Puget Sound training center hopes to help more Ukrainian refugees

The federal government expects 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the United States due to the ongoing Russian invasion and many are likely to settle in Washington.

Joe Drake, president and CEO of the Puget Sound Training Center (PSTC) said he hopes his organization can help incoming refugees the same way they helped a man named Sergey Alter in 2001. The PSTC is a local non-profit organization whose mission is to provide skills training and employment services to immigrants and other underserved communities in the region.

In March 2001, Sergey Alter, along with his wife and young daughter, fled their home country of Ukraine and immigrated to Federal Way to start a new life. Alter said they were fleeing poor economic conditions and religious persecution.

When he landed at Federal Way in March 2001, Alter spoke no English at all and had no employment scheduled. Luckily, one of Alter’s neighbors suggested he visit PSTC, to learn English and work skills.

Alter took his neighbor’s advice and paid a visit to the PSTC, a decision that still bears fruit to this day, Alter said.

In the 21 years since his arrival, Alter has obtained US citizenship and secured a well-paying union job with Safeway, which has enabled him and his wife to buy a home and support themselves. to the needs of their four daughters. Alter said he owes much of his success to the help PSTC has given him.

Drake said he remembers Alter joining the PSTC in 2001.

“He had a lot of energy and a lot of skill, he just didn’t speak English well,” Drake said.

Jeff Smith, who was a manager at Safeway and a forklift driving instructor for PSTC in 2001, ended up offering Alter a job at Safeway after a few months of training.

“Jeff Smith spent a lot of hours teaching our students, and Sergey needed a job, so Jeff gave Sergey a chance even though he didn’t speak English very well,” Drake said. “Here he is 21 years later, working here.”

Alter said he feels lucky for the opportunities he has been given since arriving here and hopes to help incoming refugees.

“A lot of refugees will come here, I’m lucky to have left before that [war] happened,” Alter said. “Right now I can help and a company like the Puget Sound Training Center can help people – my brothers and sisters in Ukraine – to come here and have a chance like I had 20 years ago. .”

Seth Myers, Alter’s supervisor at the Safeway Distribution Center in Auburn, said Alter’s success story is an example of what this country is capable of when people work together and open their hearts.

“It’s a good feeling to know that you are in partnership with an organization [PSTC] it’s about creating a life and giving people the opportunity to raise four children and lead a comfortable life,” said Travis Parke, senior director of human resources at Safeway.

Drake encourages anyone who needs help learning skills or finding work to come to PSTC, which now offers forklift, warehouse, computer and first aid training programs. You can find out more about what PSTC has to offer on their website.

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