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  • Eggs & Issues recap: New Americans in the Workforce

  • Eggs & Issues recap: New Americans in the Workforce

    Eggs & Issues recap: New Americans in the Workforce

    On March 7, The Chamber’s Eggs & Issues series welcomed the business community for a crucial discussion regarding our New American workforce and how our businesses can embrace and succeed alongside these talented groups. After a dedicated time to network, discuss and connect, attendees heard from a panel of representatives from various organizations and businesses to address challenges, resources, best practices, stories and more. Panelists included:

    Video recap of the event

    Dr. Azad Berwari with Rural Minnesota CEP, Ibtissem Belmihoub with New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment, Mike Arntson with Cardinal IG, Laetitia Mizero Hellerud with Jeremiah Program, and moderator Jenna Mueller with The Chamber Foundation.

    Dr. Berwari highlighted the importance of building social networks and relationships when moving to a new country. He acknowledged the challenges faced by immigrants in building such networks and emphasized the need for more support. “It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know. Think about yourself moving to a new country. You have no things in common. It’s a challenge to compete. We do job search classes, orientation in their native languages – it helps and is a good start but we need much more.”

    Ibtissem noted that many individuals served by the New American Consortium are single mothers, and they face difficulties in becoming the head of household. The language barrier is just one of many challenges these clients face in our community. “We try to get them connected to the community to understand what is available to them. Childcare and transportation are also large challenges; it can often be easier to stay at home than for them to use their entire paychecks on childcare, for example.”

    Laetitia emphasized the importance of businesses and leaders shifting their way of thinking, and seeking out ways to find and embrace New Americans, instead of focusing on or being paralyzed by uncertainty or cultural or language barriers. She then gave a first hand story about her journey as a New American, and her interactions with panelist Mike Arntson.

    “You took a chance when you hired me in 1998. And when you hired my sister, when you hired my other sister, when you hired my brother,” Laetitia said to Mike. “You took a chance but at the same time, you understood that you weren’t doing us a favor, you needed employees, we had what you wanted, we proved to be a good fit.”

    “We needed eachother,” responded Mike, who then talked about how Cardinal IG had become a beacon for immigrant employees. He acknowledged that the company had not intentionally set out to hire New Americans, but it had welcomed them. He shared more about the story of Laetitia, who was overqualified for the job but ended up operating a crucial machine on the third shift. Laetitia and her family members have since gone on to have significant careers including CEO, pharmacists, and architect, and she thanks Mike for their start and successes. Cardinal IG Fargo now has employees from 36 countries across 5 of the 7 continents.
    The discussion also covered the challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs. Azad noted the entrepreneurial spirit of new Americans and said that they need help in connecting with resources to start and maintain businesses. The panelists agreed that helping New Americans start businesses would benefit the health and vibrancy of the entire community.

    The discussion ended with the panelists urging the audience to remember that their great-grandparents had also moved to the United States in search of opportunities, and our country was built from the hard work and dedication of individuals like the ones we are trying to serve today. The panelists encouraged businesses to take a chance on New Americans and not make it harder than it needs to be.

    Overall, the panel discussion provided valuable insights into the experiences of New American employees, presented tangible challenges we need to solve as a community, and offered practical solutions for overcoming barriers in hiring and retaining. Thank you to our community and business leaders who participated in and attended this important event.

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