Jon Temple used to have to hire 20 or 30 workers to get one to stay.
But thanks to the employment services program for refugees that Lutheran Social Services runs, he has been able to hire almost a dozen workers who are committed to staying in just four months.
“I was looking for people who were appreciative, had a will to work, had a family culture and were honest almost to a fault at times,” said Temple, owner of Tempool, a Jacksonville-based company whose workers plaster swimming pools around the world. “In this day and age, it’s hard to find that pool of people to pull from.”
Temple has hired refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma through the Lutheran Social Services program. They work in the bottom of pools where the temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, laboring two hours or more with only brief breaks for water because plaster sets quickly.
“If you’re not ready to work that job from the time you start it to when you finish it it’s not for you,” Temple said. Crews often do two pools a day and can simultaneously spend six hours at a time on larger projects.
“The only time they get a lunch break here is on the way to the next job. They can eat their lunch in the truck.”
The refugees have quickly earned the respect of their longer-tenured co-workers.“Even after only a few months working with us those guys have become family,” Temple said.
Temple plans to hire more refugees through the program. “It’s been an extremely pleasing change from what we’ve been dealing with the last few years,” he said.
A former Peace Corps member, Temple discovered the employment program through his involvement with Catholic Charities, which refers refugees to it, along with World Relief and Lutheran Social Services. The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement, and administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The state pays for each full-time employee placed. Initially provided with government support such as cash assistance and food stamps, refugees transition from those programs when they become self-sufficient through employment. Refugees often are ready to start searching for employment within 30 days of arriving in the country.
Lutheran Social Services helps 700 to 800 refugees find employment each year. Jobs range from housekeeping to manufacturing to information technology.
”Depending on their skill set we can basically get them any job anybody else is applying for,” Brimm said.
Program administrators can also help refugees advance their careers, opening up their case files once a year for up to five years to help them secure opportunities based upon their incremental experience and development. For example, they help refugees improve their English, provide vocational and career training and assist them in earning needed certifications.
National Training Inc. is helping refugees attain their commercial drivers’ licenses through collaboration with Lutheran Social Services. The Jacksonville school has already helped nine refugees secure jobs as truck drivers since it started working with Lutheran Social Services in November and a tenth is close to being placed. The mean annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers nationally was $40,940 in May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“That’s taking a refugee from a meager living to Middle America,” Brim said. “It takes them to a whole different social class than when they immediately came in.”
National Training is already adding a short course to better prepare refugees for their classes and eventual employment. “Rather than them just memorizing information in the CDL permit book, we’re transitioning in this course so they understand how it applies in the industry,” National Training Manager Tal Miller said.
National Training screens applicants based on their backgrounds, driving records and their employability as truck drivers.
“Usually, somebody who’s interested in truck driving has a legitimate, honest desire to drive and the refugees are no different,” Miller said.
“But they typically come with an internal drive. They will do anything it takes to be successful and to accomplish the goal.
“Even when it gets hard, they’ll push through and make adjustments. They have a determination that many others don’t.”
Temple has recognized a similar willingness to persevere among the refugees whom he employs as pool plasterers. “It’s hard to find people with that will to want to work,” he said.
American workers also often lack the abilities that refugees can bring, Temple said.
“In the last 15 years, we’ve moved away from vocational education. These kids haven’t had any training to learn to work yet.”
American workers, particularly younger ones, may also have criminal records or backgrounds that can prevent them from traveling abroad for their jobs, Temple said. Such ability is imperative for his pool plasterers, given that his company has worked in 30 countries in almost 20 years.
Tempool does a lot of work in Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver in particular, and it can be difficult to get into Canada to work if you have a history of charges like battery, drug possession or driving under the influence, Temple said. “When we’re hiring people we have to look at who we can get that can go to those areas.”
The refugees that Tempool hired through Lutheran Social Services had already been screened thoroughly and can travel wherever their jobs require.
“There’s a level of honesty with these people that I’ve seen, but it’s far and few between, Temple said. “I’m extremely happy with these guys.”
Good help found—at last.
Hiring Refugees Can Help Your Company
A refugee has fled their country and is unable to return because of fear of persecution for reasons of political opinion, race, religion, ethnicity or membership in a particular social group.
In addition to strengthening the community and increasing staff diversity, employers that hire refugees gain employees who:
- Are authorized to work
- Have strong work ethics
- Are dedicated and loyal
- Are adaptable, teachable and experienced
- Possess diverse skills
- Strongly desire to succeed
LSS Employment Services also provides employers that hire refugees with the the following support at no cost.
- Pre-screening/assessment for employer’s needs
- Pre-employment orientation
- Access to a large pool of applicants
- Consistent source of reliable workers
- On the job counseling
- Vocational skills assessment and training
- Mediation and retention support
- Bilingual job coaches
- Administrative support with paperwork
- Copies of all necessary documentation
- Follow-up with both employer and client to ensure good communication and to address any concerns
For more information, contact the Employment Services Manager at Lutheran Social Services at 904-730-8237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Lutheran Social Services