National Public Radio’s Deborah Amos reported this next story about refugees working in some surprising Chicago businesses.
“In Chicago,” she reports, “war refugees have a hand in the city’s most famous handmade cheesecake.
” ‘People who come as refugees have great skills,’ says Marc Schulman, the president of Eli’s Cheesecake, which has sold cheesecakes and other baked desserts since 1980. One-third of adult refugees arriving in the U.S. have college degrees, according to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., a think tank that tracks the movement of people worldwide. And refugee employment is a successful model for finding skilled workers for a food business that has become high tech, says Schulman.
“A cheesecake at Eli’s is still based on the simple recipe of the founder, the late Eli Schulman, Schulman’s father, who served his famous confections to political leaders and Hollywood stars. Marc Schulman wears the Cartier watch that Frank Sinatra — a regular customer — sent his father in 1987. …
“The mixing and baking are computerized, so the 220 employees have to be highly skilled. Schulman recruits about 15 percent of the workforce from refugees resettled in Chicago. The employee list reflects the waves of flight from war-torn countries — Iraq, Bhutan, Kosovo, Congo, Myanmar.
“Elias Kasongo began working at the bakery in 1994 after fleeing unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. …
” ‘I’ve been here at Eli’s for the past 22 years. It’s my home; it’s a beautiful thing,’ says Kasongo, who is now a U.S. citizen. The job was all he had when he was starting his new life in America. Today, he’s a homeowner. …
“Schulman’s hiring strategy is used at other well-known companies in Chicago, including Tyson Foods and Trump International Hotel & Tower.
” ‘Every major hotel works with a refugee agency,’ says Sean Heraty, manager of workforce development at RefugeeOne. ‘Job retention is through the roof.’
“Employers have ‘awakened to the potential of refugees,’ says Kathleen Newland, at the Migration Policy Institute. That’s because they are hardworking and loyal and tend to stay on the job longer than American-born workers, she says.”