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Local Employers Say That Hiring Refugees and Immigrants is a Win-Win

  March 26, 2024

When refugees and immigrants arrive in New England they are eager to join the workforce, succeed and advance in their careers, and contribute to their new communities. During a transition filled with uncertainty, landing a job in the U.S. is their first major step toward financial security and pursuing their dreams.

Since our founding over 100 years ago, the International Institute has supported these new arrivals in developing the skills and expertise needed to successfully enter the workforce. IINE’s employment team helps clients to orient to U.S. workplace culture, set short-and long-term goals, and find and apply for jobs. In 2023, working with an established and growing network of local staffing agencies and employers, IINE prepared 1,881 refugee and immigrant clients to enter the workforce and placed 469 clients in jobs with strong starting wages, benefits, and clear pathways for advancement.  

Local employers describe hiring refugees and immigrants as a win-win; they know they’re getting employees with incredible work ethics who will strengthen the culture of their companies, and they take pride in helping people who have overcome heart-rending challenges for the chance of a fresh start.  

Meet some of the exceptional employer partners who have hired IINE clients – and seen tremendous results… 

WeStaff, a national staffing agency with a branch in Lowell, Massachusetts, has partnered with IINE for 10 years placing more than 3,000 refugees and immigrants into entry-level manufacturing jobs.  

Yusuf and KelleYusef Abdi, a long-time IINE Career Services Manager who is himself a former refugee from Somalia, first approached Kelle Doyle, WeStaff’s Area Manager, back in 2014. It didn’t take long for them to understand how they could help one another’s clients. Soon they were meeting frequently, reviewing the skills and experience of the refugees and immigrants Yusuf was working to place, matching them with job openings, and helping them fill out employment paperwork.

“He would bring 10 to 15 people at once, “says Kelle. “At first, we would spend hours together. Soon it got to a point where Yusuf trusted me and knew I’d take good care of his people, so he’d drop by, say a quick hello, give me a hug, go do some other work for a few hours, and come back. I ended up putting so many people to work through Yusuf’s help!” 

Kelle cannot say enough about how successful this pool of employees has been over the years, “They end up being our best employees. Their work ethic is unbelievable—and we know that they are humbling themselves, because they come with the most interesting educational and professional backgrounds, which may not be what we do at all, but they work in our manufacturing or our warehouses because that’s what we do, and they end up being the best employees there. The nice thing is, we’re a steppingstone for them to grow their language skills, make some money, establish themselves, get licenses, and just start a life here.” 

Kelle Quote

She says she could talk all day about the incredible people she’s met through the partnership and what it means to them to get the chance to work. “I had these two young employees once,” she remembers, “who were going to take the train to Wilmington and then walk a mile and a half to get to the client company. You never want to set them up for failure, so I said, ‘You know a mile-and-a-half seems like an awfully long walk.’ And they said, ‘Do you know how far we had to walk to school? We would think nothing of walking 10 miles one way to get to school and oftentimes we didn’t even have shoes on our feet.’”

Kelle says that she’ll never forget the perspective this showed her. She’s also grateful that Yusuf’s team is able to arrange for rides for their clients, and “even provide them with steel-toe boots!” 

Kelle certificate

The culture of her own company has also been very much shaped by the partnership, “I tell my staff, ‘Never forget what we do. It’s not just an employment agency. We touch lives every day here. You have no idea the impact we have on people who are coming here from refugee camps or other horrific situations. We help them to settle down and have confidence, and then we get to watch them grow in their new lives. We’ve employed entire families, and we’ve had people come back and get higher-level jobs.’

Back in 2015, when Kelle’s company was called “Remedy Intelligent Staffing” Kelle was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants at an IINE event celebrating staff, volunteers, and community partners. Later that same year, she was awarded a national “Recruiter of the Year” award at a ceremony in Las Vegas.

“I can tell you it was because of Yusef and all the people that came from IINE,” Kelle says. “It all trickled down to some really cool stuff happening in my world.”  

Ofemz, an up-and-coming Home Health Care Agency in Manchester, New Hampshire that is founded, owned, and operated by Nigerian immigrants Femi and Odun Owolabi, has recently employed a dozen IINE clients and is set to interview more. They describe their partnership with IINE as “a wonderful experience.”  

Femi Owolabi

Femi says that when they started the business and began looking for staff, they knew they wanted to employ fellow immigrants. They were thinking about the support they wish they’d had back when they were seeking their first jobs in the U.S. “It was a challenge before we could get a job,” he remembers. “We did it on our own and had to do everything.” 

The Owolabis reached out to people within their church and community networks. When Femi learned about IINE, he sent an email asking if there were “new immigrants who are just getting set up” who may be interested in the work, and if they could partner in any capacity. “I’m so glad I sent that email,” Femi says.

Ofemz places home health care aides, who help people of advanced age who need assistance with the tasks of their daily lives but prefer to stay in their own homes rather than assisted living facilities. They work with people at their most vulnerable and need to help them feel safe, supported, and comfortable. Femi feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to his clients. “Some of them light up when they see us. They see us as their family.” Femi too, describes his clients as being “like my family.” Trusting the people he sends to help them is of utmost importance.  

He says that the IINE clients he has hired have been perfect for the role. “It’s been awesome. Awesome. The individuals we hired through IINE have proven to be outstanding contributors to our team. Our clients love them. They are very diligent and are really passionate about what they do. It’s been a really great experience so far. Clients will say, ‘I only want this particular person because I love the way they are.’” 

Femi hopes to hire more IINE clients very soon. “There’s a good relationship with IINE supporting folks once they’re here, and hopefully we’ll get some more people trained up to have the language skills and other skills to keep helping out, and that this seems like a great job for them.” 

The Harvard Square Hotel, which accommodates visitors to the famous university just outside of Boston, has had an employment partnership with IINE for five years. They are supportive of the IINE clients they’ve hired and proud of the relationship.

In 2021 and 2022 IINE was working to resettle hundreds of Afghans who had been suddenly evacuated from their home country because when the Taliban retook power, they became targets. The Harvard Square Hotel was a strong partner, hiring many to fill jobs in hotel housekeeping and customer service at their front desk.  

Hotel Manager Richard Carbone helped train these and other clients and has served as a guest speaker in IINE’s hospitality skills training programs, providing insight into the industry. 

“Our IINE staff members are all doing very well and contributing to the team.” Richard writes in an email. “Some are going on two years in May 2024!!” 

IINE Employment Specialist Sean Burke has recently placed a client as a housekeeper at the hotel who speaks highly of the opportunity.  

“Abdoulaye is a refugee from Senegal who came to the US in late 2022, “says Sean. “He was an absolute joy to work with and was proactive about the job search and learning English. He ultimately wants to open his own restaurant in Boston. He started working at Harvard Square Hotel and whenever we talk about the work, he always says how happy he is to be working there. They threw him a birthday party shortly after he started!” 

“This is par for the course for this employer,” Sean adds. “They’re very supportive of our clients in general and we know that when we place someone there, they will be appreciated. The partnership has lasted because our clients have a great track record of success contributing there, and the Hotel knows they’re getting well-trained candidates and ongoing support from IINE. They also know a little bit about our clients’ backgrounds and are happy to help them out.” 

It’s a win-win. 

In 2023, IINE prepared 1,881 refugee and immigrant clients to enter the workforce and placed 469 clients in jobs with strong starting wages, benefits, and clear pathways for advancement. Learn more about our employment services and opportunities to get involved here


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