Refugees Get to Work

NEWS // July 23, 2019

Communication Workshop Prepares Refugees for a Diverse Workplace

Brittney Ochira, Outreach Manager, National Conflict Resolution Center

When we interact with people, we encounter their complex, multi-faceted identities, including the aspects we see on the surface, like their job title and their accent, and those below the surface, like their background and their values. 

How can we communicate in a way that respects the many identities of others, especially in a diverse region like San Diego County?

On July 9th and 11th, 2019, forty-three refugee students from Grossmont College participated in the National Conflict and Resolution Center's “The Art of Inclusive Communication” workshop to learn just that. 

These workshops were part of a contract between National Conflict Resolution Center and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency's Community Action Partnership for the Live Well San Diego Exchange, a training program that builds skills related to communication and conflict management. The Exchange includes specialized sessions targeting refugees and other new San Diegans to help them gain employment and be more effective in the way they interact on the job. Participants develop employable skills like acting as a team player, accepting and learning from criticism, and thriving in multicultural workplace settings. Partnerships with the CalWORKs program at Public Consulting Group and other refugee services agencies are key to connecting the population and offering the opportunity to participate in the workshops.

The collaboration with the Career Center and CalWORKs Office at Grossmont College came out of a desire to equip Grossmont students with the skills to navigate diverse workplaces with greater awareness of the conflict styles they bring into their work, and the ability to identify these conflict styles in others.

“Transition and change can be challenging to all newcomers. Refugees are often traumatized from pre-migration and resettlement experiences. Language is a huge culture shock and a barrier for most newcomers. Refugees are hesitant to initiate conversations in English. These students left The Art of Inclusive Communication workshop feeling empowered,” said Renee Nasori, Career Services Supervisor and Grossmont College.

By developing these skills, refugees are finding within themselves renewed confidence to achieve professional goals they might not have previously thought were possible.

One participant shared that she had not attended school back in Syria, so when she moved to San Diego and started taking classes at Grossmont College some people teased her, asking “Do you think you are going to become a doctor at your age, and with no education?” but she has persisted, advancing through the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, and is now set to enter the nursing program.  Her story and others like it have been part of the success of the Live Well San Diego Work Readiness Exchange, as the class reinforces and refocuses participants on the life skills they already possess so they can enter into the workforce with more confidence in their strengths.

The National Conflict Resolution Center is proud to partner with the County of San Diego in support of the Live Well San Diego vision to equip new San Diegans with important communication skills which not only boost the self-sufficiency of individual families but the cohesion of our San Diego community.