Syracuse English Learners Group Helping Immigrants Land Jobs

At the Onondaga County Central Library, immigrants are getting help with their English from other immigrants. (c) 2017 Jude Allume

By Jude Allume SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Over 18 percent of Syracuse residents speak a language other than English as their first language. Combine that with an unemployment rate of more than 6 percent in comparison to the national rate of 4.2 percent and it can be difficult for immigrants who don’t speak English to find work.

To help ease the burden, Onondaga County Central Library is pairing immigrants with other immigrants to help each other practice conversations in English and get more job opportunities.

Fahed Ali is originally from Pakistan. He has been participating in the group conversations for over three months to develop English skills before taking exams he needs to pass in order to practice as a pharmacist in the US, which was his job back home.

“I’ve improved my English a lot with the help of the teacher,” Ali said. “It’s really helpful actually in terms of practicing English with non-native speakers. We learn some complicated vocabulary words which I can practically use in those exams, but most of those exams are law exams or licensing exams from New York State.”

Amy Thorna has instructed the group session for the last 11 years but she’s noticed a similarity recently among her students

“Folks who are coming in trying to get jobs who maybe are professionals in other countries and are trying to earn their credentials and need to advance their English skills so that they can do their jobs here in the US,” Thorna said.

Over 200 people have attended the conversation group since Thorna has worked in the library. She says the majority of students who come to the class have successfully reached a level of competency to be able to move on to the next step in their careers.

“At least 70 percent of them reach their goals. I mean a lot of times students, I don’t see students again because they’ve gotten a job or they’ve gotten into school.”

To attend one of the group session, contact the Onondaga County Central Library at 315-435-1900.