Refugees to the Rescue
Poe, Andrea C., HRMagazine
Refugees come to the United States seeking safety and protection; some employers in need of good workers are welcoming them with open arms.
Sometimes while driving through the streets of Des Monies, Iowa, Goran Surlan can't help but shake his head. It wasn't that long ago that Surlan, a refugee from Bosnia, would hop the bus to his job as a payroll clerk in the Sarajevo city government.
Today, he is a payroll clerk at Dee Zee Manufacturing in Des Monies. Now living in the Corn Belt, where mass transit is impractical, Surlan's mornings are spent behind the wheel of a car, snaking his way through commuter traffic. "You spend most of your car here," he laughs.
Commuting habits are the least of the changes Surlan has adjusted to. It was only three years ago that he left war-torn Bosnis, where he watched his vibrant, sophisticated homeland fall prey to destruction and chaos. Because he spoke near-fluent English and had a professional background, he arrived stateside with desirable skills.
Within the first few months of his arrival he landed his job by networking with his wife's cousin who was already working at Dee Zee, a company that manufactures aluminum truck accessories. He learned English financial jargon and regulations while on the job. "Ultimately, math is math wherever you are," he notes.
Dee Zee is the first U.S. company Surlan worked for; three years later, he's still there. He stays because he appreciates the opportunity the company gave him and because it's a good job.
"The arrangement has worked out really well," says Cindee Moyer, human resource manager at Dee Zee. "Goran does great work. And he translates for us when we need him to relate something to out [100 other refugee] employees."
Like Surlan, Moyer has made some adjustments recently: A few years ago, refugees weren't even on her radar screen. But the company began to grow, and the high turnover rate of plant workers took its toll. "We had to work a 40-hour week. Most would stay a year or so and then leave," she explains.
That's about the time a local refugee organization contacted her. "They asked me if I wanted to hire a couple of Bosnians. I said I'd try two [of them]," she recalls. Today about one half of Dee Zee's …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Refugees to the Rescue. Contributors: Poe, Andrea C. - Author. Magazine title: HRMagazine. Volume: 45. Issue: 11 Publication date: November 2000. Page number: 87. © 1999 Society for Human Resource Management. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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