© Arne9001 | Dreamstime.com
Immigrant Worker

Creative Hiring: Working with a Refugee Resettlement Program

Nov. 8, 2022
With labor in short supply, simply posting job ads is not enough.

IndustryWeek's elite panel of regular contributors.

Before COVID-19, manufacturers struggled to hire and retain entry-level personnel. At the same time, there was talk of a wave of retirements, with new retirees taking their knowledge and skills with them. Meanwhile, the National Association of Manufacturers predicted that 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030.

Post COVID-19, manufacturers have new competitors in the hiring marketplace. Now we are seeing warehouses, gas stations and restaurants meet or beat entry-level manufacturing wages. While their benefit packages may not be as robust, the higher hourly wage is attractive, especially now that grocery and gasoline costs have gone sky-high from inflation.

Another well-known factor in manufacturing’s labor shortage is the decline in students pursuing careers in the skilled trades. Manufacturers are in desperate need of machinists, electricians and millwrights. As people in these roles retire, there is no one to replace them, and we are losing the talent to train the next generation.

Who will fill these openings?

During the pandemic, my company, Onex, had trouble filling shop-floor jobs, even after raising wages. So we had to get creative. We decided to look into hiring immigrants. This was not a huge ideological leap. Almost all Americans include immigrants among their ancestors. The history of our country has been based upon immigrants arriving in cities and taking up work in our factories in order to make a living and support their families.

We learned through our connections at our local Manufacturing Extension Partnership of an organization called the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. USCRI has been working for 110 years on behalf of displaced people. According to their website, the organization has resettled over 350,000 refugees in 34 communities in 22 states. Luckily for us, Erie, Pennsylvania is one of the cities USCRI serves.

Onex’s human resources manager attended a 4-hour course with USCRI in order to qualify Onex as a refugee employer. Then, job candidates toured Onex’s facility to ensure they would like to perform the work. After the interview process, Onex equipped the new hires with all the safety gear and training they would need to be successful in their job, with the help of USCRI supplied interpreters.

Currently, Onex is employing four Syrian immigrants in our precast refractory shape production. We started overcoming the language barrier by using Google Translate. Now, we have found a teacher who educates the men in “Onex” English. They learn the terminology they hear in production on a daily basis. It is quite a lively class! In addition, we provided them with OSHA-10 training in their native language of Arabic.

Overall, the men are grateful for the employment so they can support their families in their new home. I am grateful for their hard work and dedication. They are great team members.

Displacement may have defined their past, but their future is bright with unlimited possibilities. When you ask them why they migrated, they tell you because with hard work they, too, can live the American dream of owning a home and buying a car. How cool is it to help someone fulfill their dreams!

There are a lot of different ways to find, train and retain talent. You just have to be open-minded, as these are likely different approaches than you have taken in the past. I don’t know about you but for us, simply posting jobs online has not resulted in a lot of job applicants.

What creative hiring practices are you employing?

Ashleigh Walters is president of Onex and author of Leading with Grit and Grace.

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!