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Celebration of Service

IBM employees help immigrants as they try to penetrate the job market


Many challenges face new immigrants to Spain including how to quickly integrate into the job market. But thanks to a group of IBM volunteers, hundreds of immigrants are receiving the help they need.

More than 60 IBM employees, led by Gema Colino Gómez and Flora Egea Torrón, have contributed their skills and time to developing and delivering training to Spain’s new arrivals.

A 20-hour course developed by the volunteers is designed to provide new immigrants and other socially excluded groups with skills for job seekers including technical know how and interview skills. The workshop, presented in four hour sessions over the course of a week, provides practical knowledge, coaching and practice scenarios in resume preparation, interviewing and negotiation skills.

“All students were happy,” said Begona Arias, Manager of the Employment Program at Centro Pueblos Unidos. “All the students came in everyday in the morning to practice what they had learned the previous day.”

One of the participants wrote to thank the IBM team for their efforts. “Thank you everybody for all what you have taught us and especially for your patience with the group. It’s not normal today that somebody offers something for free, so thank you again for your help.”

The team received the On Demand Community Excellence Award earlier this year for their work. The award was presented at the IBM Centennial Celebration of Service gala in Madrid and Pueblos Unidos was awarded an IBM Catalyst grant of $10,000US.

Several IBMers have been involved with the Pueblos Unidos for sometime; however, the need for a comprehensive training session that would help new arrivals penetrate the workforce required diverse skills and long-term commitment.

Flora Egea Torrón, IBM Sales and Distribution, held an information meeting to determine which employees would be interested in participating. Reaction was positive. “People wanted to get involved based on the experience they could offer,” Flora said. “For example, technical experts could contribute their knowledge of computers and the internet, while human resources colleagues could provide their knowledge of recruitment and interviewing.”

After the first delivery of the session, the volunteers were asked to continue to offer more sessions. The team continues to deliver workshops monthly for Pueblos Unidos as they have many clients eager to participate.

Volunteers expand the reach of Centro Pueblos Unidos

The IBM team hopes that the formula can be duplicated by other NGOs in other countries. The training course has been translated to English and shared via wiki. IBM volunteers in Italy and Hungary have already asked for support in setting up similar initiatives in their countries.

Involvement by IBMers with Pueblos Unidos has grown. In addition to the employability workshop, volunteers are now involved in various programs, including ones designed to encourage teenagers to stay in school, promote Internet Safety, nurture interest in science, and build Lego robots. One volunteer has started to participate weekly in teaching Spanish to Arabic women who have recently come to Spain.

Centro Pueblos Unidos is a not-for-profit foundation that works in Madrid, Spain, to promote the integration of people at risk of social exclusion mainly through training. More than 90% of the service users are immigrants.

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.