Learning abroad in DickinsonFinding enough employees has not been an easy task for certain area businesses lately, but some establishments are engaging in a program that has attracted nearly 100 international workers to Dickinson.
By: Dain Sullivan, The Dickinson Press
Finding enough employees has not been an easy task for certain area businesses lately, but some establishments are engaging in a program that has attracted nearly 100 international workers to Dickinson.
Through the United Work and Travel program, a division of American Pool Enterprises Inc., students from all over the globe travel to the U.S. on a visa and work for a period of three to 10 months. Workers are usually between the ages of 18 and 28, and they come completely insured with medical benefits.
Sue Cushman, director of employer relations for UWT, said it was a luck that landed the program in Dickinson.
“We kind of fell upon North Dakota … by accident,” Cushman said.
When the company saw the trouble local businesses were having during an ongoing oil boom, Cushman said the UWT program seemed like a perfect fit for the community.
“We quickly realized what was happening out here and thought, ‘What a perfect match for our program,’” Cushman said. “It’s been very successful.”
Among the businesses that have hired the most international employees are McDonald’s, Dan’s Super Market and Applebee’s, Cushman said.
Shane Grever, manager for Applebee’s in Dickinson, has worked with UWT participants for a year now. He said the international students have been a huge help when running the business.
“It actually has made it so we can be able to serve the public,” Grever said. “Without (the international students), there’s no way we could continue to operate at the pace we are now.”
Grever added that he enjoys interacting with the students on a daily basis and seeing the culture they bring to the workplace.
“They’re really good people … fun to hang out with,” Grever said.
Marcella Araujo, a 19-year-old from Brazil, is one of the 13 international employees working at Applebee’s. As a hostess, she greets customers, cleans tables and assists servers.
Araujo said Dickinson is not as cold as she thought it would be, and she enjoys working here.
“It’s going better than expected,” she said. “I’m liking my job.”
Speaking English is not very difficult for students like Araujo. But for others, it is more of a challenge.
Nancy Seffinga, who manages Hardee’s in town, said the main reason many of the international students choose to work in the U.S. is to improve their English. While there is sometimes a language barrier between students and customers, Seffinga said the employees maintain a positive attitude and enthusiastic work ethic.
“They like to work,” she said. “They’re real eager.”
Marcelo Jorge is one of the international employees at Hardee’s. The 24-year-old said he studied geology in Brazil, and came to the U.S. to work on his language skills.
“I want to improve my English,” Jorge said. “It’s important for my career.”
Cushman is working on teaming up with area colleges to set up language programs that can further help UWT students become more comfortable with speaking English.
“We are working with a pilot program in Williston right now,” she said.
American Pool Enterprises admits students into the UWT program if they have a grade point average of “B or better” and at least one year of college under their belt, Cushman said. Students also pay a fee to enter the program.
In addition gaining employment, every student who is accepted into the UWT program is provided housing, Cushman said.
“(Finding housing) is not an easy task, and we have met some incredible folks along the way who deal in real estate or have places to rent,” she said.
Cushman will be holding an open house for UWT at Trinity High School today from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. All are welcome to learn more about the program.