As the IRC in Missoula enters its eighth year of operation, we continue to welcome new Americans primarily from the Congo, Afghanistan, and Syria into Montana. As part of the core services provided to all newly arriving families, the Economic Empowerment Team at the IRC in Missoula works diligently to secure job placements for adults. They network with local businesses to cultivate job opportunities so families can earn an income and become economically self-sufficient. There are many wonderful businesses in Missoula that have welcomed the people we serve into their workforces. The IRC employment team works closely with individuals to understand their professional and financial goals. IRC staff then work with employers to place people in roles that align with their goals, work experience, and language proficiency. The majority of individuals receiving employment services from the IRC have found positions in retail, manufacturing, food service, and childcare.
Zohair Bajwa is the head recruiter for Marathon Staffing, an agency that partners with a local Bonner business, UFP Industries. UFP Industries has been employing individuals served by the IRC for several years, providing them with job opportunities and pathways for continual growth.
Zohair immigrated to Missoula from Pakistan in 2006 to pursue higher education at the University of Montana. Since 2021, Zohair has made it his mission to support the refugee and immigrant community in Montana, hiring over 20 refugees in the past year and a half.
Employing refugees is incredibly rewarding, and there are learning curves for employers and employees alike! New challenges, such as language barriers, can require patience and understanding to work through. Despite these challenges, Zohair said, “the benefit of their work ethic far outweighs any momentary setbacks.” He has taken great satisfaction seeing our newest community members go from not speaking a word of English to being proficient just from their exposure at UFP Industries. Not only that, but several of them have been promoted to shift leaders with the chance to directly supervise other refugees and help them advance their English skills.
Zohair reflected, “If someone is going to be a good employee, why wouldn’t I give them a chance?”
Through his work at Marathon and UFP Industries, Zohair has been consistently impressed by the “professionalism and unwavering willingness to work to become successful” displayed by those he has hired. He has experienced continued loyalty and gratitude from UFP Industries’ newest employees who value a clear avenue to advance professionally.
His advice to all other employers who are considering hiring refugees is to “have patience, trust the system, trust them, and they will do whatever it takes to become successful and make your organization successful.”
We want to thank Marathon staffing, UFP Industries, and Zohair for their continued partnership, support, and advocacy in giving new families professional opportunities to thrive in Montana.
Blog post reposted with permission from International Rescue Committee