Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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December 5, 2012

Finding a Home: One Man Embarks on a Quest for the American Dream

Like so many Americans, Nhia Yang and his wife lost their home during the economic collapse of 2008-2009. In one of his old black and white photographs, there is a young boy in Thailand holding a small chalkboard scribbled with his name and a refugee number. He looks directly into the camera, as if searching for his future. 

Today that boy is an American citizen, but the man, Nhia Yang, now 38, still looks ahead with hope in his eyes.

After the Vietnam War, tens of thousands of Hmong people from the nation of Laos fled to the United States to escape brutal persecution by leftist forces. One of those immigrants was Yang.

Yang and his family settled in California. He attended school, earned American citizenship and trained as an electrician.

But his hopes for the American Dream seemed dashed in 2010 when he lost his job and, ultimately, his family's home.

By then, Yang and his wife had relocated to Minneapolis / St. Paul where they decided to settle down and raise children.

“After we got married (in 1998) we heard that there were lots of job opportunities (in the Twin Cities),” said Yang’s wife, who found work there as a medical technician. “It was pretty good for the first few years.”

In fact, there was already a good community of other Hmong families they could join.

The couple were doing well in their new midwest home. They became parents to a son and a daughter. Yang spent ten years working for Kodak putting his electrician skills to work.

Then trouble hit the stalwart film manufacturer (the company eventually declared bankruptcy in January, 2012) and Yang was out of a job.

Finding another job in the hard-hit manufacturing sector proved next to impossible. The family’s house was foreclosed on; they moved into a small apartment and got by while Yang looked for work. (In the meantime, they had to give up their family dog as well, as the apartment did not accept pets.)

In early 2012, after more than a year of being out of a job, Yang heard from a state employment counselor about the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, a new initiative by the Creating IT Futures Foundation to help train unemployed individuals for the information technology (IT) field. The first class in Minneapolis / St. Paul would kick off in May, 2012.

He filled out the online application and stepped through the assessment and interview process. Come May, he found himself in a classroom for the intensive eight-week course that covered technical skills covered by the CompTIA A+ certification exams.

Through hard work and lots of study, Yang passed those exams in July, 2012, and, like his classmates, he was invited to step into a six-month apprenticeship. Instead, Yang elected to take a full-time banking position.

Though he didn’t take a position purely in the IT field, “the interviewing skills I learned at IT-Ready gave me the confidence to do the interview for this job,” Yang said. Central to the IT-Ready curriculum is training in soft skills such as communication and career development. “The IT-Ready staff were so helpful. I enjoyed the friendly environment, interaction, and support.”  

The family recently moved to an apartment they like better that actually costs less and cuts down on his commute.

“We feel very fortunate,” says Yang. “You have to define what the American Dream is, but for me, I don’t expect a lot. I just expect to be happy, have a healthy family, and a good job so I can support my family. That’s the American Dream to me.”