At ISRI2023, a new pilot program was announced that is designed to match Ukrainian refugees in the U.S. with available positions within member recycled materials facilities. The Ukrainian Refugee Workforce Pilot Program joins other ISRI efforts to provide aid, including partnerships with World Central Kitchen, Doctors Without Borders and various natural disaster relief organizations. The pilot program is the vision of ISRI Advocacy team’s Cheryl Coleman and Tomas Alsenas.

Earlier this year, Alsenas told Coleman of his interest in Eastern Europe and they began to discuss how ISRI could be of assistance to the growing number of Ukrainian refugees. They decided to advance a workforce placement pilot program that would match refugees to the growing roles within the recycled materials industry.

Alsenas, the grandson of World War II-era refugees of the Soviet Union, is working to partner with refugee organizations to gain knowledge and insights in setting up the initiative. He is researching what it takes to move someone from a refugee camp to a job in the recycled materials industry.

Currently in the relationship-building phase, one of the most useful groups Alsenas has found in building the pilot program’s groundwork is Nova Ukraine, a volunteer organization that began in 2014. ISRI is working with Nova Ukraine on learning how to identify refugees with skillsets that can be matched with available recycling positions around the country. ISRI is in the process of placing the first Ukrainian participant in the pilot program — an electrician position within a major recycled materials organization.

As the pilot gains momentum, the goal is to align ISRI’s Ukrainian refugee placement initiative with ISRI’s other workforce development programming, such as Sustainability Pathways, and expanding it to serve refugees from other nations. A program interest form for the pilot will be available online this summer. In the meantime, any employer interested in connecting with skilled candidates through this pilot program is encouraged to contact Alsenas at