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The International Institute Of Minnesota: A Refugee Resettlement And Job Training Success Story

Rep. Betty McCollum

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Mr. Speaker, over the past four decades, tens of thousands of refugees who have fled lands of conflict, persecution, or turmoil have traveled to Minnesota to find a new home and start a new life. Often, these families or individuals, young and old, arrive in Minnesota without possessions, without language skills, and without certainty about their futures. Minnesota has welcomed refugees from Laos, Vietnam, Russia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, Somalia, Burma, Bosnia, and dozens of other countries who are now our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. There are thousands of success stories, but starting a new life in Minnesota requires support, assistance, and a willing partner.

The St. Paul-based International Institute of Minnesota, IIM, is one of America's premier refugee resettlement agencies. Since 1975, IIM has sponsored and resettled more than 22,000 refugees. Their resettlement work, along with the extensive education and training programs they provide for new Minnesotans, has resulted in refugees transitioning from conflict and uncertainty to stability and economic self-sufficiency. IIM's work is both valuable and essential to the contributions refugees continue to make, as they become New Americans, to Minnesota's economy and the strengths they bring to our communities.

One of IIM's innovative and successful job training programs is the Medical Careers Pathway for New Americans, a sectoral-based training model within the healthcare industry. IIM developed the program that defines a pathway to employment and economic independence for newcomers in Minnesota. It has evolved over the years to meet both the needs of low-income New Americans and the demand from the industry for a well trained and qualified healthcare workforce. The program includes three areas of training--Nursing Assistant Training, NAR; College Readiness Classes, CR; and Medical Career Advancement, MCA.

This established career pathway helps participants move from entry to advanced positions in healthcare by helping them navigate complex higher education systems so that their long-term goal of career advancement and economic independence are attained. Critical language, academic support services and life skills tools are provided, including strategies for balancing work, family and the stress of living in poverty. The pathway recently added a FastTRAC Initiative with St. Paul College and Roseville Adult Basic Education to increase passing rates for students in the Anatomy and Physiology course.

The program has graduated and certified nearly 1,800 nursing assistants. Eighty-five percent of these certified graduates have been employed. Two-thirds of these IIM clients were unemployed when they entered the training program. Because of their dedication to their work and caring for the elderly, eighty-eight percent of graduates are still employed at one year, helping several longterm care business partners stabilize their workforce. The Director of Nursing from St. Anthony Park Home recently said, ``I do not know what we would do without this training program.''

The Pathway program has helped nearly 400 New Americans advance from entry-level positions in healthcare to nursing and other professional jobs within the industry. These program graduates are providing quality healthcare to hospital patients and long-term care residents, some of whom require bilingual caregivers, while easing the expected healthcare labor shortage in Minnesota.

The IIM is a model for refugee resettlement in the U.S., but the innovation and success of their Pathway program should also be considered a refugee job training model deserving of expansion, as well as replication across the country. I want to commend IIM for their valuable work and urge state and federal partners working on refugee resettlement and job training to continue to support IIM's success.