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Kent hosts successful Refugee Employment Summit
For the Reporter
Approximately 100 employers, employment specialists, community members and city of Kent supervisors attended the first Refugee Employment Summit Oct 8 at the Green River Community College, Kent Station Campus.
The Kent Cultural Diversity Initiative Group sponsored the event.
Summit planners included a collaboration of city staff, nonprofit employment specialists, public organizations and refugee leaders, including KC-DIG stakeholders. The summit was made possible by funding provided by the city of Kent and The Seattle Foundation, Neighbor to Neighbor Small Grants Fund.
The moderator of the summit was Jared Othieno, a Kenyan native and the human resource manager at Chesterfield Services Incorporated, an organization that provides health assistants. The keynote was delivered by Rhiela Arroyo, assistant human resources director of DoubleTree by Hilton, Seattle Airport; Arroyo is a native of the Philippines. Arroyo's company has worked with several local refugee employment programs to fill job openings. She shared information on the advantages of hiring refugees and immigrants.
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke also addressed the summit, noting that Kent residents are recipients of a cost-free vacation because "the world has come to Kent," with the racially and ethnically diverse population that lives in the City, many migrating after being resettled in Kent as refugees.
Cooke acknowledged that long-term Kent residents and city staff make cultural errors when interacting with those born outside of the USA and asked newer residents to be patient during the learning process. Cooke is proud of the diversity of the City.
Summit participants had the opportunity to attend two breakout sessions on: best practices for working with refugee employers; why employers should hire refugees; working with refugee employment programs; and learning from refugee leaders and ethnic communities.
"Companies tell us all the time that they are having a hard time filling their positions. Refugees and Immigrants provide one way to meet the demand for workers," said Josh Hall, economic development specialist at the City of Kent.
The Summit Planning Team will continue to debrief the results and plan a post-summit strategy for responding to feedback received at the gathering. A report on pre-summit conversations that were held with eight ethnic populations will be released in the days ahead, incorporating additional recommendations from summit participants for increasing employment opportunities for refugees living in Kent.