Published December 11, 2018 at 4:33pm.
Story by Mary Martin. Photos by Hunter Lacey.
As the Texas economy grows, the conversation about a stable, reliable workforce has once again bubbled to the surface. Alongside this conversation, is the reality of migration, and refugees who have been settled in major cities like Dallas. To the team at Amplio, these two problems are actually two solutions. With a “more-than-enough” mindset, Amplio (‘ample’ in spanish) was founded in Atlanta in 2014 to connect the refugee workforce to the business community.
In 2016, Amplio launched as a full-fledged staffing company with offices now located in Atlanta, Raleigh, Dallas, and Houston. Through their efforts, more than 1,000 refugees have been placed in full-time employment. Richard Brindley, Managing Director of Amplio’s Dallas office, has seen first-hand the benefit that refugees bring to local businesses. “The refugees we’ve worked with realize they may not get to do the job they did in their home country, but they are incredibly appreciative of steady work. So we want to connect them with great companies that will recognize their potential,” said Richard. Recent data also supports the idea of refugees as an untapped labor pool. The Tent Partnership, founded by Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, found significantly higher retention in refugee employees than the typical workforce.
The Amplio model works to find healthy businesses looking to not only hire refugees at an entry-level, but also provide opportunities for growth. “We advocate for our refugees so they have access to jobs with upward mobility, a decent pay rate, and benefits. It’s about caring for people, and that would be enough. But it’s also an economic win,” said Richard. “Refugees are cash positive – for the business, for governments, and for tax payers. Catalyzing the refugee workforce is win-win for everyone.” Most refugees hired through Amplio are hired on a temp-to-perm contract. For 90 days Amplio covers payroll, workman’s compensation, and unemployment payments. After those first three months, the refugee employee rolls fully onto the employer’s payroll, with quarterly check-ins from Richard.
Today, Richard walks into a business that has recently hired four new employees through Amplio. Elliott Electric Supply has 23 offices in the Dallas area and their new Amplio employees are busy picking orders from well-organized warehouse shelves to be placed on delivery trucks. “When I find someone who has the desire to work, the capability to work, and a good attitude, I’m all in,” said Taylor Kulovitz, the Area Operations Manager. “I’ve also noticed many refugees prefer second or third shifts so they can be with their family during the day, work another job, or navigate the city when it’s less crowded. Since we run 24/7, that is a great fit for both the employee and us as the employer.” Richard added that many refugees take advantage of night shifts so that they can attend English classes during the day.
The four employees have come to work at Elliott Electric from the countries of Rwanda, Tanzania, Iran, and Pakistan. The men have already completed initial orientations, including forklift training. As they advance, they will have more opportunity for certification and advancement into other areas of the organization such as receiving and wire cutting. At companies like Elliott Electric where many of the executive managers worked their way up from entry-level jobs, there is significant investment in all levels of employees, creating an ideal work environment for Amplio placements.
As forklifts cross through wide aisles, Richard checks in with Taylor about his new hires, discussing transportation options and the upcoming company Christmas party. The hands-on approach to problem solving sets Amplio apart from other staffing agencies. Amplio is also the only B-corp staffing agency in the country, a classification reserved for businesses that meet the standards of creating positive impact for society, workers, the community, and the environment. And when local business receive the benefits of that impact, the community is strengthened as a whole. “I can’t describe well enough how kind, courteous, appreciative, and attentive the refugees we’ve hired have been,” shared Taylor. “We are very new into this process, but so far, it has been enjoyable.”
There may be a few extra hurdles when hiring someone who is a recent refugee, but the benefits seem to outweigh the additional effort needed to secure transportation and navigate any language barriers. As part of Amplio’s mission, Richard is developing partnerships with local refugee service providers, as well as the faith community, to ensure that refugees have basic needs met and can focus on rebuilding their career in their new city. “We can do this better together,” Richard said. “And together we can help educate the public and guide the conversation on refugees.” Spelling out the differences between migrants, immigrants, asylees, and refugees, as well as those who have been issued special immigration visas for helping US military personnel, has become a focal point for Richard in many business settings. “The refugees we are placing in employment are legal to work in the United States from the moment they step off the plane,” Richard explained. “So we are looking for great companies who want to hire great people and help the immigrant community flourish in Dallas.” With ample work to be done and an ample workforce to do it, the connection process is critical, so Amplio is planning for growth, just like the refugees they help.