One of the main goals of refugee resettlement is self-sufficiency for the individual or family and a big part of self-sufficiency is becoming employed. However, for many of our refugees, it is not as simple as just looking through the Help Wanted section in the newspaper and applying. Having lived in a refugee camp for most of their lives, some refugees do not have any work history and others were not able to finish school; reasons which can hinder the employment process. This is where our Education Department steps in to help. Five years ago, the Center for New Americans introduced S.T.E.P. classes into our program. S.T.E.P. stands for Skills That Employ People and these classes focus on skills needed for employment. There are two main types of S.T.E.P. classes – skill-based and work-focused. The skill-based classes teach skills applicable in many different areas of work. We have classes that focus on interview skills, workplace technology, and even measurement. (Many other parts of the world use the metric system instead of the US standard system for measurement.) The work-focused classes teach skills specific to one area of work like food service, manufacturing, and housekeeping.
One work-focused class, Introduction to Patient Care, recently finished. Patient Care teaches the basic skills to work in healthcare. The class focuses on learning about pain and pain management, proper safety techniques, psychological health and caring for the elderly. Instructor Carol Hudson says, “This class spends a little more time on the vocabulary [of the American health system] than it does on physical experience.” But this is what many of the students need. Carol explains that many of the students in Introduction to Patient Care already have some medical training from their former lives and that for them this class is a stepping stone to an actual career. “Many refugees see that healthcare is a growing industry and that there are many opportunities, especially if they have prior experience.” After successful completion, some students decide to enter into a Certified Nursing Assistant Program at one of the local colleges or others may find work in the hospitals as a patient care assistant.
Carol, a former nurse herself, has enjoyed teaching Introduction to Patient Care classes for many years. This most recent class has been extra memorable for her because of how inquisitive the group was. “This is the first time I was unable to finish all of the coursework on-time! They just had so many great questions and discussions,” says Carol. The students seemed to enjoy it as well. They organized a celebration party and assigned each student a particular food item to bring.
Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans