Meet Mona: Healthcare careers talent pipeline participant, mom, refugee
Mona never felt safe practicing her religion in Ahvaz, Iran. When her father was murdered during a robbery at the family jewelry store, she had two reasons to seek refuge in the United States: freedom from religious persecution and a chance to start a new life. She arrived in 2014 at the age of 25 with her husband and infant daughter.
“Because our religion is different, we wanted the freedom to practice it and feel safe. So, we came here and now feel much better,” says Mona. She and her family are Mandaeans, an ethnic and religious minority group known to revere John the Baptist. Upon her arrival in the United States, Mona found more than safety: she discovered a network of support and opportunities that led to a rewarding career in the healthcare industry.
“Because our religion is different, we wanted the freedom to practice it and feel safe. So, we came here and now feel much better,” says Mona.
Mona’s family settled in Wheaton, Illinois. World Relief DuPage/Aurora provided educational and vocational support, helping them become part of their new community. Through World Relief employment specialists, Mona took English classes and completed her GED. They encouraged her to complete a vocational program at the College of DuPage (COD) and pursue her interest in starting a career in healthcare.
“In my home country, you’re required to choose a track of study when you start high school,” says Mona. “I selected healthcare and never lost interest in the field. I liked the idea of working in a hospital setting and helping others.”
Mona enrolled in COD’s Phlebotomy program and worked at the school cafeteria to cover expenses. The training, which she completed in one semester, included EKG and phlebotomy, and culminated with hands-on experience at a Glen Ellyn clinical site. Mona is now set to take her final exam in August for certification.
The decision to pursue a career in healthcare in DuPage County opens a lot of doors for Mona. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2016 to 2026, there will be an 18% increase in the employment of healthcare occupations creating 2.4 million new jobs, the highest amongst all economic sectors in the United States. DuPage County mirrors this trend: healthcare is its fastest-growing industry.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds certificate programs such as the one Mona enrolled in at COD. Culminating with industry-recognized credentials, these programs provide flexible scheduling for students working full or part-time jobs. Best of all, they don’t take years to finish.
Once a job is procured, several healthcare companies provide tuition reimbursement for professional development and additional training. PCT and CMA positions can often serve as a launching pad for a career in nursing or a variety of others in the healthcare industry.
“In speaking with Mona, I quickly realized she has the skills that any employer would want, she just needed the chance to interview,” says Jamie.
In 2019, the DuPage County Workforce Innovation Board (WIB), recognizing the healthcare industry’s exponential growth, established a talent pipeline designed to provide employers with talent and job seekers with opportunities.
Three of Illinois’ largest healthcare providers — Northwestern Medicine, Edward-Elmhurst Health and AMITA Health – give priority to candidates who have completed WIOA-funded training for CMA or PCT certificates. For eligible individuals, the training is free.
The program is making an impact. Mona’s employment specialist connected her with the workNet DuPage Career Center in Lisle where she impressed WIB Coordinator Jamie Brown.
“In speaking with Mona, I quickly realized she has the skills that any employer would want, she just needed the chance to interview,” according to Jamie.
Recognizing Mona’s potential, workNet DuPage helped her create a resume, mock interview, and provided recommendations.
“We just knew she had the soft skills that no one can teach,” said Marianne Eisley, a career counselor at workNet DuPage who has been working with World Relief to build a strong partnership and assist more job seekers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2016 to 2026, there will be an 18% increase in the employment of healthcare occupations creating 2.4 million new jobs,
Mona’s online application for a phlebotomist opening at Naperville’s Edward Hospital led to phone and in-person interviews and eventually to a part-time job. Her new position allows time for Mona to care for her daughter with special needs. After she takes her certification exam this summer, Mona’s dream of working in a hospital environment that began years ago in Iran will become a reality.
For someone in need of references, without an established social and professional network in their new country, the talent pipeline program is an ideal solution.
“There’s a lot of people like me who really need help.” says Mona.
Fortunately for Mona, and others like her, the partnership between World Relief, workNet DuPage and area healthcare employers ensures this need will be met.