CAMBA’s The Cooper Union Retraining Program at CAMBA is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: Unemployed or underemployed immigrant engineersand IT professionals
Number of participants served annually: Over 225 students
Frequency/Duration: Most courses meet once a week for 8–12 weeks and take place at night or on the weekends. Total retraining program duration varies by student.
Eligibility Criteria: The applicant must be an immigrant with work authorization; have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in the field of engineering or IT from their country of origin; be unemployed, underemployed, or working in a field not related to their education; have intermediate-level English proficiency; and demonstrate a financial need.
Application process: Applicants submit a detailed application form and resume to CAMBA via email. They are then contacted for phone screening, and if eligible, invited for in-person registration at CAMBA’s Brooklyn office.
Curriculum: Qualified participants can choose from approximately 20 semester-long courses in information technology and chemical, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering taught by Cooper Union faculty and field experts.
Skill level: Advanced
Outcomes: 70 percent of participants connect to job as a result of the program and average a $28,000 salary increase.
Partnerships: The program is itself a partnership between CAMBA and Cooper Union’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering. It partners with scores of employers who have expressed interest in hiring program graduates.
Sources of funding: The Robin Hood Foundation and Con Edison
What makes this program stand out? The Cooper Union’s Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers operates with workforce partner CAMBA—a nonprofit incubator—to train roughly 250 highly skilled IT professionals and engineers from 60 different countries each year. CAMBA—who is responsible for recruiting students—reports that an average of 30 percent of students admitted are refugees or political asylees.
The program is designed for immigrant professionals who have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or institution in their home countries. Many students also have substantive work histories in engineering and IT, but require retraining in order to bring their engineering, computer programming, and business management skills up to date and in line with the demands of the American job market.
The goal of the Retraining Program is to match unemployed or underemployed participants with the American labor market and to find them a gateway job and path back to their profession.
What do participants need to succeed? This program is catered towards a specific population: highly skilled immigrant engineers and IT professionals who need retraining to return to their profession within the context of the US labor market. Accordingly, they need to focus their retraining coursework on the areas in which they gained education and experience in their countries of origin. Cooper Union and CAMBA recognize and work to tackle the multiple barriers may be preventing participants from returning to their career profession. Cooper Union provides engineering and IT coursework, while CAMBA provides the soft skills development like interview preparation, networking, and job retention. “When you’re working with skilled immigrant professionals, it takes time and investment both by the individual and by program in order to address all the barriers there are to connect to one’s profession,” said Eileen Reilly, Vice President for Economic Development at CAMBA.
What does the organization need? More support around recruiting immigrant engineers.