Upwardly Global’s Employer Action Guide: Ukraine Crisis
Find a downloadable PDF version of this guide here.
Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, over 5 million people have fled Ukraine, creating one of the biggest refugee crises since the Second World War. Most displaced Ukrainians are fleeing to neighboring European countries, including Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Germany, and Hungary. It is estimated that many will stay in these border countries in hopes of the conflict ending and returning home, and others — seeking more permanent resettlement — are going farther west to Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
In response to the unfolding crisis, on March 24, 2022, the Biden Administration announced that the United States will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians and other displaced people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine through a range of humanitarian pathways.
Many refugees from Ukraine have professional backgrounds; some 60% of Ukrainian women have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Even as we wait for more details from the Biden Administration, it is critical that the business community prepares to provide this community with access not only to employment, but to skill-aligned careers that will ensure their social and economic integration.
The international business community has a vital role to play in supporting Ukrainian refugees, and Upwardly Global is well-positioned to empower newly arrived Ukrainians by connecting them with employer partners who want to take action. This guide is designed to bolster employers in taking immediate action to support Ukrainians as they integrate into the U.S. workforce.
Barriers and Challenges
Upwardly Global is actively working to remove barriers, build pathways, and guide companies to hire, train, and mentor internationally trained immigrants and refugees. By engaging our network of hundreds of employers, we have homed in on the key barriers faced by job seekers on the road to employment as well as corporate challenges presented when sourcing, recruiting, and incorporating diverse talent. Given these constraints, here is what employers need to know:
Internationally trained professionals (ITPs) face barriers throughout the job search process from recruitment and interviewing to onboarding and advancement. Upon arrival, they may not know how to navigate the U.S. labor market, understand where their skills fit, or know what roles they are qualified for. ITPs who come from industries with heavy licensing requirements, such as healthcare, may need support in re-licensing or reskilling/upskilling to stay competitive.
Despite having years of professional experience, the current support system for new arrivals encourages “rapid-attachment” jobs, which are oftentimes entry-level positions, underutilizing their many skills and leading to “brain waste” and lost wages. Newcomers often lack professional networks, which can stymie their professional advancement since 85% of jobs are secured through social networks and “word of mouth” referrals. This lack of U.S.-based networks may pose challenges during the interview process when a candidate is asked for references.
Moreover, ITPs are often not aware of cultural norms in U.S. workplaces such as the use of eye contact or the American way of “storytelling” and self-promotion during the interview process if they have come from collective cultures. This can lead employers to believe candidates lack confidence or assertiveness.
Practices in recruitment and hiring can at times unintentionally perpetuate unconscious bias, adding to the challenges ITPs face. For example, online application forms with mandatory fields that do not include foreign institutions can prevent a job seeker from even applying. Employers may not consider ITPs due to confusion about work authorization, difficulty translating foreign degrees and credentials, or challenges evaluating international work experience. Refugees may display gaps in their resume, which is often cause for recruiters to automatically screen a candidate out, without considering that the candidate may be fleeing persecution (and what resiliency and problem-solving skills one gains during that experience!). Additionally, phone interviews are a huge barrier for ITPs due to language differences and accents, as well as the inability to use or properly evaluate body language.
What Is Important to Know about Ukrainian Newcomers
As we are faced with the important challenge of integrating newly arrived Ukrainians into our country and workforce, here is key information that the business community needs to know about Ukrainian refugee professionals:
Some will be fully work authorized. There are multiple pathways for Ukrainians to come into the United States, including Temporary Protected Status (TPS), asylum, U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), and humanitarian parole (see “Legal Pathways” below for details). These visas will allow Ukrainian refugees to resettle in the United States and grant them work authorization, but the categories are complicated and companies who want to support the population — and access the talent they bring — must be willing to think outside of the box (see examples below).
They are mostly women and children. Due to military conscription, Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 to 60 are not allowed to leave the country. An estimated 90% of displaced Ukrainians are women and children. We estimate that 60% of the women have bachelor’s degrees and some professional experience.
While many Ukrainian women will have skills and experience to lend to the U.S. workforce, they are oftentimes the sole caretaker of their families and may need vital childcare support to allow them time to prepare for job searching, learn English, and upskill or reskill if necessary. We encourage employers to consider providing additional aid to women professionals as they resettle in the form of wrap-around support for childcare, housing, and transportation.
English proficiency may be a challenge. While some have high skill levels, we anticipate that English language proficiency will be a challenge for integrating into the country and culture, and a key work function challenge. They will need English language support and essential or soft skills/cultural training.
In addition, soft or adaptive skills are just as important as “hard” technical skills in hiring. Employers should be upfront and explicit about the soft skills that are valued in the hiring process and workforce, and support soft-skill training programs. This highlights an opportunity for employers, government programs, and nonprofits to provide more resources to ensure success.
Talent-rich in tech and IT. Ukraine is a highly educated country. Ukrainian tech workers are well known in Eastern Europe and are a cause for major companies such as Google and Microsoft having operations in Ukraine prior to the current conflict. In fact, many Ukrainian tech workers were already operating in English for international companies and have since relocated to neighboring countries, being rehired by those same companies. Businesses should consider hiring displaced English-speaking tech workers remotely.
ITPs are driven and loyal. Ninety percent of UpGlo program participants, including SIVs, are retained one year after hire into internships or full-time employment.
Check out a special webinar hosted by our partners at Fragomen — the premiere law firm providing exclusively immigration service — on legal pathways for Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.
Legal Pathways for Ukrainians in the U.S.
- Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – Ukrainians in-country prior to March 1, 2022 (including those on tourist, student, and temporary visas; granted parole; have pending asylum applications; or hold a nonimmigrant status, such as F-1 or B-2), may be eligible for TPS. TPS designation allows individuals to legally stay in the United States for 18 months, with the possibility of extension, and apply for immediate work authorization. The federal registrar is expected to allow processing soon, in which case Ukrainians would receive work permits rapidly and will be employable in the next 30 to 90 days. The Department of Homeland Security estimates some 75,000 Ukrainians currently residing in the United States prior to March 1 would qualify for TPS.
- Asylum – Ukrainians currently residing in the United States may apply for asylum due to their inability to return home based on a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their nationality, race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Once granted, asylum seekers are put on a path to permanent legal residence. Many Ukrainians will be eligible for asylum due to the ongoing conflict and because many can demonstrate family ties or “family reunification.” However, the processing and adjudication of asylum applications can take several months or even years.
- Refugees – U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP): Ukrainians eligible for USRAP must have already fled Ukraine, cite an inability to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on one of five protected grounds (nationality, race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion), and currently be residing outside their home country. USRAP coordinates with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as well as the International Organization for Migration to bring refugees to a safe third country.
- Humanitarian Parole – Ukrainians residing outside of the United States may request parole status to immediately enter the country due to emergency and humanitarian needs. Individuals granted parole are allowed to enter temporarily and apply for temporary employment authorization, but are not provided with a path to lawful permanent residence or immigration status. This is generally considered to be the most expedited path of entry for those not already residing in the United States.
Upwardly Global Partners and Collaborators Take Action
In response to the emerging humanitarian crisis, we activated our employer network of nearly 60 employers and convened a session of our DEI Working Group to help orient the business community on the conflict, including what to expect on American soil, the situation unfolding abroad, and how employers have the unique ability to activate their resources and open their pipelines to this population.
The response was great, and we have had active conversations with dozens of companies to better track employer trends both in Europe and North America. Upwardly Global is now actively engaging over 30 corporations to explore ways to support Ukrainians.
In addition, we are exploring a pilot partnership with actors on the ground in Europe to share the knowledge and tools that we have gained from decades of work with immigrant and refugee professionals, as well as new and innovative tools and capabilities that we are developing now, to ensure that refugees from Ukraine get jobs at their skill level. As such, we have had the opportunity to meet European colleagues from our multinational partners and learn of new trends on the ground both internationally and in the U.S.
We are encouraged by the efforts of many of our employer partners to take action. We’d like to highlight leading examples and models led by some of our new and longstanding Upwardly Global employer partners and collaborators to transform the lives of Ukrainian refugees and the broader immigrant and refugee community.
A global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital and cloud security, Accenture works with clients, people, and communities across the globe to make a world of difference. Accenture Chair and CEO Julie Sweet is co-chair of the Welcome.US CEO Council, an effort to accelerate and scale private sector support. The council focuses on three key areas of impact: meeting the initial resettlement needs of the individuals and families who fled Afghanistan and Ukraine; supporting the employment of newcomers through new training and hiring initiatives; and mobilizing their employees, customer bases, and peers in the business community to join the Welcome movement. Through Welcome.US, Accenture has also supported the launch of an Employment Exchange, which curates employment opportunities for refugees from employers that have expressed a strong interest in hiring this population to meet their workforce needs.
Amazon recently launched the Welcome Door Program, a U.S.-based employment support program for refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees that offers a citizenship assistance portal, free legal support, and mentorship. The initiative provides additional resources and aid, along with reimbursement for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) fees. The program also offers employees access to upskilling opportunities, including free college tuition and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency through their Career Choice program. In addition, Amazon launched two humanitarian support hubs in Poland and Slovakia to help those affected by the crisis in Ukraine.
Upwardly Global has implemented a “deep digital skilling” model with support from Google.org to make the Google Career Certificates program more effective for our population of immigrant and refugee professionals; its effectiveness is measured by increased program completion and time to completion, as well as enhanced quality of experience and stronger placement outcomes.
Our cohorts incorporate two overarching elements:
- Cohort-based learning. We gather job seekers undergoing the course in the same time period into cohorts. While the learning is individual, these meetings meaningfully enhance a sense of peer-to-peer support and improve course learning.
- Volunteer mentoring. We engage Google volunteers as mentors to provide guidance and learning support. Currently, we are actively working with 125 job seekers with Googler mentors/volunteers to offer Google Career Certificates, which has been a valuable part of Upwardly Global’s Ukrainian response.
This collaborative 4- to 5-month program launched in mid-2022 with 5 cohorts that we are assisting and preparing for U.S. workforce integration.
As the war in Ukraine goes on, JPMorgan Chase continues to monitor the resulting humanitarian crisis to assess how the company can best deploy its resources to meet growing and changing needs in the region. To support humanitarian relief efforts, the firm has made a $10 million philanthropic commitment, including matching employee donations, to support a number of organizations working to provide emergency food, housing, and medical services to those in need. Beneficiaries include International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Polska Akcja Humanitarna, The Chamber of Commerce of the Polish Hotel Industry, United States Fund for UNICEF, and World Central Kitchen.
In addition, the firm has announced a new paid work and training program based in Warsaw for refugees. This new program will help those displaced by the war to continue their careers and enhance their skills and will also support successful candidates with settling down, including help with securing housing, preschool care, and an option to enroll children in a specified school following the Ukrainian curriculum. The firm will also supply dedicated training for work with one of the multiple teams present in Warsaw.
Aligned with their vision of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, LinkedIn is continuously identifying ways their platform can help those directly impacted by the war in Ukraine, especially those seeking employment. Since 2016, LinkedIn has worked with nonprofits that help refugees resettle after times of conflict and connect to economic opportunity in their new countries — including Upwardly Global since 2017. They launched a landing page in April 2022 with tools for job seekers hoping to land a job that fits their immediate needs and situations. The webpage is available in Arabic, Dari, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian.
LinkedIn’s team of global editors have also created a 24/7 newsfeed from trusted sources with updates on the war in Ukraine, which can be accessed through the LinkedIn homepage and the LinkedIn News page.
In addition to these resources and amplifying the work of nonprofits providing critical support to displaced Ukrainians, LinkedIn has committed giving over $2 million in a refugee-relief fund to support global humanitarian needs this year. Since 2019, more than 300 LinkedIn employees have helped over 1,200 refugees participating in Upwardly Global programs utilize their platform to connect to opportunity through over 30 LinkedIn Career Coaching sessions.
Microsoft’s Global Skills Training Initiative is a program that allows individuals to access in-depth learning paths and jumpstart their careers, enabling them to also demonstrate achievements by way of industry-recognized Microsoft certifications for relevant roles. Together, Upwardly Global and Microsoft offer this program to hundreds of immigrants and refugees each year and are particularly excited to extend this opportunity to Ukrainian refugees looking to restart their lives and careers.
The global management consultancy firm has initiated a refugee-hiring welcome initiative. In 2015, they started deliberate efforts to offer refugees either short-term job security or a whole new career pathway across consulting, business functions, and other specialized units. Their goal is to make a long-lasting positive impact on this community, helping them flourish and find stability.
Today, Oliver Wyman continues to recruit talented candidates from refugee populations around the world, with special focus on Ukrainians displaced globally by the crisis in their home country. The insights these individuals give about the challenges refugees face are truly humbling and strengthen the company’s dedication to support more people displaced from their homes, as well as inspire others to follow the same path of becoming a positive change in refugees’ life. To learn more, visit Oliver Wyman’s Refugee Hiring Hub.
With more than 3,100 associates in its Ukraine operations, PepsiCo teams have been working tirelessly to support 1,400 colleagues that have been displaced and care for those that remain in the country. In the first three weeks, the company facilitated 25 conveys carrying an estimated 600 people to safety and acted quickly to convert a warehouse in Western Ukraine into a safe haven for associates and their families. In addition to providing $15 million in humanitarian aid via NGO partners and guaranteeing Ukrainian employee salaries until the end of the year, PepsiCo has supported initiatives driven by associates.
In Poland and Romania, PepsiCo employees transformed office spaces into temporary housing and offered relocation support services to more than 350 families. Employees in Romania also mobilized quickly to open a Ukrainian childcare and learning center for 150 children aged 3 to 17. In addition, PepsiCo’s Europe IT team developed an app to match Ukraine refugees with coworkers offering rooms, supplies, or jobs at PepsiCo locations outside of Ukraine, while “Donate a Day of Safety,” a campaign launched by the marketing team, allowed associates to donate funds that will be provided to cover housing costs. Lastly, PepsiCo employees from over 50 countries donated more than $500,000 through a matching campaign, which the PepsiCo Foundation will match for another contribution of just over $1 million (USD).
What Employers Can Do
HIRE. Build special hiring initiatives and be open to different hiring processes, such as paid job shadowing, returnships, and apprenticeships, that give new arrivals U.S. work experience and a chance to prove themselves. This could include special assistance for Ukrainian refugees/asylum seekers in the hiring process and HR training on what recruiters can expect.
INTERNSHIPS/RETURNSHIPS. Offer paid, short-term professional opportunities that allow the company to get familiar with job seekers and allow job seekers to gain exposure to U.S. workplace cultures. This opportunity helps build adaptive skills and U.S. industry experience for their resumes.
TRAINING. If your company offers a training program that helps open up career pathways in a particular industry (i.e. Google and Google Python, or Salesforce Certifications), make that training available to job seekers through our skilling offerings, prioritizing access to Ukrainian immigrants. Consider offering financial support to displaced Ukrainians who need to invest in English language courses as well.
MENTORSHIP/VOLUNTEERISM. Commit company employees to mentor Ukrainian refugees through this transition and into gainful employment. Culturally attuned corporate volunteers are critical to job training and successful workforce and societal inclusion.
WRAP-AROUND SUPPORT FOR WOMEN. We expect many women and children coming with the second wave of men coming much later. Women will need specialized support in the form of childcare, housing, English language training, and re/upskilling opportunities. Companies should consider offering this type of support and partnering with local nonprofit organizations that are experts in providing these services.
WIDESPREAD INCLUSION AND TOP-LEVEL COMMITMENT. Companies aren’t typically set up to ensure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) objectives and practices are owned and implemented widely across the whole organization. There could be a tendency to view DEI as the responsibility of HR or a specialist team rather than incorporating these principles into wider business management. It is vital for immigrants and refugees to have allies within companies at all levels. Leadership buy-in and tangible commitments — like those of Accenture’s leaders — must be balanced with implementation-level buy-in to successfully move the bar on immigrant and refugee hiring.
BRANDING AND MESSAGING. Use your channels and leadership to speak out on the value of these new arrivals to our economy and communities, and encourage peers in the industry to do so as well.
DONATE. Support Upwardly Global’s Ukraine crisis response efforts. Click here to learn more, here to donate, or here to contact us.
Upwardly Global is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the inclusion of foreign-trained immigrants and refugees, including Afghan refugees and SIVs, in the U.S. workforce. These newcomers face barriers at each step of the job search process, including lack of professional networks, resume gaps, and often compounding factors due to their race and immigrant status (75% of Upwardly Global job seekers identify with communities of color). At the same time, employers face another set of unique challenges in filling five million open roles and skills shortages, and recruiting and hiring diverse talent.
Based on our experience working with internationally trained professionals over the last 20 years, we have developed a suite of employer-facing trainings and tools to prepare employers for recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding professionals with overseas credentials. These best practices and resources are aimed at moving the mark for more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
To learn more about how business can aid resettlement and workforce inclusion or join this growing group, please contact Upwardly Global Vice President of Programs Jennie Murray or Director of Employment Engagement Kim Cohen.
We would like to acknowledge and thank the WES Mariam Assefa Fund for providing the initial funding for the launch of Upwardly Global’s DEI Employer Group Working, which was launched in December 2020, and its continued support of our Employer Engagement work.
- See Upwardly Global’s Jobseeker Journey Map.
- Center for American Progress, “Progress 2050: New Ideas for a Diverse America.”
- LinkedIn, “New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking.”
Upwardly Global is engaging corporate America to better understand the roadblocks in hiring foreign talent. Together with partners at Accenture, Upwardly Global brought together corporate leaders and internationally trained professionals to envision corporate-facing products — from internships to an inclusion playbook and an index — that will change the DEI commitment calculus from a “nice to do” mandate to a “must do” action plan (see the Executive Summary from this initial work).
Launched in 2020, Upwardly Global’s DEI Employer Working Group, made up of over 55 corporations, meets bi-monthly to engage with peers; share best practices for inclusive hiring models, as well as hot tips, resources, and challenges; and co-create solutions to better incorporate immigrant and refugee talent into our workforce.