October 1, 2022

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Olha Kotliarova (center) smiles and waves to classmates while receiving her certificate of completion during a meeting between Ukrainian refugees and representatives for local manufacturing companies Tuesday.
Representatives of local manufacturing companies meet Tuesday with Ukrainian refugees who completed a streamlined training course.
Tuesday night’s event would have been just like many of the dozens of other job fairs held every year in Lincoln if not for two things: the flags hung and Ukrainian being spoken in the room.
The Lincoln Manufacturing Council held a three-week class for Ukrainians who have fled the fighting in their country, and Tuesday was graduation night.
Representatives for local manufacturing companies meet with Ukrainian refugees who recently completed a streamlined manufacturing course Tuesday.
Chloe Higgins, workforce development project administrator for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, said the classes are meant to teach entry-level skills to people with no previous experience in manufacturing.
The classes are usually open to anyone in the community, but the partnership decided to hold this one specifically for refugees from the war in Ukraine.
In addition to job skills, participants received dinner and free child care, and they also will get a $250 stipend for completing the class and applying for at least one job.
The group of three men and nine women received their certificates for completing the class Tuesday, but first they got to talk with potential employers about the jobs they offer.
Representatives from Kawasaki, Garner Industries, Continental and TMCO fielded questions about how much they pay, what benefits they offer, what working conditions are like and how fluent workers have to be in English.
Bryan Seck, chief talent strategist at Kawasaki, speaks with Ukrainian refugees who recently completed a streamlined manufacturing course. Eugene Korol of Kawasaki (standing) acted as translator for the group.
The questions were all translated by Eugene Korol, a general foreman in the welding department at Kawasaki.
Korol, who’s been working at Kawasaki for 22 years, said the company used to have about 50 Ukrainian employees, most of whom came to Lincoln in the 1990s. But many have since retired, leaving only about 15 working there now.
Those people came to the U.S. voluntarily after Ukraine gained its independence. Those coming here now are fleeing war as the country fights to steer clear of Russian rule.
Alla Polishchuk has been in Lincoln for about three months. She came to the U.S. with her mother and her brother, but her husband and two sons are still in Ukraine fighting in the war.
Polishchuk said she’s thankful to the U.S. for taking her in, and she joined the manufacturing class because she “just wants to work and be productive.”
She graduated from college in Ukraine with a degree in cinematography and worked in movies for many years, but the advent of the internet and mobile phones caused the industry to fall on hard times at home. After losing her job, she said she worked in factories.
Representatives for local manufacturing companies meet Tuesday with Ukrainian refugees who completed a streamlined course as an introduction for people that are considering careers in manufacturing.
Ivanna Kovalchuk came to Lincoln a couple of months ago to stay with her uncle and said she joined the class because she wants to be involved in the community and make a difference.
Kovalchuk said she wanted to come to the U.S. even before the war and hopes to stay permanently, possibly in Lincoln, which she said she likes because it’s “pretty and quiet.”
Polishchuk, however, said she would like to go back to Ukraine someday. For now, though, “I just want the war to end.”
After their graduation ceremony at the Asian Community Center, the group met with the employers, which also included Bison Inc., to discuss opportunities.
Job offers won’t come right away, though, as all 12 members of the class are still waiting on their U.S. work permits.
A Jet Ski advances on the assembly line at Kawasaki’s plant in Lincoln.
Utility vehicles roll down the assembly line at Kawasaki on Monday. The Lincoln plant announced a $200 million expansion focused on its consumer products division and rail car operations.
Welders put together vehicle frames on Monday at Kawasaki in Lincoln.
Frames for utility vehicles stretch down an assembly line on Monday at Kawasaki’s plant in Lincoln.
Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing is planning a $200 million expansion of the company’s operations in northwest Lincoln.
Kawasaki plans to expand its Lincoln operations, which include building rail cars for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.
A Kawasaki employee unloads cut pipes on Monday.
A Kawasaki employee applies decals to a utility vehicle on the Lincoln plant’s assembly line in July. Like many other businesses in the state, Kawasaki’s plans to expand are largely dependent on finding more people to fill available jobs.
Rail cars sit outside the function test building on Monday at Kawasaki’s plant in Lincoln.
Finished vehicles are stacked in a warehouse at Kawasaki’s plant in Lincoln.
A robotic welder works on Monday at Kawasaki in Lincoln.
Frames for UTVs stretch down an assembly line on Monday at Kawasaki in Lincoln.
Kawasaki will expand its Lincoln operations, which include building rail cars for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.
A look inside a nearly completed rail car manufactured at Kawasaki’s plant in Lincoln.
Kawasaki’s rail car division has continued to grow in Lincoln.
Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.
On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter
Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.
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Olha Kotliarova (center) smiles and waves to classmates while receiving her certificate of completion during a meeting between Ukrainian refugees and representatives for local manufacturing companies Tuesday.
Representatives for local manufacturing companies meet with Ukrainian refugees who recently completed a streamlined manufacturing course Tuesday.
Bryan Seck, chief talent strategist at Kawasaki, speaks with Ukrainian refugees who recently completed a streamlined manufacturing course. Eugene Korol of Kawasaki (standing) acted as translator for the group.
Representatives of local manufacturing companies meet Tuesday with Ukrainian refugees who completed a streamlined training course.
Representatives for local manufacturing companies meet Tuesday with Ukrainian refugees who completed a streamlined course as an introduction for people that are considering careers in manufacturing.
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