Invest Knoxville helps refugees find jobs

With help from Invest Knox-ville, immigrants and refugees can get help finding jobs within the specialty they pursued back in their home countries.

Robert Hodge, Invest Knoxville program director, said the project launched in March.

“We’re bringing in talent and weaving them into the marketplace here, and that makes us stronger,” he said.

Farragut Rotary Club has taken on helping the organization. Jim O’ Brien, former president and current member, said he worked to obtain financial assistance for Invest through a Rotary District Simplified Grant. Rotary Club of Farragut committed $3,500 to the program, which Rotary District 6780 matched for a total grant of $7,000.

“Rotary’s goal is to help the participants in the Invest Knoxville program to get their foot on the first rung of the ladder of success here in their new home,” O'Brien said.

And, five Farragut Rotary Club members had volunteered for Invest Knoxville to pair them with participants as mentors, he said.

“We’re also encouraging our members to offer internship programs for the participants where possible,” O'Brien said.

“They have capabilities, such as engineers and teachers. They’re educated folks but they’re ending up in jobs like decorating cakes and jobs that are far below their capabilities,” Dale Read, Rotary Club of Farragut president, said regarding the people Invest Knox-ville helps.

Hodge said Invest assesses applicants to make sure they are authorized to work in the United States and proficient in English. It also looks at diplomas and transcripts to verify training and experience.

Hodge said the process continues with career planning. He said every couple of months Invest offers a three-day seminar of intensive training including rés-umés, online job searching, interviewing, U.S. workplace culture and networking.

Then, Hodge said Invest links participants with mentors from the Knoxville community.

“Those mentors walk alongside to guide and encourage as the newcomer searches for and finds a job,” he said. He said mentors enjoy meeting with their partners in person.

“They’re excited to connect with somebody who is a lot like they are and a whole lot different as well … It’s personal, and it’s professional, and it’s a unique opportunity to do something very global and very local,” he said.

People curious about donating to, volunteering with or learning more about Invest Knoxville can go to