The events in Afghanistan last August created a chain reaction of tragedy, a host of still unfolding challenges and, now, an opportunity for Minnesota’s manufacturers to exhibit patriotic loyalty while shoring up their depleted workforce.
The planned exit of our troops from that Middle Eastern country turned chaotic in the final days and created significant danger for those who had helped our servicemen and servicewomen. Thousands were evacuated, with the help and drive of our troops, who felt strongly about providing protection for those who had assisted America.
Not all those who helped our American troops escaped at that time, and the outlook for those left behind appears bleak.
Some hopeful news, however, is that as of mid-February, 300 Afghan families have safely relocated to Minnesota. Churches and other organizations are pitching in to assist these friends of America as they begin healing from their trauma, help them find housing and schooling for their children, and guide them to a self-sustaining lifestyle.
Five Minnesota agencies are helping these evacuees get settled. They are working with individual churches or other organizations who “adopt” one family each. Federal agencies are working to empty out the military compounds that first accepted the Afghans when they arrived in the United States. And now, Enterprise Minnesota is hearing from government entities about various efforts to promote worker placement for these evacuees.
The refugees’ legal status requires them to be self-sustaining within six months of being placed in housing. Several people have mentioned how grateful these Afghans are to be in Minnesota and how highly motivated they are to find sustainable work. As all are coming to terms with the fact that our labor shortage isn’t going away for many years, there are Afghans who want to work and find meaningful careers.
The Afghans’ arrival gives us all an opportunity to transform the surreal dismay that we witnessed over several shocking days on our televisions and other digital media into an opportunity to satisfy real-world altruism with manufacturing interests. The opportunity brings the potential for new and motivated workers.
If you have interest in helping the effort to find employment for these Afghan friends — possibly at your company — I suggest you first inquire “close to home,” as there may be a veteran or church volunteer who is aware of a family searching for work. The male adults have received their federal employment authorization and Social Security numbers. Many come with skills and education. The older female adults may never have learned to read, and therefore their challenges are greater for employment. All family members have gone through health screenings and received vaccines (including COVID) while still on military compounds where they also began English clases.
We can all demonstrate our patriotic loyalty to our troops and to those who help them by assisting in the settlement of these families. Companies that hire from these ranks will benefit from adding motivated, grateful workers and likely please other manufacturing employees who also have wanted to help.
- 65,657 have already been moved from the bases to other locations
- 8,184 remain on bases
- 300 families (976 people) have arrived in Minnesota since the end of September
- 1,400 people were projected to arrive by mid-February
- Half are under 18 years old
- The impressively diverse number of groups that are working together to serve these families include HHS, DHS, DEED, Afghan Cultural Society, Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Services, Episcopal Migration Ministries and MN Council of Churches. All are working toward housing, job acquisition, health services, legal help, children’s education, ESL, and so much more.
Featured story in the Spring 2022 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.