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Career Skills Program Underway with Eight Immigrant Women Enrolled as Upwardly Global’s First All-Female Cohort

Aug 4, 2021 | FirstGen


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By Justin Chapman

Since its inception in May, eight LA-based immigrant women have enrolled in Upwardly Global’s Career Skills program, sponsored by Michelson Philanthropies’ FirstGen Initiative. The partnership is aimed at moving them from unemployment or low-skilled jobs to full employment relevant to their education and professional backgrounds and provides not just a living wage but a thriving wage for themselves and their families.

The partnership will also host two national webinars on topics specific to the unique challenges immigrant women face in rebuilding their professional careers in the United States, such as building a strong professional network and confidence building/speaking up.

Upwardly Global builds an inclusive, future-ready workforce by providing innovative skills-building, coaching, and networking programs to new Americans. The organization tackles what’s referred to as “immigrant brain waste” in the United States.

“As many as 2 million immigrants and refugees are currently unemployed and underemployed, a missed opportunity both for the immigrants and the country,” said Alya Michelson, co-chair of Michelson Philanthropies and founder of the FirstGen Initiative, which uplifts immigrant women through storytelling that illuminates their contributions. “This program is giving these talented women the opportunity they deserve to contribute to their adopted country, their new home.”

“This program is giving these talented women the opportunity they deserve to contribute to their adopted country, their new home.”

Alya Michelson

The original goal was to enroll 10 women in the program, and that number is expected to be exceeded soon. The eight who have enrolled so far have backgrounds in IT, marketing, and architecture and hail from Iran, Turkey, Macedonia, India, Kazakhstan, and Brazil. Two of these women have already been placed in professional jobs in architecture and marketing.

The program, well on its way to making a lasting impact in the lives of these women, also includes personal advising from an experienced career coach, online courses to improve workplace skills, training and certification opportunities in high-demand fields, and connections to top employers, industry experts, and like-minded professionals.

Upwardly Global was founded in 1999 and has since placed more than 7,500 immigrant and refugee professionals into the U.S. workforce. The current enrollees in the Career Skills program are Upwardly Global’s first all-female cohort in Southern California.

In 2020, 68% of applicants were unemployed upon joining the program. The remaining participants had an average annual income of $25,000 a year. After completing their coursework and being placed successfully with new employment, cohort graduates earn an average starting salary of $60,000 a year.

“Through this partnership with Alya Michelson and Michelson Philanthropies, we will be able to provide our services to a new cohort of women in Los Angeles and ensure they are able to fully contribute their talent to the LA workforce,” said Jina Krause Vilmar, president and CEO of Upwardly Global.

Learn more at upwardlyglobal.org and alyamichelson.org/first-gen.