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'We can guide them' | Former refugees help refugees enter workforce with on-the-job training

"Since we already faced the challenge, we can guide them how to get started," said Chong Vang, an employment specialist with Asian Resources Inc.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Building HVAC ducts piece-by-piece with laser-like focus, Mohammad Ramin is rebuilding a new life for his family in America. 

"First time I come to the United States, 14 July 2014 with my family," said Ramin, an Afghan refugee. 

Ramin is among the many Afghan refugees who have resettled in the Sacramento region

For the past 20 years, California has resettled more than 108,000 refugees. State data shows Sacramento County is a top destination for refugees arriving in California, with 2,400 refugees resettling here between 2017 and 2019. 

However, resettling in a new country is exactly as hard as it sounds. 

Ramin said had worked in the HVAC field at the U.S. embassy, but found his experience in Afghanistan was no good in his new home. Even after studying for nine months to obtain new certification, landing a job at OMAK Construction in Rancho Cordova was no easy task.  

"I applied myself; no company accepted. But ARI (Asian Resource Inc.) applied, accepted easy," he said. 

It was with the guidance of Asian Resource Inc. in Sacramento that Ramin was matched with the company through its On-the-Job training program, which matches refugees with employers in the region.  

Since October, ARI says it has placed 15 clients in the program with 10 people completing it.

ARI subsidizes 75% of the hourly rate for 320 hours per client when they are in training with the employer. It's led by two men who have both been in Ramin's shoes. 

"I'm a former refugee," said Chong Vang, a refugee from Laos who came to the U.S. in 1983. 

"I'm refugee myself," said Andrey Pryadko from Ukraine. "I came to U.S. about 29 years ago." 

They came to the U.S. speaking little to no English and worked odd jobs. 

"(I) probably know couple of (words) like apple, banana, cherry, simple hi or thank you," Chong said. 

"First, my job was housecleaning with my wife," Pryadko said.

They said in those early years, there weren't many programs to help refugees resettle. 

"Since we already face the challenge, we can guide them how to get start, so it won't delay their settlement in the U.S.," Chong said.

They said their passion to help others led them to ARI 11 years ago. The non-profit also assists immigrants and refugees with English learning skills, job skills and naturalization tests.  

Since then, the non-profit has helped dozens of families land jobs through its on-the-job training program.  

"When employer train, they're expecting to retain the person, so I see very successful," Chong said. 

Ramin said success is his only option as he thinks about his family left behind in Afghanistan.  

 "I miss my country," he said. 

 However, he said he knows his two daughters will have better lives.   

"Sometimes she watches TV, ask me, 'Father, why my country (Afghanistan) like this? I don't want to go there.'" he said. "Nobody goes to school- the ladies. Not good."

He said he sees a bright future for his children as he builds a new life with the help of former refugees with a blueprint to lead the way. 

ARI is always in need of resources. To learn more, click HERE. 

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