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Bold Businesses to the Rescue: Fast-Tracking Employment for Refugees

The attack on the Ukraine by Russia has sent shock waves around the world. There have been tremendous casualties and substantial destruction, and millions have been displaced as they attempt to escape the invasion. Surrounding countries are thus dealing with the burden of Ukrainian refugees, with most offering as much support as they can. However, in an effort to survive, these individuals not only need housing and food, but also a means of lasting support. Many are therefore seeking employment opportunities for refugees in neighboring nations. Unfortunately, barriers to employment for refugees have limited their success.

Despite these barriers, innovative ideas and programs are emerging. In some cases, countries are welcoming Ukrainian refugees due to preexisting labor shortages. In others, technology is helping match job-seekers with employment opportunities for refugees. (Bold Business has a list of essential apps for networking and job-seeking–check it out here!) While there remains a significant amount of improvement in these programs, they have helped fast-track job placement. And if refugee residence in these foreign nations becomes extended, they will play an important role in long-term stability. This pertains not only refugees but to host nations as well.

“We’ve been amazed to have big and small companies advertising in every industry, from programmers to farmers to bars. People want to do anything they can to help.” – Christina Kaesshoefer, Co-founder of JobAidUkraine

A Profile of the Ukrainian Refugee Workforce

In many instances, employment opportunities for refugees can be hard to find because of poor qualifications. But this is often not the case for those fleeing the Ukraine. The Ukraine is well recognized as having a highly skilled workforce. In fact, roughly 70% of those in the Ukraine have secondary or advanced educational degrees and skills. They also have a sizable number of professionals in the technology and engineering sectors. Over the years, this has attracted many large tech firms to outsource jobs to the Ukraine. Thus, at first glance, barriers to employment for refugees leaving the Ukraine may not appear so significant.

This is not the case. Gender differences exist to a significant degree, and more men than women have higher educational degrees and skills. The bulk of those fleeing the Ukraine at the present time are women and children. Fathers and husbands are taking up arms to defend their country, taking their job skills with them. That doesn’t mean that women lack knowledge and skills. But employment opportunities for refugees who are women are notably less than their male counterparts. Overcoming these barriers to employment for refugees are thus needed. With this in mind, many groups have developed strategies to assist these unfortunate individuals.

“Refugees who think they want to go back soon may be more permanent or long term than they think now.” – Giovanni Peri, Director of the Global Migration Center, University of California, Davis

Notable Barriers to Employment for Refugees

Gender differences in skills and education are not the only barriers to employment for refugees from the Ukraine. In addition, many expect to only need temporary work as they hope to soon return to their country. Of course, that may not be the case if the conflict becomes extended and/or their homes destroyed. Regardless, some employers may be more hesitant to hire refugees with this mentality. In turn, this could limit employment opportunities for refugees despite both employers and workers potentially benefiting from the arrangement.

A bunch of people chilling outside of an embassy
Employment opportunities for refugees abound, despite the barriers that normally exist for expatriates.

The other notable barriers to employment for refugees involve childcare. In many countries accepting Ukrainian refugees, schools are quickly reaching capacity. Therefore, if refugee children are unable to attend school, this limits work options for their mothers. In addition, most Ukrainian refugees speak Russian, which is not a big problem for most Eastern European countries. But for others like Germany, France and Portugal, language barriers to employment for refugees can be notable. These represent formidable obstacles that need to be addressed through innovative workforce strategies.

“This will help solve our labor shortage problem, even temporarily, and our people are not afraid that they will lose their own jobs because we have enough for everyone.” – Inga Balnanosiene, Director of Employment Services, Lithuanian Labor Ministry

Bold Programs and Ideas for Refugee Employment

Despite the situation, several countries and individuals are stepping up to help find employment opportunities for refugees. Some of these are approaching the problems from a more general perspective while others address specific issues. In each case, these programs are reducing barriers to employment for refugees while helping employers as well. The following list a few of these programs and strategies.

  • Adecco – This global temporary staffing agency has stepped up to assist with job placement for many Ukrainian refugees. Using their inherent technologies, Adecco currently has over 900 Ukrainian refugees and 200 employers on their site.
  • JobAidUkraine – Developed by several entrepreneurs, this program originated in Germany. It attempts to provide assistance with relocation as well as job placement. To date, the site has experienced over 30,000 online visitors with more than 5,000 jobs listed.
  • Grafton Recruitment – The Czech republic as a whole has acquired roughly 270,000 Ukrainian refugees since the war began. But it also has more than 364,000 job vacancies with seasonal and temp work available. Grafton Recruitment in Prague has already placed 200 women in employment opportunities for women.
  • Portuguese Programs – Portugal has a number of jobs available for Ukrainian refugees. Specifically, they offer positions in IT, transportation, and hospitality. But language barriers to employment for refugees has been a limiting factor. This is why the Portuguese government is offering courses in language learning for refugees.
  • Lithuanian Programs – For Lithuania, preexisting labor shortages before the war was a problem. Thus, the country welcomes Ukrainian refugees to help fill this void. But it too has experienced barriers to employment for refugees, mainly involving childcare. As a result, many businesses are arranging on-site childcare services to address the issue.

A United Effort to Offset Refugee Displacement

The displacement of millions of Ukrainian came as a surprise to everyone. The ramifications of recent events will be felt for a long time to come. But countries, businesses and individuals have risen to the challenge to address barriers to employment for refugees. Without jobs, the ability to survive is that much more challenging. That is why connecting employers with employment opportunities for refugees is so important. The unified effort show thus far is not only heartwarming but bold in nature. Continued pursuits in these directions will undoubtedly be needed as long as the conflict continues and likely months thereafter.


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Finally, A Map of the Human Gut

Over the course of the last several years, the importance of the microbiome has been revealed. Housing the vast majority of our body’s immune system, our gastrointestinal tract plays an essential role of health. Notably, the bacteria lining our intestinal tract, referred to as our microbiome, affects the health we often enjoy. But at the same time, so do the cells that line our intestines. These cells, which can also vary significantly from one person to the next, also influence health and wellness. Thus, expanding our perspective beyond the microbiome toward intestinal cell function is critical in efforts to better understand gut health.

(Read more about the relationship between gut health and heart health in this Bold story.)

With that in mind, researchers have now taken the first steps toward comprehensive intestinal tract mapping. Through novel experimental techniques, they have characterized intestinal cell function based on the gene expressions. In the process, it has become readily apparent that various intestinal cells have an array of responsibilities. In fact, these functions are much more elaborate that previously recognized. While intestinal tract mapping may still have a long way to go, these initial findings are impressive. The results give the first glimpse of just how complex and integrated intestinal cell function truly is.

“The picture we get from each cell is a mosaic of all the different types of genes the cells make and this complement of genes creates a ‘signature’ to tell us what kind of cell it is and potentially what it is doing.” – Scott Magness, PhD., University of North Carolina School of Medicine

New Techniques in Intestinal Tract Mapping

In the past, intestinal tract mapping has been extremely challenging. Scientists were primarily limited to small pieces of tissue collected via biopsies in their studies. Given the massive length of the entire gut, figuring out intestinal cell function from end to end was nearly impossible. However, the researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine took a different approach. They were able to procure the entire intestinal tract of three organ donors for their research. This enabled them to perform intestinal tract mapping in a much more comprehensive manner. Rather than examining individual trees in isolation, they enjoyed the larger context of the forest.

The researchers only examined the epithelial cell lining of the donor’s tissues when performing their intestinal tract mapping. Once isolated, enzymes were then applied to the tissues that broke everything down into individual cells. They then used RNA sequencing techniques to determine which genes each cell expressed. Based on these patterns of gene expression, a “gene signature” was identified for a variety of different cell types. Overall, the researchers were able to categorize 25 different cell types according to presumed intestinal cell function. This was the first time anything like this has ever been performed.

A person manipulating a ghost intestine
Intestinal tract mapping is the next step in understanding–and achieving–greater gut health.

While this process may sound quite simple and straightforward, in reality it was far from it. For instance, there are more than 20,000 genes within a cell that might be turned on or off based in intestinal cell function. Likewise, in their research, each intestinal cell typically had about 11,000 gene products expressed. Out of the nearly 13,000 cells examined, this meant there were over 140 million data points to consider. Fortunately, the researchers were able to use advanced computational techniques to make sense of these large amount of data. This is what allowed them to obtain a much more detailed intestinal tract mapping than previous efforts.

“As far as we know, we’re the first to do this kind of analysis across the length of the human gut from three full donors.” – Jarrett Bliton, Graduate Student, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Intestinal Cell Function Groups

In the process of intestinal tract mapping, several important cell types were noted based on genes expressed. Some were involved in absorbing nutrients while others absorbed water. Several cell types produced intestinal mucus, which can vary depending on the desired response. Others, such as enteroendocrine cells, produced hormones that affected eating behaviors and intestinal motility. And several were involved in immune system function that included protection from parasitic invasion. Based on the evidence, it was apparent that intestinal cell function was quite varied. Likewise, different portions of the intestinal tract showed different groupings as functions changed.

In addition to these findings, the researchers also noted that various intestinal cells also had different sensors and receptors. One cell type in particular was quite intriguing. These cells, known as tuft cells because of their hair-like projections, were compared to taste buds. The intestinal cell function they served involved detection of potential parasites through their sensory tufts. If a nasty parasite was detected, these cells signaled the immune system to attack. At the same time, other cells had receptors that might explain unwanted side effects from medications. For example, drugs that target inflammatory cells in the intestine work at a specific receptor. But the researchers found that many other cells had these receptors expressed as well. This may explain why so many drugs trigger nausea, vomiting, and other negative gastrointestinal side effects.

“We can see the different sets of genes turned on or off in individual cells. This is how, for instance, we might begin to understand why some people form toxicity to certain foods or drugs and some people don’t.” Joseph Burclaff, PhD., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Cellular Mapping, Big Data, and Personalized Medicine

The findings that these researchers have revealed about intestinal cell function are quite noteworthy. They demonstrate just how complex and intriguing the intestinal system is. But their intestinal tract mapping also highlights another important issue. Their ability to examine systems at a cellular level invites an entirely new era of personalized medicine. At the same time, their research shows how Big Data in healthcare can further these efforts as well. Without question, there is much more to learn about the microbiome and intestinal cell function. But the results of this most recent study suggests major discoveries are likely to be around the corner.



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Moving Closer to Carbon-Free Energy – A Nuclear Fusion Update

According to leading scientists, by 2050, carbon emissions was essentially come to a halt if we wish to avoid devastating climate change. Unfortunately, efforts to date have failed to achieve many of the carbon-reduction goals needed. This has led many to pursue alternative solutions, including those related to new energy sources. One of those potential solutions involves nuclear fusion, which refers to the enormous energy emitted when two atoms combine. And based on recent achievements, the future of nuclear fusion as a potential non-carbon energy source is quite promising.

(Read what Bold Business previously wrote about nuclear fusion here!)

Scientific teams in different locations are attempting to demonstrate the viability of this carbon-free energy solution. The future of nuclear fusion, however, requires that certain milestones be achieved. One of these milestones involves sustaining prolonged atomic fusion that might lead to continuous energy sources. In December of this year, a step in this direction was accomplished as scientists sustained the process for a total of five seconds. That may not sound like much, but considering the extreme temperatures involved, this is noteworthy. Plus, the experiment generated more than double the amount of energy previously recorded using nuclear fusion. With this in mind, the following offers a nuclear fusion update and its potential for the decades to come.

“Five seconds doesn’t sound like much, but if you can burn it for five seconds, presumably you could keep it stable and keep it burning for many minutes, hours, or days, which is what you are going to need for a proper fusion power plant. It’s the proof of that concept that they have achieved.” – Dr. Mark Wenman, Imperial College London

Recent Achievements in Nuclear Fusion

The recent experiments involving nuclear fusion took place in Oxfordshire at the end of this past year. A donut-shaped machine called the Joint European Torus was used to heat highly ionized gases to 150 million degrees Celsius. That’s right… 150 million degrees, which is 10 times hotter than the sun’s center. In the process, atomic nuclei of 2 hydrogen isotopes fused, emitting 59 Mega-Joules of heat. By comparison, this would be comparable to the energy released by detonating roughly 30 pounds of TNT. And it’s more than double the amount of energy ever released through a nuclear fusion process.

The achievement of this nuclear fusion update is not just impressive in terms of the magnitude of energy created. It’s also noteworthy for the time the fusion reaction as sustained. Prior attempts have been unsuccessful in attaining ongoing atomic reactions, which made many wonder about the future of nuclear fusion. But the magnets inside the machine were able to perpetuate the nuclear fusion process for 5 seconds. If the magnets had been more powerful, the reaction could have been sustained even longer. Thus, for many enthusiasts, the experiment demonstrated the future of nuclear fusion as a viable energy source.

“Our experiment showed for the first time that it’s possible to have a sustained fusion process using exactly the same fuel mix planned for future fusion power plants.” – Tony Donné, CEO of EUROfusion

Understanding Nuclear Fusion

The reason so many are excited about the future of nuclear fusion involves its energy potential. One kilogram of nuclear fusion material produces 10 million times more energy than a kilogram of coal, gas, or oil. Likewise, compared to nuclear fission used by existing nuclear power plants, nuclear fusion produces four times the energy. It also doesn’t pose the safety risks current nuclear power plants have in terms of radioactive waste. In fact, nuclear fusion is quite safe and produces almost no waste, which makes it a great climate change solution. Up until now, the future of nuclear fusion was only in question because of the inability to sustain a fusion reaction. This now seems to have changed.

An extreme closeup of some atomic stuff
A sustainable nuclear fusion reaction is almost within our grasp–what next?

The nuclear fusion update involving the Oxfordshire experiment mimics the energy process of the sun. Two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, a recombined under extreme heat to form helium and a neutron. In the process, massive amounts of energy are released. In terms of deuterium, it is quite available and can be readily obtained from sea water. Tritium is a little more difficult to acquire. However, scientists believe they can use the high-energy neutrons from the fusion process to produce it. If neutrons are applied to the common metal lithium, the end-products include tritium and helium. If this is realized, then the future of nuclear fusion from a cost and supply perspective is also favorable.

“It’s clear we must make significant changes to address the effects of climate change, and fusion offers so much potential.” – Professor Ian Chapman, Chief Executive, UK Atomic Energy Authority

Looking Ahead to Future Experiments

The recent nuclear fusion update provides even greater support to future experiments. A much larger nuclear fusion machine is currently being constructed in southern France called Iter. At the current time, Iter is about 80 percent complete, with plans to begin experiments in 2025. Those bullish on the future of nuclear fusion anticipate Iter could actually contribute as an energy source by 2035. Unlike the machine in Oxfordshire, Iter is much larger and has a much greater potential for sustaining nuclear fusion reactions. If capable of achieving its goals, Iter will link into existing European power grids and provide substantial nuclear fusion energy.

While this nuclear fusion update is promising, much work is still needed. In theory, it may offer a viable non-carbon energy resource. But the future of nuclear fusion remains unclear since larger-scale proofs are currently lacking. Fortunately, this is not the only hope for renewable energy resources for the future. But it remains one of the most noteworthy given its energy potential, safety, and readily available reagents. Based on these attributes, the future of nuclear fusion looks to be quite exciting. And it couldn’t come at a better time.


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