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VWW Supports New Americans with Professional Development Workshops

by elaine ezerins

A participant accepts a certificate for completing a digital literacy course with Vermont Works for Women, AALV and Technology 4 Tomorrow.

By Paige Ruffner, Employment and Career Services Manager

Through a customized career development program, Vermont Works for Women is supporting or delivering classes and workshops to a group of African Refugee and New American women and girls (16+) so that they may achieve their job and career goals and create financial stability for themselves and their families. This work is in partnership with the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) and Technology for Tomorrow (T4T) on their “Vermont Refugee Retention Grant” grant with the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

Digital Literacy

From December 2022 through March 2023, VWW coordinated and supported the delivery of a twelve-week Introduction to Computer Literacy class for 21 women. With the help of interpreters translating for Swahili, Lingala, French, and Somali speaking participants, and Chromebooks purchased by AALV for each class member to use during and keep after the class, participants learned how to care for and log onto their computers, navigate the keyboard, stay safe on the internet and more.

A group of African Refugee and New American women in Vermont gather to celebrate the completion of their digital literacy course.

Working with each participant based on their needs, many advanced from limited experience with a computer to typing sentences using correct fingers. A few advanced participants began to learn more about using Gmail and Google Suite and finding online English tutorials. Several participants expressed gratitude for the training, and a feeling of power and increased confidence in their new knowledge and ability.

Youth Professional Development

The first half of the girl’s program sessions were dedicated to financial, employment, and career readiness. Participants learned about bank accounts, credit and debit cards, student loans, the college application progress and standardized tests, and the differences between banks and credit unions. The second half of the sessions covered topics like healthy dating relationships, reproductive health, and pregnancy prevention strategies.

Career Workshops

The next phase of career development workshops for the women will focus on working as women in the US, career exploration, goal setting, and a basic understanding of financials. Workshops will include an opportunity to explore the trades, learn tool safety and use a sampling of power tools through an Introduction to Trailblazers. Individual career coaching and support will also be provided, as requested. The program will run until the end of June.