Each immigrant community faces its own unique employment obstacles. For immigrants of the African and Haitian diaspora, a persistent challenge is “brain drain” – the underemployment of professionals with foreign degrees and high-caliber work experience.

To address this disparity, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement (MOIA) teamed up with the African Bridge Network (ABN) to pilot the Boston Immigrant Professionals Fellowship. The program, which started this fall, provides ten fellows with a month-long job readiness curriculum, and places them in paid, three-month fellowships in healthcare. The goal of these non-clinical internships is to give fellows the American work experience and connections they need to leverage their professional expertise for career advancement.

Peter Eyong, an ABN fellow from Cameroon with a master’s degree in project management, completed an internship as a program coordinator in the neurology department of Mass General Hospital.

The inspiration for the program began when Emmanuel Owusu, co-founder and executive director of ABN, found that he often met fellow African immigrants with advanced degrees working in customer service and manual labor positions.

“Members of the African immigrant community most often arrive to the U.S. with significant education and professional experience,” Owusu wrote in an email, noting that they face “challenges with resume writing and interviewing, as well as transitioning to U.S. workplace culture.”

Approximately 40% of African-born Black adults have at least a bachelor’s degree – a rate higher than the U.S. population as a whole – and roughly one in three of this group holds a STEM-related degree, according to a 2018 report from New American Economy. And yet, Black immigrants with four-year degrees are 54% more likely than White immigrants to be underemployed, according a 2021 report from the Migration Policy Institute.

These realities are reflected in the current cohort of Boston Immigrant Professionals fellows. They include three physicians seeking work commensurate with their expertise and a former vice dean of a physical therapy school who in the U.S. has been working as a physical therapy aide and medical interpreter. Most of the fellows – who hail from Nigeria, Cameroon, Haiti, Kenya, and Ghana – hold advanced degrees.

So far, all ten participants have been successfully placed in internships with the program’s partner hospitals: Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Mass General Brigham. Several have already received offers of employment, as well.

This year’s program is funded by MOIA  and the Neighborhood Jobs Trust, which collects linkage fees from the development of large-scale commercial projects in the city.

ABN plans to grow the next cycle of the program to accommodate the training and placement of 25 fellows, potentially in other industries beyond healthcare.

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