In 2018 I became the third President and CEO of Upwardly Global. What drew me to Upwardly Global was the organization’s unwavering commitment to its mission, even as the landscape for immigrants and refugees and the national dialogue around their place in American life has become increasingly complex.
In the past year we have spoken out against cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement programs. We have rallied in support of due process for asylum seekers. We have championed programs that recognize the potential of immigrants and other newcomers.
As the ground shifts underneath us on an almost daily basis, Upwardly Global remains steadfast: We believe that unlocking opportunity for immigrants and refugees is key to shaping a strong shared future for all Americans.
Economic data point to the urgency of this mission. Almost one-third of work-authorized newcomers have a college degree, yet 1 in 4 work in low-wage jobs or have no job at all. U.S. employers, meanwhile, struggle to fill jobs against record-low levels of unemployment. With seven million jobs open at the end of 2018, our country can’t afford to leave talent on the table.
Upwardly Global has stepped up at this critical moment. In 2018, we helped more than 900 newcomers secure their first professionl job in the U.S., adding to our growing alumni network that fills critical workforce gaps and contributes $252 million in taxes and consumer spending to our economy each year.
Yet UpGlo’s work is about more than smart economics. In unlocking opportunity for newcomers, we also transform workplaces, communities, and lives. In this 2018 Annual Report, you will learn how Upwardly Global is actively championing policies and programs that advance opportunity and inclusion across the country:
After nearly two decades of supporting immigrants and refugees in rebuilding lives and careers, Upwardly Global is proud to apply lessons learned to build welcoming, equitable, and prosperous communities across the country. As our country grapples with challenging questions about our future, I thank you for your ongoing support of UpGlo's work in transforming lives and putting opportunity in reach.
President & CEO
“In Thailand I worked for an international group of consulting engineering and management companies. I enjoyed my job and most of my family and friends are in Thailand and Australia. It was both hard and exciting to pursue my dream of living and working in the United States—hard because I had no connections in my industry and had to start building my network from scratch.
My wife found Upwardly Global online. Upwardly Global helped me regain my confidence that I could get a job without U.S. education or work experience. I was able to prepare and demonstrate my full potential to get hired as a Portfolio Manager at Water.org. The organization’s mission is to solve the global water crisis through innovative financing approaches. It’s meaningful to me that I am able to use my engineering experience and expertise in the Southeast Asian region to help people access the most critical resource there is: water.
I am most proud of developing our first-ever urban water utility program. Water.org provides technical assistance to utility partners to market, educate, and connect their services to underserved communities. My team and I incubated the program in Indonesia and expanded it to the Philippines and Cambodia, connecting over 150,000 people with access to utilities services. We hope to scale the program in many more countries. I was the recipient of an Innovator Award for pioneering this program.
I love that in my role and workplace I can ask questions and express my opinion—this is different from Asian culture where often people will not contribute their thoughts in order to avoid conflict. Upwardly Global helped me to understand that my global experience wasn’t a liability, and that I could make important contributions here in the U.S. and across the globe.
Recently, I achieved another dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. The future is very open and the sky is the limit now.”
“I was a professional in Venezuela, with a really good job as a dietitian that was supposed to give me opportunities. But it wasn’t enough. The situation in my country was spiraling downward. The shelves at the supermarket were often empty, and our currency was so devalued that we couldn’t afford even basic supplies. People were going hungry. Many of my friends and colleagues left the country.
I stuck it out for as long as I could—I knew that my patients were counting on me—but the last straw was when I saw military officials stealing the hospital food meant for my patients. I knew that I needed to move, I needed to find a way that I could help my family have food and survive.
I arrived in Chicago in 2016 and applied for asylum. It was the hardest decision of my life, leaving behind everyone I loved and everything I’d worked so hard to achieve. But I had to get to work: I had to support not only myself in this new country, but also my family back home.
I couldn’t find work as a dietitian in Chicago. Even though I have a master’s degree from a top university in Venezuela, re-licensing in the U.S. was going to take too long, take funds I didn’t have. So I worked odd jobs as a nanny, as a dog walker, as a server in a restaurant. Some days, I worked from 6am to 2am. The only break I took was to pack boxes of food and supplies to send back to Venezuela.
A friend told me about Upwardly Global. Walking into that office for the first time was such a relief—like a breeze from the best beach back home. My coach helped me network and explore other opportunities to get back into the healthcare field. I’m now working as a Diet Clerk at a hospital in Chicago.
I love my job. I’m not a dietitian yet, but it’s a foot in the door. I’m so proud to be working in a hospital again. I’m supporting my patients—and I’m also able to support my family back home.”
“In Pakistan, I graduated from a highly-respected university and started working with a health firm, where I worked my way up to an executive position in marketing. But I was eager to continue learning and growing my career in the land of opportunity.
I was excited to arrive in the U.S., but then I hit a wall trying to find a professional job. The cultural difference between job searching in the U.S. and Pakistan was so great that with each passing day I was losing my confidence. I worked a few survival jobs to get by—mowing lawns and working the overnight shift at a fast food restaurant.
Here, people say: ‘when it rains, it pours.’ I experienced that when the place where I was staying fell through and I ended up homeless. I spent several nights outside in freezing weather. Almost as hard was having my dreams of achieving a stable life fall apart. I had a choice: I could either go back to my country and start all over again, or could push back, be resilient, and try to make a life here in the U.S. I started looking for ways to get my life back together.
One day while talking to a friend I came to know about UpGlo. Luckily, I had access to a computer and Internet at the office where I was working, and I filled out an application. After I completed the training, my job coach sat down with me to map out a plan of that would align with my career objectives, and within three months I landed my first professional job with a major digital marketing company. Getting that job turned my life around. I was able to move in to an apartment, make friends, pursue my hobbies, and visit my family back home.
Everyone’s life, challenges, and opportunities are different, but working hard and being patient is something we can all achieve.”
“LinkedIn is committed to creating opportunity for all members of the global workforce. Upwardly Global is a critical partner in meeting this commitment, and we are proud to work together to ensure that refugees and newcomers to the U.S. are able to contribute and achieve economic security in their new homes.”
Meg Garlinghouse,Head of Social Impact, LinkedIn
“We are proud to partner with Upwardly Global on The We Company's Refugee Initiative, as we work together to create economic opportunity for our refugee and immigrant neighbors. With their partnership, we have been able to lay a strong foundation to support the hiring of diverse talent, making our teams stronger and creating a welcoming environment for all.”
Mo Al-Shawaf,Director of Partnerships and Special Projects, Public Affairs, The We Company
“Since 2018, The Starbucks Foundation has provided grant funding to support Upwardly Global's innovative job search training program in three markets. One of the best ways to integrate refugees into a new community is through employment. This funding not only helps newcomers in the U.S. enter the professional workforce, but also creates opportunities for Starbucks partners to meet and volunteer with the incredibly talented and diverse refugees in Upwardly Global's program.”
Jobversity by Upwardly Global is live, delivering digital learning tools and expertise to empower newcomers, and the organizations that serve and hire them.
In 2018 we developed a critical new tool: an online, interactive learning pathway for service providers to better address the unique barriers that newcomers face, and more effectively coach them to success. Jobversity represents a new direction in UpGlo’s work, using our knowledge, expertise, and resources to transform the larger ecosystem that affects immigrants and refugees. By the end of 2020, we aim to reach an additional 500,000 newcomers through our expanded digital reach and network. Learn More
Unaudited 2018 numbers
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.