Leaders of the Utah refugee population told Governor Gary Herbert this week that the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center (URETC), a source for educational input, life skills, and employment services, is like a “home” to the refugees in Utah.
Deseret News’ Marjorie Cortez reported a panel discussion at an open house for the center, located on the Meadowbrook campus of Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), included input from Sudanese refugee Jawaher Fadhel.
“This is my place. Utah is my country,” he said.
The center is a group effort of SLCC, Utah State University, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services (UDWS). The goal is to bring refugees from their first jobs after they have resettled to the place where they can gain the skills and training needed to earn an adequate wage to better provide for themselves and their families.
UDWS Executive Director Jon Pierpont pointed out that the refugees’ primary job wages after resettling in Utah tend to be lower than the average salary of Utah citizens. Pierpont added that the state is hoping to change that.
The center is also offering classes in computer use, English, seeking employment, kitchen training, and interviewing skills. It will also connect refugees to higher education classes and courses on starting a business through the Microbusiness Connection Center.
SLCC student Zak Ali said many of the refugees have never attended school, nor have they ever used a computer.
“It’s good for the refugees to have a center like this where they can come and get the education and training that they need and also a space where they can meet when they have community gatherings or when they have events. I think this will be really great,” said Aden Batar, director of immigration and refugee resettlement at the Catholic Community Services of Utah.
For the first time, the center will be housed in one central facility. Deneece Huftalin, president of SLCC, stated she was happy the governor and his wife Jeanette were able to visit the center, see the partnerships that have been created, and, most importantly, hear from the refugees, reports Kelly Keiter for KSTU-TV Salt Lake City.
It was after the state created a survey that was given to the refugee population in Utah when the URETC became a reality, reports Matt Canham of The Salt Lake City Tribune.
“This is a dream come true,” said Anet Akot, who moved to Utah from South Sudan 16 years ago. “And I’m a little jealous. I came in 1999, and we didn’t have a place like this.”
Akot is a driver for a private car service who sees the center as a place where refugees can share their knowledge and integrate more quickly into the state’s communities. The open house attendees included refugees from Somalia, Bhutan, Burma, Liberia, and other countries who came to thank the governor and the first lady for supporting the creation of the center.
About 60,000 refugees call Utah their home. Gov. Herbert noted that they came to the state ready to contribute, with a strong work ethic, and to find opportunity. KTVX-TV Salt Lake City’s Glen Mills writes that those who know the struggles refugees face are ready to share their experience with those who are just beginning their journey in the US.
“We are so excited that we are going to be able to meet and we are going to be able to improve our lives,” said Refugee Community Leader, Alex Ngendakuriyo.