April 16, 2016

The Forced Migration Upward Mobility Project is pleased to list the Austin Career Institute as a Spotlight of Innovation.

In our two and half year study on how refugees experience upward mobility in the United States, our project researched many avenues for career laddering. We have highlighted a select few programs that strengthen and improve economic integration by facilitating refugees’ skills, aspirations, and cultural ladders in the process of becoming full participants in their new communities.

We find that the Austin Career Institute is one of its shining stars in innovation. It was best put by one of its Cuban students. Sam is from the city of Havana. Even though he has no more than a high school education, his fascination with electronics has had him tinkering and fixing things since his youth. After coming to the US, he dreamt of using his skills to become an apartment maintenance manager, but his lack of English forced him to settle on a minimum-wage dishwashing job, making it difficult for him to even pay his rent. Several years after arrival a friend told him about the Austin Career Institute and its heating and air conditioning program for newcomers that combines industry-specific language acquisition with trade learning and certification. Workforce investment paid for his tuition and within a year he will have a job paying $15 to $18 an hour. Reflecting on his future, Sam said “I used to just be existing, but this program gave me life again.”

The Austin Career Institute’s innovative approach to combining vocational language and literacy simultaneous with hands-on, living-wage, skill training gives newcomers a quick path to living wages. We find this program a visionary in its facilitation of the capacities and upward mobility of newcomer populations while simultaneously filling industry labor shortages, reducing the amount of government dependency, and strengthening the US economy.

Director, FMUMP