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Why Hiring Afghanistan Refugees for Your Business Leads to Opportunity + Success

Hiring Refugees

During a webinar on hiring Iowa’s Afghanistan refugees for your workplace, the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s guest panelists highlighted this talent pool, as well as how businesses can help create opportunity for foreign-born talent. Panelists included:

  • Mak Suceska, bureau chief, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services
  • Nicholas Wuertz, director of refugee services, Lutheran Services of Iowa
  • Kelyn Anker, MNM, refugee services program manager, Catholic Charities
  • Stephanie Moris, RACI director, Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa
  • Kerri True-Funk, MA, director, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants lUSCRI

Connecting Businesses to Potential Employees

Wuertz discussed working with employers to match potential employees with opportunities. Language can have a large effect on what placements and success looks like for refugees in the workforce. Anker said the best way to connect with Catholic Charities is to contact them directly to talk about needs to make connections with specific clients. For employers looking to hire Afghanistan refugees, Suceska said that building and fostering relationships means that the following must be true, the business should:

  • Be a safe place
  • Provide a living wage
  • Ensure support is available to the new hires

Many of the workplaces that the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services connects with turn into long-term partnerships. Because of the relationships between the Bureau and those business’ HR managers, its essential communication is clear, educational opportunities for HR departments are available and the relationships are sustainable. Generations of refugees have worked with supportive Greater Des Moines (DSM) employers for years.

Best Practices

Wuertz said that transportation to work is key to success for refugee employees since many do not have a vehicle upon arrival here. Along with transportation, best practices for employers include bringing on interpreters to bridge language barriers and offering on-site ESL classes or support in applying for citizenship. The Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa?has seen many employers who have the same employees for decades because they are able to provide a safe and comfortable environment for refugee employees. She said on-site English Language Learners (ELL) classes save employees hours in their day and help create a more inclusive workplace. True-Funk said that having a pictorial instruction guide or guides in other languages opens doors to refugees and a larger group of potential workforce employees. Anker said Catholic Charities considers housing when discussing employment opportunities for refugees with employers. There have been discussions about expanding from serving just DSM to including the suburbs as well. Suceska said a lot of employers that have reached out to him about hiring Afghanistan refugees can run into issues with administering resettlement. When looking at pairing housing with employment, housing needs to be close to the service provider, not just the employer, so the refugee employee can get the social services they need. He said that resettlement is a connected issue with a lot of moving pieces and not a simple solution.

Watch the entire webinar below:


Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.