Somali Bantu Start U.S. Careers at NAPCO

The owner of San Antonio, Texas-based NAPCO Precast Limited has a long-standing commitment to hiring new Americans. As a former immigrant himself from Colombia, Jamie Iragorri knows first-hand what it feels like to be forced to flee one’s home country and start again in a new nation.

Embedded in his company’s values is Iragorri’s dedication to providing employment opportunities for new immigrants, particularly those from Latin America. In February 2005 Iragorri became captivated by the circumstances and conditions that brought the Somali Bantu refugees to San Antonio. According to NAPCO’s human resource manager, Sabrina Murillo, “The situation [with Somali Bantu] touched [Iragorri] unlike any other, and he knew right away that he wanted to extend a hand to those in need.”

Acting quickly on Iragorri’s interest and compassion, NAPCO hired three Somali Bantu refugees, who were matched to jobs based on their skills and interests. One is quickly mastering dry patching—a technique that improves the cosmetic appearance of cement, another is responsible for maintenance both in and outside of the facility, and the third started out as a rigger and was quickly promoted to driving a water truck.

This was the company’s first experience with hiring refugees, and Murillo could not be prouder. In her words, “They are some of the best employees we have ever had. They show initiative and they don’t wait around for someone to tell them what to do.” This is particularly attractive to their direct supervisors, who have recognized their strong work performance by successfully advocating for a second pay increase after only eight months on the job. As Murillo notes, “All three have gained a lot of trust from their peers and supervisors, and demonstrated that they can quickly learn to do almost any task.”

Business at NAPCO is growing, and the company looks forward to hiring more refugees in the future. From Murillo’s perspective hiring the Somali Bantu “was the best decision we could have made. They are not only hard workers but they have made the company better as a whole. They have helped all of us to realize how much we have in the U.S. and that we need to be grateful for even the little things.”

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