The Untapped Labor Market of Refugees
Between 2016 and 2018, the immigrant community in Kent County grew by more than 5,000 residents. Today, our community boasts more than 112 countries of origin and speaks close to 40 languages. These neighbors are filling jobs, learning in classrooms, buying homes, starting businesses, and investing in our local economy by adding to the rich cultural fabric that collectively creates a great community.
Join us on Tuesday, May 18 as we explore the untapped labor market of refugees in Kent County. Omar Cuevas, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Grand Rapids Chamber, will highlight research findings and the collaborative work of the Gateways for Growth Welcome Plan and Salah Kamal, Employment & Training Specialist for Bethany Christian Services, will share how his experience as a New American and beneficiary of Bethany’s services shaped his approach to preparing refugees and immigrants for the workforce. Members of Byrne‘s human resources team will also expand on their journey supporting refugee and immigrant employees, including earning citizenship, a program that celebrated six New Americans in 2020 alone. In addition to individual presentations, all speakers will participate in moderated question-and-answer.
Tuesday, May 18
9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Members: $15 / Non-Members: $25
Meet the Speakers
Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Grand Rapids Chamber
As Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Grand Rapids Chamber, Omar oversees all revenue generation activities, member experience and marketing efforts to help move business forward and create an environment in which all businesses can thrive. He has an 18-year career in banking, where he developed and implemented bank initiatives in West Michigan’s growing Latino population. Omar has been recognized by the Michigan Hispanic Caucus as Hispanic Advocate of the Year and serves on the steering committee for the Kent County Welcome Plan for New Americans. Other board involvement includes the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Literacy Center of West Michigan, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board and Committee to Honor Cesar Chavez.
Employment & Training Specialist, Bethany Christian Services
Salah, a former refugee from Syria who resettled in the United States in 2016, works as an Employment & Training Specialist for Bethany Christian Services’ Refugee Employment Program. In this role, he helps and prepares refugees entering the workforce and assists in their journey to become self-sufficient. Also a beneficiary of the program, Salah’s unique experience in the resettlement process brings a wealth of expertise to the work he does at Bethany.
Human Resources Coordinator
In her role as Human Resources Coordinator for Byrne Electrical Specialists, Cady is responsible for coordinating, performing trainings and orientations, processing payrolls, maintaining employee records, interpretation and translations in English – Burmese. Cady has three years of experience in Human Resources. Prior to joining the Byrne team, she worked for a staffing agency as a Customer Service Representative and Interviewer for three years.
Since she came to the United States, Cady has been actively involved in various ministry involving leadership and teamwork at her church and across the states to help and empower refugees and immigrants as they navigate their new homes, the United States. In 2016, Cady and a group of young people launched a pilot project, Myanmar Community Services, to assist their fellow refugee community in Grand Rapids. Cady serves as a director of this organization.
Sandy Buchanich, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Vice President of Human Resources, Byrne Electrical Specialists
In her role as Vice President of Human Resources for Byrne Electrical Specialists, Sandy is responsible for facilitating organizational design initiatives to better align Byrne’s structure with business and customer needs. She has completely transformed the human resources function by hiring a team to align human resources to the vision, values, and strategic direction of the organization. More importantly, she has aligned human resources to carry on, grow, and emphasize the “Honoring Tradition, Pioneering Change” and “1 of 1” culture at Byrne.
Sandy has more than 20 years of experience in the human resources field in a variety of industries and organizations. She has worked for large family-owned businesses including Amway, smaller family-owned businesses including Nucraft Furniture and Byrne, and Fortune 500 companies including United Parcel Service, Kimberly-Clark, and Alcoa.
Yani Castro, SHRM-SCP
Senior Human Resources Manager, Byrne Electrical Specialists
In her role as Senior Human Resources Manager for Byrne Electrical Specialists, Yani is responsible for reinforcing culture, driving strategic human resources initiatives, creating positive memorable employee experiences, participating in the growth and development of leadership, encouraging employee development and driving performance accountability through the organization. She also has direct oversight of human resources operations, payroll and benefits, legal compliance, and talent acquisition.