Each month this year, Amplio will be highlighting a different non-profit partner providing job preparation and job training within the refugee communities we serve. More than just words, we are committing to financially support the work of the partner we select each month and want you to join us! We will match every dollar given to the Amplio Foundation this month, up to $1000, in support of this month’s partner.
As the refugee crisis continues to broaden, individuals and organizations are focusing on more long-term, sustainable solutions that empower refugees to thrive after resettling in the U.S. Luke Keller, Amplio President, is one of those individuals.
Growing up near Clarkston, a vibrant refugee hub just outside of Atlanta, he recognized the shocking rates of unemployment among the refugee community. With an average per capita income being a mere $17,000, even those who were employed were living at half of the poverty level.
Being a savvy businessman, Luke also recognized the need for skilled tradesmen that were quickly disappearing from the market. In recent years, it is estimated that for every five master craftsmen stepping out of their role, only one is stepping in to fill that gap.
The wheels began turning on the idea of a program that would close the gap between these two staggering needs, and 2014 he founded The Lantern Project. The organization began offering free industry-based trades training, aimed at connecting people in need to lifelong career opportunities.
Certified trainers and a dozen or so trainees gather on weeknights at their warehouse facility, set up with stations for each of the four crafts—welding, electrician, carpentry and pipe-fitting.
Also present are individuals committed to their weekly guided mentorship program. Many come through partnerships with local churches, in their initiative to build bridges between locals and the growing refugee community.
“We focus on ‘soft skills’,” says Dan Koenig, who took on the organization in January of last year. “Take the word responsibility—it’s not to say somebody from Ethiopia isn’t responsible, but they have a different view of what that means. To work with someone who has experience here [in the U.S.], and for them to explain what that means is a huge skill to hand to them.”
Since its establishment, an incredible 136 men and 2 women have completed the 12-15 month program, all through the generosity of individual and corporate donors and volunteers. After completion, Tekton uses its partnership with Amplio Recruiting to connect these now-certified tradesmen and women to local companies looking to hire.
“From our perspective, our biggest challenge was getting guys connected to a career,” Dan explains. “To have an organization like Amplio who is helping people… to get them to the next level is really important.”
Koenig estimates that 25-30% or more graduates find jobs with the help of Amplio. “That’s pretty significant. Luke, Chris, and Stephen are out in the market every day. That gives us the freedom to focus on high-quality training and developing relationships. It helps us make better recommendations for the position they’ll be fit for.”
Despite a recent rebranding to Tekton Career Training, the organization’s mission and focus remains the same—providing opportunity through construction trades training that will restore hope and dignity to those they serve.
“We want to give them training that will connect them to the hope that they can live well here in the U.S.” current director, Dan Koenig says, who started as a mentor in 2014. Koenig, who worked as a construction project manager in the 90’s, had just returned from a 15-year stint in Ecuador where he and his family worked closely with local leaders to develop schools and clean drinking water initiatives.
“We came back five years ago and were asking, ‘What’s next?’ God gave us time to readjust to life in the U.S., then slowly but surely the opportunities with Lantern grow and we were able to step into that.”
The best part of his job, he says, is connecting with “the guys”, especially when the stress or discouragement of running a non-profit rears its head. “As soon as I’m sitting down talking, and see their smiles… do the traditional shoulder-bump-handshake greeting… as soon as I step into that humanity—it’s so empowering.”
Dan and the Tekton team’s biggest dream for 2018 is to be able to offer daytime training, in addition to their evening classes, explaining that about 20% of those interested in the program end up unable to participate because they are locked into 2nd shift schedules. This admirable goal, that would allow them to impact many more refugees, would require a significant increase in donations.
“We’re all human,” Dan shares, “It’s easy to keep people at arm’s length, but to be able to take that big step and say that these are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers… real people with real dreams—that’s the most important thing.”
Amplio is proud to support Tekton Career Training and its efforts to bring value and dignity to refugees through skills training, mentorship, and leadership development. We encourage you to join us in supporting this commendable organization doing good within the Clarkston community.
Through our Amplio Foundation, 30% of our proceeds go to local organizations serving refugees in the following capacities:
For the month of January, we will match any additional individual or corporate donations to the Amplio foundation up to $1,000 in support of Tekton.
To make a charitable donation, visit the Amplio Foundation page. Scroll down and click the Donate Now button. Fill in the amount and payment information, as well as whether you would like for it to be a one-time gift or recurring donation. Click the Give button and you’re done! Thank you for partnering with us to support the refugee workforce.