Edris Akseer has traveled a long way.
After serving as a linguist with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, he endured a difficult escape once the war ended and is now an employee of GE Appliances (a Haier company) in Louisville, Kentucky.
It’s a road that was paved by GEA’s workforce development program that connects refugees in Louisville to good jobs at the company. Partnering with Catholic Charities and KY Refugee Ministries, the company has hired several dozen refugees from both Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for various manufacturing roles at the plant. Louisville is an entry point for an immigrant population that has grown over the past 20 years.
The initiative to bring refugees into the company, led by talent recruiter Gabriela Salazar, is based on a program that began by reaching out to members of Louisville's Hispanic immigrant population. This successful program evolved to bringing in refugees. "For the company to be able to provide an opportunity for them to have a job so that they can provide for their families, and they can build a new life in Louisville, that's exciting," Gabriela said in a blog.
Part of the success of the program is that interpreters are provided so that language isn’t a barrier to landing a job. In fact, some of the company’s own bilingual employees volunteer their time to serve as interpreters to help new employees thrive.
Language plays a large part in the operations of the Louisville manufacturing plants with 42 languages spoken. Languages include Spanish, Pashto and Dari, Swahili, and French. However, some are more obscure. Ewe, for example, is a tonal language spoken among Congolese employees.
In fact, the company’s GEA Connect internal communication platform was built with language translation in mind. The platform text automatically translates into a user's native language settings.
Ensuring language isn't a barrier to finding valuable employees has gone a long way to solving two issues at once -- refugees need good jobs and GEA needs talent.