What’s next for Afghan refugees in Virginia? Some leaders focus on barriers to jobs

Months after those fleeing Afghanistan began arriving in the D.C. area, a local leader says aid is still needed to help them find jobs.

Virginia delegate Mark Keam said the key to helping Afghan refugees settle in the area is not just finding them jobs but helping them get positions that they’re already qualified for.

“How do we ensure that the Afghans that want to work in Virginia don’t have to go through a rigmarole of all kinds of burdens in the hurdles and licensing and certification just so that they can practice what they’re already professionally trained to do?”

In July, a bill passed this spring in Virginia goes into effect, allowing certified teachers to teach outside of the U.S. but do not meet all of the Virginia education requirements just yet, to receive a provisional teaching license for three years.

Keam told WTOP that more bills like this need to be passed.

“That’s one that’s small,” Keam said, “but one of many, many examples that we can do, to look at the laws and say, ‘what can we do to make sure that the people that can work can work?'”

Geeta Bakshi, one of the founders of non-profit Famil, a resettlement and support organization for Afghan refugees, said helping them find employment has been tough.

“We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in the job market recently. The good thing is Afghans are very, very hardworking, and they want to connect with jobs. One of the challenges is connecting them with jobs that take full advantage of their skill set.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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