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What Ukrainian workers can bring to the American workplace

Our world is currently being faced with tremendous challenges. As Ukrainians are forced to flee their country, seeking refuge from the Russian invasion, the economy of the United States is struggling with more demand for workers than there are people to work. Many have proposed solutions that will help Ukrainian refugees find that haven while simultaneously fulfilling the needs of American businesses. Although, this begs the question: what can Ukrainian workers bring to the American workplace?

Lauren Winans

Lauren Winans

Ukrainian refugees have been completely uprooted from their homes and forced to find places to live that are far different from their native land. Many are turning to areas where they already have family living, which has brought several refugees to the United States. Lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to allow more refugees to enter the country as they seek places to live and work that are safe for them.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently announced that the United States would accept up to 100,000 more refugees from Ukraine, though some fear that this will put an additional strain on the system. Still, in reality, it is a tremendous opportunity for both American citizens and Ukrainian refugees to help each other out.

When those refugees arrive in the country, these refugees will need jobs, and American businesses need people to fill open positions. If a mutually beneficial solution can be reached, everyone can thrive and prosper.

Related: What companies are doing to support Ukrainians and Russians

Qualifications of Ukrainian refugees

Ukraine is one of the most-educated societies globally, with an 83% tertiary gross enrollment ratio. That means most people from Ukraine have received some level of higher education, many of whom were driven out of their country. There is a phenomenon known as Brain Drain that occurs in times of significant conflict, and it results in high-talent individuals leaving their home countries to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

Nevertheless, some American businesses have failed to recognize credentials and experience gained in other countries. Admittedly, the education system in every country is different, and the education system in Ukraine is likewise different from that in the United States. Some critics argue that the quality of the training and education received by these immigrants is unverifiable.

Still, in a country where literacy and education are as valued as it is in Ukraine, you may expect Ukrainian workers to be exceptionally qualified.

Even though only 11% of the Ukrainian population speaks English, the English literacy in the country is dependent on their occupation and what region of Ukraine they come from. Their age is a factor as well – younger Ukrainians are more likely to have learned English than their older counterparts. Also, people working in professional sectors in the country’s urban centers will be more likely to speak English than people who work blue-collar jobs in rural areas.

But beyond that, there are several tools that refugees have at their disposal to help them learn English so that they can successfully find a job.

The United States is particularly suited to bring these Ukrainian refugees into the workforce because of the shift towards remote work. The humanitarian parole provided to Ukrainian refugees provides them with temporary work authorization, although it does not offer the same path to citizenship that comes with traditional refugee status.

It’s a handoff – these emergency solutions are a quick way for these refugees to reach safety, but they are only temporary solutions.

How Ukrainian workers can help fulfill the need for staff

However, given the labor shortage that the United States is facing right now, qualified refugees from Ukraine could be a source of relief for American businesses. The current job market is seeing more vacancies than there are job-seekers, and these 100,000 new workers that are going to be entering the country may be able to fulfill this need while providing for themselves and their families.

It is the business’s responsibility to ensure that they comply with all tax and immigration laws when they are employing refugees. Companies cannot favor hiring Ukrainian refugees, but they can make the process much easier for them to be considered. Legal guidance is an absolute necessity in situations like this, especially in such volatile times.

Regardless, the most important thing that employers should do when hiring refugees is to treat the situation with empathy and care. Just because they are coming to you when they are in need does not mean that they are worth any less to your business. You must treat them like you would any other worker. In fact, with the level of need that the job market has right now, it is a mutually beneficial setup.

Many Americans may not realize the skills and talents that Ukrainian refugees have because they only see them as immigrants who are now struggling to assimilate into a new society. But refugees have left an entirely different life behind, many of them with education and experience that rivals or exceeds that of American candidates.

Recognizing their potential is the first step in supporting refugees and fulfilling the needs of your business.

Ms. Winans is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant for Next Level Benefits.

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