From Refugee to Workforce

Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship seeks employment for refugees.

In 2018 a record number of people are being driven from their homes by wars, persecution, political upheaval, and climate change. On average in 2017, every two seconds saw one person uprooted, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Work at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship sees that population as a potential resource, executive director Thane Kreiner writes in the Conscious Company article “Refugees and Migrants Are the Future Global Workforce”:

“Most stories about global refugees focus on the tragic aspects of their forced migration, which are very real. But what if we could find the opportunities hidden amidst the refugee crisis? What if we could treat displaced people less as a burden and more as a potential solution for businesses and nations seeking a strong, viable workforce?”

“Refugees and migrants might not seem like an obvious area of focus for Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. But as the largest and most successful social enterprise accelerator in the world, we realized that entrepreneurial approaches might have the potential to address issues facing geographically displaced people. After all, one goal of social entrepreneurship is to disrupt unjust social equilibria and provide dignified livelihoods for poor, vulnerable, and marginalized populations.”

Miller Center’s recently created accelerator program—Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins—supports companies addressing the needs of migrants, refugees, and human trafficking survivors. In May 2018, it launched with 21 enterprises.

A few of the companies:

  • 734 Coffee employs refugees in small-scale coffee farming, trains others for jobs in the company’s California coffee shops, and funds scholarships for refugees.
  • The nonprofit Re:Coded runs coding boot camps for teens in refugee camps.
  • WorkAround  also works in camps, hiring people for data entry and other jobs.
  • Talent Beyond Boundaries  provides international job placement for displaced people.

Studies show that welcoming people uprooted by disaster—that of nature or man—can be an economic boon, because of the increased spending they generate. Kreiner continues:

“Unfortunately, the conflicts, persecutions, and climate-induced impacts that drive people from their homes are unlikely to end any time soon. All people are entitled to the opportunity to pursue dignified livelihoods. That truth doesn’t change even in the most chaotic refugee camps, which remove individuals’ agency, control, and ability to architect their own futures.

At the same time, many businesses across the globe struggle to find enough skilled, qualified employees. Training refugees and migrants to fill key positions seems an ideal solution for everyone involved.”

post-image Miller Center supports enterprises for social good, including a coffee company that trains and employs refugees throughout its supply chain.
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