The excited chatter of more than 60 refugees fills the Clarkston Community Center on a Thursday morning. They've all gathered at the Lutheran Services of Georgia career fair for the same reason--to apply for, and hopefully secure, a job at a distribution center. Located in Decatur, the center distributes clothing and other goods for a national chain of department stores. In 1984, LSG Case Manager Obaid Rasoul brought a group of newly arrived Somali refugees to the center. Today, the center continues to employ refugees and asylees through LSG.
In the month leading up to the career fair, LSG worked diligently to prepare the applicants. At a weekly orientation, LSG employment specialists and volunteers guided applicants through sample versions of tests that the distribution center uses. Applicants learned how to perform during an interview --how to dress, what to say, and expected etiquette--and practiced filling out job applications.
On August 6, 2013, small groups of 15 to 20 refugees entered the career fair with confidence and hope. First, representatives form the distribution center described the available position: pricing, scanning, loading, and ticketing items to be shipped to department stores around the country. Then, applicants took a simple math test to see if they could accurately differentiate between letters, numbers, and combinations of the two. Those who passed the test wrote out answers to standard interview questions and filled out the application. Through this process, the center gather information about the applicants while also testing their English skills.
Thanks to the extensive orientation sessions, applicants were well prepared to succeed. Tenzin Ngawang, the LSG employment specialist who coordinated the event, commented that the distribution center was "impressed by how organized we were." Over 80% of the applicants passed the math test and submitted applications. Already, the distribution center has hired several refugees and is looking to hire even more! Through employment at the distribution center, these refugees are earning an income for their families, gaining new skills, and adjusting to life in the U.S.!