By Tom Longstreth
The reasons ReSOURCE helps refugees are the same as the reasons we help homeless individuals, dropout youth, those needing to overcome a disability or injury, or dislocated workers in need of a new trade.
Central to our mission is the concept of reducing waste and increasing opportunity. Vermont’s tri-partisan rejection of President Trump’s executive action on immigration is testament to the strength of Vermont’s civil society and our generally rational as opposed to emotional approach to policy.
Gov. Phil Scott has correctly noted that refugees strengthen Vermont, fill critical employment needs, and add richness to our communities. This has been ReSOURCE’s experience especially as we expanded work force development efforts supporting recently arrived refugees.
Over the past three years we placed 148 refugees in full-time employment with benefits with local Vermont employers. Our training provided critical technical skills and industry recognized skill certifications along with language and personal and professional skills that equipped trainees with an understanding of employer expectations around communication, problem solving and continuous learning. This training continues today with refugees learning side by side with native born Vermonters who are enrolled in one of our programs in Barre, Hyde Park and Burlington.
The discord at the national level draws on a fear of foreigners. But in Vermont and at ReSOURCE, this xenophobia is mostly absent. The diversity among our staff, trainees and customers is a source of strength as we work toward shared goals including reduction of waste and poverty.
Our YouthBuild students weatherize homes, build affordable housing and install renewable energy systems. While serving other low income families, our students complete their own education and professional certifications that lead to employment.
Our Career Path students fill manufacturing jobs and follow a direct pathway to employment. Through service and shared experiential learning, our native and foreign born trainees both benefit. The refugees we serve assimilate into the Vermont culture but also contribute new elements to the Vermont experience that add richness and depth and further strengthen Vermont’s civil society.
ReSOURCE enrolls 300 trainees annually. Most of our graduates are placed with outside employers. But we also hire many of our graduates ourselves. Through our social enterprises that reduce poverty and protect the environment, we also create employment and avenues for workforce training. Thirty percent of our current 73 staff were once trainees in one of our programs.
The diversity of our staff includes native and foreign born, those with master’s degrees and high school dropouts. Each staff member has unique skills and specific roles, but we share common values that include the commitment to empower and drive change and achieve high impact.
Together we celebrate diversity, seek to inspire hope and are committed to effecting change in people including our staff, our clients, our customers and the communalities we serve. It is reassuring to see the ReSOURCE’s values shared among Vermont’s political leadership.