by Lina Duffy
Peggy is a dentist. She ran her own dental practice for eight years in her native Colombia. She arrived in Philadelphia in 2015, not speaking a word of English. To improve her English, she enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Unable to practice dentistry in the United States, Peggy worked “survival jobs” for four years. Jobs that didn’t utilize her years of knowledge in dentistry. Wanting to get back into her profession, Peggy joined the International Professionals Program (IPP) at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in early 2019. In June 2019, after months of intensive training, she graduated from the program.
Just a month after graduating from IPP, she is now excited to start a new job as a dental assistant in a week’s time, thanks to the Immigrant Fellowship Program, which helps connect IPP graduates to employers looking for global talent.
Peggy’s story is not unusual at the Welcoming Center. Over 40 percent of people come through our doors with a university degree. Every single one of them is either underemployed or unemployed. Just imagine the amount of talent that is going untapped!
What IPP does is to equip individuals with the tools they need to successfully find a job in their profession, sometimes, after years of not being able to do so on their own. Beyond teaching the “hard skills” — for example, how to put together a U.S. style resume or how to prepare for job interviews — what IPP does is make the individual realize they already have what it takes to succeed. Sometimes, all an individual needs is a gentle push in the right direction and for someone to say, “I believe in you. You can do this.”