Employability Skills Open New Doors for Russian Transplant

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December 9, 2022 by HCDE Communications

December is a time when we prepare to set new intentions and goals for the next year. Two years ago, Russian immigrant Andrey Mesechko did just that, and in April 2021, Mesechko arrived in the United States in search of the American dream.

As a college lecturer in his hometown of Yaroslavl, a city northeast of Moscow, Mesechko had English language foundations.

Andrey Mesechko explores downtown Houston.

“I studied English in school and college, and when I came here, I thought I spoke English, actually,” he laughs. “But then I got here and realized that I didn’t speak or understand well enough to be functional. People speak in a lot of different accents that were not taught in school. My biggest problem was not to speak but to understand.”

Knowing that he had to find a job and settle into his new life, Mesechko searched for free English classes online and discovered Harris County Department of Education’s Adult Education Division.

After completing the highest level of a six-week English as a Second Language (ESL) course, Mesechko was eligible to take an employability course.

“I got a lot of information regarding the American job market. I remember meeting with Workforce Solutions and taking a class about financial literacy, which was useful,” he said.

Andrey Mesechko poses for a photo in front of the Hoover Dam.

“I don’t have very many students from Russia,” said Claudia Estrada, his employability teacher. “He was a very good student, very outspoken, engaging, eager to learn, and always participated in class.”

Students who complete Adult Ed’s employability course receive resources to help in their job search, such as rehearsing possible interview questions, information on professional workwear, and what is appropriate to include on a resume.

“A lot of the times in other countries, you are expected to include a photo of yourself, your age, and indicate whether you’re married or not, so they think it’s okay to do it here, and it’s not,” said Estrada.

Estrada also explained that the course provides guidance on what potential employers should not ask interview candidates, like if they have, or are expecting, children. She emphasized that pairing an ESL course with employability is to the benefit of students.

“The advantage is that you are killing two birds with one stone, and it’s all free,” said Estrada. “Once they have mastered the English language, they might know enough English to look for a job, but might not get a job thinking that they’re doing everything correctly. So, it’s important because not only are they learning English, but we help to prepare them to find a job successfully.”

Andrey Mesechko poses for a photo at a Houston Symphony concert.

For Mesechko, who has a master’s degree in pedagogy and communications, the employability course was more than helpful in his quest to find a job.

“This employability program was a challenge for me, but it was a good opportunity to learn more about adult education here in the United States because this is what I want to do,” said Mesechko, referring to his professional interests. “HCDE courses were the first time I experienced adult education in the U.S., and I realized I wanted to be a part of it. I want to build my career in education here.”

Using the skills he learned in HCDE’s Adult Education program, Mesechko applied and was hired as a project manager at the nonprofit Center for Career Transformation, which helps immigrants like him.

Andrey Mesechko, poses for a photo at a training session hosted by USCIS for organizations that provide citizenship classes.

In his role, Mesechko oversees citizenship education courses and a career pathway program for Afghani refugees and uses the knowledge gained through his experience as an adult education student to pay it forward.

“I can transfer my knowledge to my new job and share the information I learned at HCDE with my students. I can advise them, so this is real knowledge I am using right now in my job,” he said.

The journey toward the American dream is just starting for Mesechko, who plans to continue his education in America.

“I want to get a doctorate in languages, preferably in applied linguistics,” he said resolutely.

For Estrada, seeing her students’ success is the ultimate reward.

“I do it for my students. I know I’m a steppingstone for them to have a better life in this country.”

Adult Education’s spring semester schedule will become available at the beginning of January. For more information about HCDE’s Adult Education Division, visit hcde-texas.org/adult-education.

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