Partnerships aim to connect new refugees with employers

The war in Ukraine and the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban have sparked two new refugee crises, sending dozens of families to new homes in Minnesota.

Now, two local organizations are teaming up to make the transition more welcoming.

In recent months, Minnesota-based humanitarian relief organization Alight has been helping refugee families get settled in the North Star State, even opening a free market in the metro stocked with everything from toiletries to toys. Those items are essentials, but pieces of the puzzle may still be missing.

"Having a job is such a key important part of people being able to create a life here," said Alight's Steph Koehne. "Those big things in life that are really the difference between feeling lost and feeling like you are part of the community and are flourishing."

Alight is now partnering with the Minneapolis Regional Chamber on a new initiative called We Belong MSP that aims to connect local employers with immigrant and refugee talent.

President & CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber Jonathan Weinhagen says they've heard from employers across the state struggling to fill open positions and those from the immigrant and refugee community could be the perfect fit.

"What we know about our new American immigrants, particularly from Ukraine and Afghanistan, is they are highly skilled, so we anticipate health care, med tech, manufacturing... plenty of opportunity across our state," said Weinhagen.

We Belong MSP will provide employers with resources like access to community agencies and immigration experts to help make the workplace a more supportive environment.

The goal of the new program is to connect 100 families with work and community sponsors by December.