The past year added new complexity to our work, and raised important questions about how we protect the American Dream for newcomers and future generations.
We know the value that our 5,000 program alumni are bringing to their workplaces and communities. But Upwardly Global is, and always has been, about something more than just smart economics. UpGlo represents a fundamentally American value: that everyone who comes here deserves a fair shot to succeed.
In 2017, we forged new partnerships and strengthened relationships with supporters who share our vision of a United States where country of origin is not a barrier to success. We launched our learning network—an initiative to make our knowledge and digital content available to government agencies, NGOs, and education providers throughout the country. Eleven organizations in nine states are incorporating UpGlo’s platform into their work, and you will read more about the impact of these efforts in this report. For the first time, we shared expertise and best practices from 17 years of workforce development work with refugees in our report, Refugees Contribute: Strategies for Skilled Immigrant Integration in the U.S. Our partnership with Accenture won the first P3 Impact Audience Choice Award—an award that recognizes model public-private partnerships that are working to solve pressing global problems.
This past year was also very meaningful to me personally as it was my last year serving as UpGlo’s President & CEO. When I first took over the role in 2009, I set out a vision for the organization: to reach a truly meaningful level of impact in the individual lives of immigrants and refugees, and to create lasting change in the larger eco-system touching their lives.
I have seen our vision brought to life through real, systemic change, and I am proud that I will continue to serve the organization as an ambassador and member of the Board of Directors. There has never been a more important time to reflect America’s welcoming spirit, and to assure newcomers that they have value. We all have so much work left to do—thank you for being part of our community!
Board Member, Former President & CEO
A few weeks ago I received a letter from one of the first job seekers we served after launching the Chicago office in 2009. He wanted us to know that Upwardly Global was like a second home to him when he first arrived in the U.S. as a refugee, and how much it meant to have found security and a safe haven. We placed 169 job seekers across the country that year into professional jobs—in 2018 we are on track to place 1,000.
I had the privilege of joining this organization as the founding director of our Chicago office. It has been an incredible journey—from our founder Jane Leu’s brilliant idea coming to life, to Nikki Cicerani leading us through significant growth and establishing UpGlo as a truly national organization. I am honored to serve as interim CEO during this next exciting period of change.
As we enter a new era at Upwardly Global, we are focused on two questions:
1. How can we take what we’ve learned and share it with other practitioners to ensure that wherever an immigrant or refugee settles in the country, they have the access and opportunity to build sustainable career pathways?
2. How can we improve our program so that more of the job seekers who complete our training secure professional positions and family sustaining wages?
To address these questions we are going deeper and broader in reaching skilled immigrants and refugees where they are through our learning network, and in collaborating with partners to address some of the most significant barriers our job seekers face.
With the help of Education First, we launched an interactive English as a Second Language training to ensure that our program participants have the professional-level English skills they need to succeed in a job search. We are also focused on helping our job seekers to reskill—for refugees in particular, interrupted careers and long employment gaps can result in falling behind in a profession where technology changes rapidly. Once again, committed partners have stepped in to help us overcome this barrier. We are especially grateful to Coursera for providing free access to their courses for the refugees in our program, and to Cornerstone OnDemand for their continued support in the development of our online learning platform.
As an organization and as individuals, we have all been affected by the negative messages about immigrants and refugees. But I am inspired by our community of partners, employers, staff, board, leadership councils, volunteers, alumni and job seekers who are stepping forward and standing up for our shared values. Thank you for joining us in representing the true richness and diversity of our nation.
VP of Programs and Interim CEO
(in additional tax revenue and consumer spending)
“I used to live with my family in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. We were normal people who had dreams and careers and goals. Suddenly, the war came in and our lives drastically changed. All the dreams we were looking forward to, all the visions that I used to have for my future, changed suddenly.
In 2006 we left the country. We went to Jordan first, and then to Oman and lived there for almost nine years. Unexpectedly, we received a call that ten years after applying, we had been chosen to migrate to the United States. We were thrilled, happy, sad, a whole mix of feelings. The saddest sacrifice we had to make was leaving my brother behind, he is still waiting for an update about his refugee status. We are a very bonded family—when we leave a country, we leave together. When we live, we live together.
When we landed in Dallas, the first thing that I did was to start searching for a job. I thought that with my experience, background, and education in HR that I would land a job in the U.S. very easily. But it was different than I expected because some employers don’t acknowledge your international experience. Then the journey started with Upwardly Global. My coach suggested that I look for HR networking events in Texas, and that is how I got my first face-to-face interview with Reddy Ice for an HR compliance job. My interviewer was Kathy. I told her, ‘Kathy, if you choose me I will never let you down.’
If I weren’t part of UpGlo, I would never have landed a job. I know how to drive, but without the key I can’t drive the car. UpGlo was like the key for my car. It feels empowering now to be a professional woman in the workforce. It gives you the chance to be independent, to help your family, and make your vision come true.”
“I used to work for the United States Agency for International Development in Uganda for over 15 years. As a result of my work, I was awarded a Special Immigrant Visa to come to the United States as a permanent resident. One of the things that compelled me to come to the U.S. is that I was a single mother raising three teenage children. I felt that coming to the U.S. would be a great way to prepare my kids to thrive in a global economy.
I thought that my career would pretty much remain the same. I’m educated, I have the skills, and I’ve got more than 15 years under my belt. When I didn’t get any response on my applications, my bubble burst. I was very nervous about not being able to pay rent, but mostly about not being able to achieve what our dreams were--because I came here specifically to show the kids that in America, if you’re working hard, if you’re doing it right, you should be able to go far.
My first interaction with Upwardly Global was refreshing. For the first time, I had someone respond. They assigned me to a coach and I was immediately working on my resume and cover letter, the very next week I started getting phone interviews. I was hired by [international development agency] Chemonics and I work in finance and compliance. I think what’s best about having a job is being able to get up everyday with a purpose, with a goal, and to be able to see the children thrive.
The largest impact that Upwardly Global has, in my opinion, is the impact it has on families. It transforms an individual and it transforms the family. It transforms your entire life.”
“I worked as an electrical engineer in Kenya. I decided to start my own company for electrical services and sales. It was going well for the first few years, but because of the government corruption in the country it became very dangerous—if you don’t comply with their conditions there is a risk of being hurt or killed. My family and I were assaulted in our home while my wife was pregnant. We sought temporary refuge in neighboring countries, but we were looking for a safe, permanent place. I was able to come to the U.S. where a friend was living, and my wife, son, and new daughter joined me about six months later.
We settled in Washington State. Running away and then paying for tickets to the U.S. had drained our savings. I thought that was the end of the road for my engineering career, and I had to take what life was offering me. I took a course and was working caregiving jobs; this was a hard time for our family. We were staying at a friend’s apartment while she was out of state, and then she came back and needed the apartment back. We rented the upstairs part of somebody’s house. It was very expensive and there was no kitchen and separate bedrooms. My wife and I were working 24 hours a day, alternating shifts so we could look after the kids. It felt like there was no end. We barely could pay our bills and escalating debts.
My wife is a doctor, and we were looking for information on recertification and getting back to our careers. That’s how we found Upwardly Global. I worried about the time and commitment, but I could see that the services were really important—all the Frequently Asked Questions on the website were the questions I had been asking myself. The training really helped me to understand what I was missing about writing resumes and cover letters and interviewing in the U.S. As foreigners in the U.S., we are told a lot of myths that we cannot get back to our careers, and then differences in culture hinder us from getting the jobs that we are qualified for.
With my new skills, I got a position as a project engineer with an electrical contractor, Titan Electric, in September. This was a turning point. We were able to buy a car and rent our own place, and we can now see our career paths with the prospect of unlimited growth. My son is enrolled in an after-school program with music, art, and drama. Hope was restored and our lives have changed, thanks to the training and guidance from Upwardly Global.”
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In 2017, Upwardly Global launched an ambitious initiative
to make our resources and trainings available to
immigrant and refugee-serving organizations,
workforce development programs,
city and state governments
throughout the country.
11Organizations are now incorporating UpGlo’s training across9states.
Our virtual training provides essential cultural education on navigating a U.S. job search, practical tools including a U.S.-style resume template builder, and a knowledge bank with resources collected over nearly 20 years of serving skilled immigrants and refugees.
With an estimated two million college-educated immigrant and refugees in the U.S. who are unemployed or underemployed, UpGlo recognizes the importance of helping to create a larger system of support that can reach newcomers everywhere they are.
In Pittsburgh, seven local organizations working on immigrant and refugee integration are partnering with All for All, a regional immigrant inclusion initiative, to pilot Upwardly Global’s online platform. Each organization will take their own approach to integrating the platform’s tools and lessons into their current workforce support offerings—whether that’s through individualized services at local libraries or building curriculum around the program at educational institutions.
“We are proud to be utilizing a ‘big tent’ approach—one that we hope will ultimately strengthen partnerships, coordination, and impact—to better reach immigrants across our region.” - All for All Project Director Betty Cruz.
The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH)’s Skilled Immigrant Apprenticeship Pilot connects underemployed or unemployed foreign-trained immigrants to in-demand occupations such as Environmental Care Supervisor and Surgical Technologist. In addition to the Registered Apprenticeship, participants receive contextualized English as a Second Language instruction from the Community College of Baltimore County, a 30-hour Essential Skills course, one-on-one support from a career coach, and occupational preparation through a customized Upwardly Global online portal. Upwardly Global also provided program staff with training on best practices in serving skilled immigrants.
“Upwardly Global (UpGlo) has been a valuable partner to BACH in the Apprenticeship Pilot for Skilled Immigrants. UpGlo’s training ensured all project partners were aware of best practices in supporting the skilled immigrant population, particularly with respect to economic integration. Through the UpGlo web portal (weGlo), program participants have strengthened their career readiness and professional English skills.” - Namika Mahmoodi, Career Coach for Apprenticeship, BACH
One Refugee assists students from a refugee background to obtain higher education and connect to meaningful careers. As students complete certificate, Associate, or Bachelor degrees, One Refugee is partnering with Upwardly Global to bridge the professional development gap between education and full-time employment.
“We are thrilled to be working with Upwardly Global. Their professionalism and expertise in the employment field is unmatched. We believe our students will really benefit from this partnership.” - One Refugee CEO, Steve Ostler.
UpGlo recognized the need to ensure that our program participants had the necessary English skills to get the most out of UpGlo’s training, and to succeed in their job searches. We partnered with Education First (EF), world leader in international education founded in 1965, to launch our English as Second Language (ESL) programming. EF’s mission to open the world through education aligns closely with UpGlo’s work. UpGlo has leveraged the EF English Live virtual school which offers an interactive, task-based curriculum of over 2,000 hours of General and Business English. Since launching in 2017, we have enrolled more than 200 job seekers, with more than 3,700 study hours completed. Additionally, we’ve been able to assess the English proficiency of all our applicants through the EF Standard English Test.
Lorena is a highly experienced industrial designer from Spain who joined Upwardly Global in March 2017. Her designs aspire to tell stories blending life, emotion, and surprise. However, Lorena struggled to communicate her design ideas in English, which frustrated her and affected her confidence. She was concerned that she wouldn’t fit in the U.S. workplace due to her low English skills. Lorena committed to improving her English skills through the EF training program. Soon after, she was invited for an interview with Pottery Barn and was offered a role as a senior designer.
In 2017, UpGlo partnered with Coursera, a leading online education provider, to launch our Coursera for Refugees program. The program gives UpGlo’s refugee and asylee program participants full access to Coursera’s database of trainings and courses from top global universities and industry partners—ranging from software development and data analytics to business communication skills. To date, UpGlo has enrolled more than 500 refugee and asylee job seekers in the program.
Mohammed is an electrical and computer engineer who came to the U.S. from Iraq on a Special Immigrant Visa, which he was granted due to his work supporting the U.S. military. After arriving in the U.S., he took a job as a shuttle driver earning $10 an hour to make ends meet. Coursera was an essential part of his job search, and he took the “Object-Oriented Programming” course to build his industry knowledge. With the help of UpGlo and Coursera, Mohammed was able to secure a position as Web OPs support Admin/Software Engineer with Sinclair Broadcast Group, where he recently received a promotion.
Our ongoing partnership with the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation enabled us to launch and grow our online training portal, weGlo, into a sophisticated learning platform that serves thousands of skilled immigrants and refugees every year. All UpGlo program participants complete their required training on weGlo, then have access to a library of resources including our jobs community and full course catalog with more than 400 courses covering various aspects of the job search and U.S. workplace culture. In 2017, Cornerstone OnDemand awarded Upwardly Global its RAVE Award, recognizing our “Advancement in Reinventing Work.”
Elena is an HR Professional from Belarus who recently relocated to Michigan. She worked closely with her coach and took full advantage of resources from Upwardly Global and the Michigan Office for New Americans (MITS). In 2017 she took 30 courses through weGlo (setting a record!), and quickly found a job in recruiting and HR at a local translating company.
Click on the questions to reveal the answers.
I am originally from Iraq and have a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, but I worked most of my professional life with organizations like USAID and the United Nations. Because of my work, I faced many security risks that made me fear for my life. It took four years to be approved for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) through a program available to men and women who worked on behalf of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. My daughter and I chose to settle in Chicago because of friends we had here, and have found a great, supportive community.
Job searching in the U.S. is a big learning curve for any immigrant, from the competition to the face-to-face interview, which can be so different from what you’re used to in your home country. It all makes the integration process much more difficult, but thankfully I enrolled in UpGlo’s training program. They not only gave me hope and guidance, they made me feel like I was an asset to the community. I really try to bring this personal experience to my interactions with job seekers. Being part of Upwardly Global is not pure work, I feel like I am a part of something greater.
This new tool has helped UpGlo to decide what level of language support job seekers need, and ensures that they are ready for our program and a successful professional job search. The test focuses on reading and listening, and determines whether we will direct job seekers to additional Education First training or other resources that fit their needs. It’s important that program participants are able to get the most out of their training and feel comfortable interviewing and communicating with employers.
Don’t give up, even if you feel like there is no hope. Be active, be organized, seek help from every possible source. I once told someone: “Only two things in the U.S. are really hard. Finding a job, and parking. And for the job, there is UpGlo.”
Unaudited 2017 numbers
We encourage you to consider joining the Welcoming Alliance—the power of your combined support ensures those seeking to rebuild their lives and careers in the U.S. will always find support at Upwardly Global. Learn more about the Welcoming Alliance and its members.
We are grateful to all who support our vision of a United States where immigrants are seamlessly integrated into the professional workforce and the fabric of American life, and are recognized for the value they add to both.