Over the past few decades, the Pittsburgh region has become a place of refuge for many displaced internationals fleeing war and ethnic persecution in their home countries — places like Iraq, Bhutan and Nepal. Although these refugees are legally permitted to work in the U.S. and are often highly skilled and well educated, they find navigating a foreign job market challenging.

Participants in Allegheny County's Refugee Career Mentoring Program, Fall 2011

However, with the help of the Refugee Career Mentoring Program, the gap created by such cultural differences is narrowing. Beginning Sept. 13, the program will once again match displaced individuals with local career mentors who will guide them through basic job searching techniques. Mentors are not expected to provide jobs; rather, through monthly workshops and one-on-one meetings, they act as a resource to provide insight about the U.S. job market. Additionally, the program offers guest speakers who host mock interviews, workplace tours, job shadows, networking events and resume writing workshops.

The program launched in September 2011, and is a collaborative of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Catholic Charities and Diocese of Pittsburgh, Department of Human Services, Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, Jewish Family & Children Services, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board and Vibrant Pittsburgh. Last year, 10 refugees, primarily in the engineering field, were matched with qualified mentors. This year, a group of mentees in fields ranging from computer science to human resources are looking to achieve the same improvements in confidence and successes in job-seeking.

Those interested in volunteering as a mentor or guest speaker are asked to contact Andrea Longini at the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, alongini AT trwib DOT org.