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Regional job-shadowing program for foreign immigrants to launch

St. Louis region invites foreign-born, work-authorized job seekers to first-of-its-kind initiative

Groundhog Day on Feb. 2 — the day when shadows play a role in winter predictions — will serve as the backdrop for the launch of a new job-shadowing initiative in the St. Louis region.

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is launching a Professional Shadowing Program aimed at matching foreign-born, work-authorized professionals with companies offering job shadow opportunities as a way to help internationals experience American work culture.

As part of their transition into a U.S.-based career, these newcomers to St. Louis can gain hands-on insight and a more meaningful look at a job of interest by participating in this innovative program. Several local companies, including Enterprise Bank & Trust, SSM Health, LaunchCode, S2Tech and AAA Translation have committed to offering shadowing opportunities.

“It’s possible that we are the only organization to offer this kind of career transition assistance to international newcomers who have immigrated to a U.S. region,” said Betsy Cohen, executive director of the St. Louis Mosaic Project.  “Our goal is to eliminate “brain waste” that can occur when high-skilled professionals who immigrate to the US take low-skilled jobs to support themselves and their families because they don’t have any connections that can help them obtain experience — and ultimately a position — that matches their skillset.”

Case in point: Ramon Ligabo was a successful engineer at Brazil’s aerospace conglomerate, Embraer. When his wife’s career with brought them to St. Louis, Ramon had to start his job search from ground zero—without a network or U.S. experience. After several frustrating months with no work opportunities materializing, Ramon learned of a job shadow opportunity with LUZCO Technologies, an engineering firm founded by Venezuelan-born Lusnail Haberberger.  The shadowing opportunity allowed Haberberger and her colleagues to witness Ramon’s skills and see his potential so that when a job opened shortly after Ramon had completed his shadowing, LUZCO offered him the position.

“This opportunity truly changed my life,” said Ligabo. “I felt lost and was losing confidence in my skills and future employability until I found the opportunity at LUZCO.”

The Professional Shadowing Program, piloted last year with LUZCO, Panera and Woodard Cleaning, will operate in tandem with the International Institute’s Career Advancement for International Professionals (CAIP) program. The International Institute, in its 100th year of service, is the St. Louis region’s refugee resettlement and immigrant integration agency. CAIP is a soft-skills training program for international professionals offering resume writing, professional communication, recertification and credentialing and other services.

Once applicants have completed the CAIP program, they will be matched with a St. Louis Mosaic Ambassador Company offering an opportunity to shadow a job/field of interest for 10 to 20 hours, though the final arrangement will be determined by each host company. There is no guarantee of employment as a result of shadowing at a company.

The St. Louis Mosaic Project began in 2013 under the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the World Trade Center-St. Louis. Its goals are to make St. Louis the fastest-growing U.S. major metropolitan area for immigration by 2025 and to increase the foreign-born regional population by 25,000. Mosaic is a public/private partnership supported by a 32-member steering committee comprised of a diverse mix of regional business, civic, economic development, faith, agency and academic leaders.

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