Upskilling Program Guides Immigrants to Career Goals

Abdullah* was a physician in his home country of Afghanistan before persecution forced him to flee with his family of four. When they arrived in the U.S. he was determined to re-enter the medical field but, like many skilled professionals from other countries, his licenses and credentials did not transfer. He would have to start from the bottom.

Abdullah was not deterred, though—in fact, he was eager to get started! Like 25 other clients last year, he enrolled in LSS’s New American Pathways program.

Since 1983, LSS has been the area’s leading expert in helping refugees find jobs. Refugees face the same employment barriers as many Americans—lack of education, skills and/or transportation—with additional challenges besides. Most speak little English. They have left their homes and possessions behind to start a life from scratch in a new country with different customs and social norms. Many are traumatized. They arrive in debt—they have nothing but must repay the U.S. government for their travel expenses as soon as they can. To achieve self-sufficiency, they need to find jobs, quickly, and LSS has excelled in connecting them with opportunities.

Now, thanks to generous funding from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and LISC Jacksonville, LSS has launched New American Pathways (NAP) to share this expertise with any local immigrant who has legal status and basic English skills.

NAP provides clients with typical work readiness skills like resume building and interviewing, but focuses on “upskilling.” Sometimes upskilling means helping clients to move beyond an entry level position by connecting them with educational opportunities, apprenticeships, vocational English lessons, and soft skills like communication and conflict resolution.

In other cases, upskilling means guiding a client like Abdullah back into a profession they held back in their home country.

With the help of Irina, his career navigator, Abdullah created a plan to become a nurse. With assistance from NAP, he attended Certified Nurse Assistant training and obtained the C.N.A. certificate. He then obtained a C.N.A. job at a nursing home, where he worked diligently for six months making $11 per hour. While working at the nursing home, he continued his studies online, and in June 2020 he graduated with his associate’s degree in nursing.

Abdullah now works in a hospital emergency room making $15.75 per hour, and he has opportunities for advancement.

“I was so impressed by Abdullah’s eagerness, persistence and determination to achieve his goal,” Irina said.


*Abdullah has requested we not use his real name or picture when sharing his story, to protect his family’s privacy.



This year, NAP’s goal is to help 35 clients like Abdullah to realize their very own American Dream, and you can help as a volunteer mentor! Mentors assist clients with English skills, digital literacy, basic math and career coaching.

If you work in a specialized field like medicine or civil engineering, every effort will be made to connect you with a client pursuing a passion in that field, who can benefit from your career advice and experience.

Mentoring is currently done virtually using Zoom.

To fill out the volunteer application and learn about other volunteer opportunities, please click here.




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