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New Non-Profit Helps Jax Hispanic Residents Find Jobs

H.I.L.L. of Northeast Florida

A new non-profit organization that opened its doors in Jacksonville less than a year ago is working to find jobs for Jacksonville's Hispanic community.The H.I.L.L. of Northeast Florida stands for the Hispanic Institute for Life and Leadership. It is a work force and professional development organization that caters to Hispanics.

“We like to think of ourselves a little bit more cutting edge in regards to the job search techniques that we offer,” said the H.I.L.L. founder and president Annie Grogan.

Even though there are fewer Hispanics in Jacksonville compared to Orlando or Miami, Grogan said there is still a need to this type of organization in the community.

“The Latino community and the Latino labor force are finally beginning to become present in Northeast Florida,” Grogan said. “We know that Jacksonville is going to have to really become competitive with the other large cities here in Florida, that have sort of embraced the Latino community.”

Since opening their doors downtown 9 months ago, Grogan said the H.I.L.L. has helped over 75 people rewrite their resumes, hosted several workshops and launched a guest speaker program called Las Vozes or the Voices.

“We are starting to see how word of mouth is really getting out, many of the candidates who have been here are now referring family members, neighbors or friends,” Grogan said.

Most of the Latinos that the H.I.L.L. serves were born in other countries. While stereotypes still exist of immigrant Latinos only qualifying for blue collar jobs, Grogan said that is not the case for most of the people who come to the H.I.L.L.

“These are individuals who have come to the US, who are highly educated, and who have really, really solid work experience from their home county,” Grogan said.

Marie Pico has that solid work experience. She was a psychology teacher in Puerto Rico for 14 years. She moved to Jacksonville five months ago and has been searching for a job ever since.

“We have to wait, things will be better, and you prepare yourself better also,” Pico said.

Even though these candidates are highly qualified, language barriers can hinder immigrants from finding jobs in their fields. “The way we speak, we really have an accent, sometimes I don’t know if that is good or that is bad,” Pico said.

Pico visited the H.I.L.L. office two times and said she felt more prepared to compete in the American job market. She participated in mock job interviews and learned cultural differences in American work environments and interview processes. 

All that training is not as useful if the candidates are not confident with speaking or writing English. Grogan said the H.I.L.L. will incorporate English into the standard curriculum starting next year.

The H.I.L.L. also offers training in anything from how to be a supervisor to presentation and delegation skill. The goal is to help Latinos navigate through the American corporate system, Grogan said.

While the H.I.L.L. is focused on the Latino labor force, it does not exclude anyone. Grogan said all races and ethnicities are welcome to receive help looking for jobs and grow as professionals.

You can follow WJCT on Twitter @WJCTJax.