The Idaho Office for Refugees and Mountain States Group has created a program this year to help highly skilled refugees find professional-level jobs. The program, Global Talent Idaho, is aimed at refugees who have at least the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience.
The program is recruiting Idaho professionals to serve as mentors, coaches and guides for the immigrants as they look for work and gain access to professional networks.
Just under 4,000 refugees from foreign countries have arrived in Idaho in the last four years.
About 20 percent of the adult refugees who move to Idaho have professional degrees and experience, said Lisa Cooper, a consultant with Global Talent Idaho.
“They are doctors, engineers of all types, from civil engineering to software engineering, there are nurses, accountants, there are people who have MBAs or have worked as high-level managers; it’s really a range,” Cooper said. There’s often a language barrier, she noted.
“All of the people who participate are able to communicate in a business environment, but when English isn’t your native language there are always going to be some challenges,” she said.
According to Jan Reeves, the director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, 998 refugees arrived in Idaho between October 2013 and October this year. They came from more than two dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The majority came from Iraq. In the last year, nearly 30 percent of the refugees who arrived in Idaho were from Iraq; over the last four years, 22 percent were.
Other large groups are from Congo, Burma, and Bhutan.