Elusive employment opportunities for foreign-trained African Immigrants


by Nelima Kerré • The Star Tribune had a ’Mega Career Expo’ at the Minneapolis Convention Center yesterday. There where three pavilions, a health care pavilion, a general/professional pavilion and an engineering pavilion. There were a ton of young job hunters and only FOUR booths in the general/professional area. Verizon Wireless was looking for customer reps, a company called ARAMARK was looking an operations manager and office assistant, AVON was looking for salespeople and the Border Patrol was there too (didn’t know they’d come this far north to hire people). The health care pavilion was pretty small, though I couldn’t really tell how many booths were in there because they were screening people’s resume at the point of entry; you had to have some experience in nursing. The engineering pavilion had only one booth and they were screening for entry too; you had to be a US citizen. Which means that all those highly qualified American-trained engineering permanent residents were out of luck.

MinneAfrica offers a way to connect, reconnect and stay connected with Africans and friends of Africans in Minnesota.

Anyhow I’d gone to this ‘Mega Career Expo’ with my mom, she too was surprised at the size of the fair and asked a lady from the Star Tribune why there weren’t more companies to which she replied, “That’s because most companies are laying off, not hiring.” The somber reality. Right before I’d left to the expo my mom was listening to a program on MPR which references a study that pointed out that, “Immigrants from Africa are less likely to get professional jobs than their Asian counterparts” (Sad considering that African immigrants in the US are more educated than their Asian counterparts, read an earlier post). Here’s an excerpt:

For many Latin American and African immigrants in Minnesota, working in the professions they practiced back home means going back to square one. Many have to work low-wage jobs, go back to school, or embark on the long and expensive road to re-certification.

Starting from scratch is something millions of high-skilled immigrants have to do once in the U.S. A recent report by the Migration Policy Institute shows that, nationally, more than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants are either unemployed or working in jobs such as dishwashers, taxi drivers or house cleaners.

If job-hunting in the US is torturous for American-trained professionals then it must be a nightmare for foreign-trained professionals. America has long been viewed as the land of opportunity where people come to search for greener pastures, but in these tough economic times opportunities are hard to come by. Basically career opportunities in the land of opportunity are on hold for now. Highlighted in that MPR story is The African and American Friendship and Association for Cooperation and Development (AAFACD), which helps foreign trained nurses and doctors get re-certification in Minnesota. MPR spoke with AAFACD program coordinator Steven Nguyawa;

He helps foreign trained doctors and nurses living in the Twin Cities obtain state licensing in their fields. The study material and test for doctors alone costs up to $15,000, and that’s tough to pay when a person’s working a low-wage job, Nguyagwa said.

I’ve got people who are working as parking lot attendants. I’ve got people who are working as security officers,” Nguyagwa said. “These are people who are really on basic wage, so it’s a bit tough for them.

I don’t know of any similar initiatives for other careers and if you do please share. Here is the contact information for AAFACD.

African & American Friendship Association for Cooperation & Development (AAFACD), Inc.
1821 University Avenue West,
Suite 231-South, St. Paul,
MN 55104
Phone: (651) 645-5828
Fax: (763) 550-2981

Read the MPR article in its entirety here.