WES Mariam Assefa Fund Announces $1M in Grants to Advance Inclusive Employer Practices and Career Pathways for Immigrants in the U.S. and Canada

NEW YORK, July 22, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The WES Mariam Assefa Fund today announced US$1 million in grants to eight organizations in the U.S. and Canada working to shift employer practices and develop career pathways that support the economic mobility and success of immigrants and refugees.

In the U.S., the Fund awarded grants to African Bridge Network, Center for Southeast Asians, New Mexico Dream Team, and One Fair Wage.

The organizations selected for funding in Canada are Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University, the Momentum Centre, Venture 2 Impact, and World University Service of Canada.

These grants build on an earlier round of funding awarded an open call for grant applications in the U.S. and Canada. The selected organizations are leading a range of approaches to effect greater economic opportunity for immigrants.

“To build a more equitable labor market and inclusive workplaces for immigrants and refugees, we must reimagine the role of employers in supporting our increasingly diverse workforce,” said Monica Munn, managing director of social impact at WES. “The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is proud to partner with these eight organizations that are working to ensure that employers across the U.S. and Canada meet the unique needs of immigrant job seekers and workers so they can achieve their goals and thrive.”

Several grants announced today focus on specific sectors, including hospitality, technology, and human services – industries which offer plentiful employment opportunities to immigrants, but which often engage in unfair labor practices and have an insufficient focus on job quality.

  • One Fair Wage is expanding the geographic footprint of its U.S.-based High Road Training Program, which seeks to recognize thousands of restaurants that commit to increased racial equity and fair wages and help millions of workers earn higher wages and improve their work environments. Hospitality was among the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and supply shortages, rising inflation, and labor shortages continue to impact recovery, so there is an urgent need to bring employers and policymakers together to reimagine job quality.
  • World University Service of Canada’s Hospitality Industry Welcomes Refugee Employment-Linked Sponsorship (HIRES) program engages Canadian employers to support the sponsorship and economic integration of refugee workers. This funding will support a one-year research project to explore the success and sustainability of the HIRES program, with the goal of scaling this workplace-led refugee sponsorship initiative across Canada.
  • Venture 2 Impact is designing strategies for employers to develop more inclusive workplaces for immigrant and refugee professionals in the tech and innovation sector in Canada. In this fast-growing industry immigrants are often overlooked and underrepresented. Using human-centered design that engages both job seekers and employers, this work-integrated learning project seeks to help immigrants and refugees access jobs and advance in the sector.
  • African Bridge Network is launching a consortium for human services employers in Massachusetts to collaboratively address challenges and better support the success of immigrants and workers of color. Even before COVID-19, the human services sector faced workforce shortages. The goal is to create a more equitable human services workforce by improving job quality, advancing opportunities for workers, and ensuring lower turnover.

In addition to supporting sector-specific practices, the Fund will back organizations working to ensure long-term paths to employment and advancement which specifically address the needs of youth and international students in the early stages of their careers.

  • Momentum Centre is training international students in Manitoba, helping them overcome barriers to employment in STEM fields while meeting the talent needs of local employers. TMC will work with the University of Manitoba and other post-secondary institutions to develop work-integrated learning opportunities and identify international students to participate in the training.
  • New Mexico Dream Team is creating and expanding pathways of opportunity for immigrant and undocumented youth in New Mexico. With this grant, the organization will explore curriculum development and training with and for employers, educational institutions, and immigrant students and job seekers. Additionally, New Mexico Dream Team seeks to expand its ecosystem of partners in the business community and mobilize more stakeholders to advance policy change that benefits businesses and immigrant and undocumented youth.
  • Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University is helping to establish career pathways for immigrant youth, particularly Afghan refugees, in the Greater Toronto Area, Halifax, and Calgary through paid work-learning opportunities. Participants will receive employer-informed skills training, job placements, and additional supports to help them find further employment with participating employers and in relevant sectors.

Lastly, a grant to the Center for Southeast Asians (CSEA) in Rhode Island seeks to support immigrants who are small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs through business coaching, loans, and networking opportunities. This funding will expand CSEA’s employment programs and enable partnerships with local employers hiring immigrants.

About World Education Services and the Mariam Assefa Fund

World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. For more than 45 years, WES has set the standard of excellence in the field of international academic credential evaluation. Its philanthropic arm, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, supports catalytic leaders and organizations working to build inclusive economies and to ensure that immigrants and refugees can achieve their aspirations and thrive. For more information, visit wes.org/fund.


Silan Akgul, Senior Communications Manager, sakgul@wes.org