Career Paths in the Health Sector in Minnesota

key data

Minnesota, USA
Implemented by: 
International Institute of Minnesota (IIM)
Started in: 
January, 1990
Refugees and other third country nationals interested in employment in the medical field.
The Greater Twin Cities United Way, The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership, and The Resettlement Programs Office

The NGO ‘International Institute of Minnesota (IIM)’ developed and implemented a nationally recognised programme offering a career path for refugees and other third country nationals interested in employment in the medical field. The three-step programme includes:

  • Nursing assistant training: 8 and 11 week training programs to qualify nursing assistants to work in nursing homes and other healthcare facilities
  • Academic skills training for medical professionals and an English language programme for the medical field
  • Assistance of a Medical Career Advancement Coordinator

The fully accredited national curriculum and training programme for nursing assistants com- bines theory with practical hospital training, in a mock hospital room. It also includes a medical vocabulary language training programme and a cultural orientation component, related to healthcare and hygiene requirements in the United States.

Identifying the need: 

In the United States resettled refugees need to find employment as soon as possible after arrival and thus normally start with low skilled jobs, such as food processing or manufacturing. With an ongoing financial crisis and needs for skilled labour in the technology industry, such low skilled jobs requiring limited recognized qualifications and language skills are becoming sparse. In addition new methods needed to be developed to respond to the need for staff in the healthcare sector to serve an increasingly ageing population in Minnesota.


Since it started the programme has helped 350 persons to qualify as nurses and more than 1700 to qualify as nursing assistants. People from more than 30 different countries have benefitted from the IIM services. The pass rates of those who attend the programme is higher than that of the public community colleges.


The assessment of applicants to the programme is key.  When students have not been assessed at the right level in terms of their language and academic readiness, the pro- gramme has not worked for them. It has also been a challenge ensuring that the programme is really supported by health sector employers, to ensure access to employment and further training.