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Wausau employers “hungry” for help from refugees

Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 9:37 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - In just a few short weeks, the first Afghan refugees will be settling in Wausau. This means many of them will be looking for employers so they can earn a livable wage.

The Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) Multicultural Community Center said many businesses are hungry for more help. The worker shortage in Wausau is bringing a steady stream of questions from employers.

“What we’re seeing right now is employers are not only interested, they are preparing right now to accommodate this group with training,” ECDC Director Adam VanNoord said.

VanNoord said he has talked with many Wausau employers and he’s met with the Chamber of Commerce. Right now, a majority of employers are struggling to meet demand. He said there’s a great need for more help.

“A lot of different opportunities, I don’t think this is one employer looking for a cookie-cutter solution, it’s diverse in terms of industry and size,” VanNoord said.

Job opportunities include manufacturing, food, and agriculture. The effort is also not just about helping businesses but many employers also want to help integrate Wausau’s newest members.

“It’s not just about having more employees, but just, in general, setting them up for success. That could mean offering ESL at their businesses and we’ve heard some businesses talking childcare and just different ways to reach out,” New Beginnings for Refugees Executive Director Gwendolyn Paul said.

Despite some cultural differences and potential language barriers, when up to 75 new neighbors eventually settle in Wausau, businesses will be ready to snap them up and put them to work.

“Having more individuals to contribute to our workforce here in the Wausau area is going to be beneficial to all businesses,” Paul said.

The first refugees will be settling before the new year. There will be one family of eight and two families of four.

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