lot of courage. We have an amazing team.
What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining IINE?
Be flexible and open to change. The staff at IINE is a welcoming community. They want to support and teach you, and you have to be willing to support them and learn, too.
All of us are working towards a common goal – to support refugees and immigrants and make their lives better. Believe in the mission, and you will be fulfilled here.
Bonus: Share something about yourself that people might be interested to know.
I’m very social! I like being with people, listening to music and dancing together. I am also a crazy sports fan. I love soccer and basketball. I call myself a Bostonian; go Boston Celtics!