Maryland nonprofit uses workforce and vocational training to promote integration

A typical day at a CASA de Maryland Workforce Center includes individuals arriving as early as 6 a.m. looking for employment. Many employers from the community are business owners, home owners and other individuals that need manpower for the day’s work. In addition to help promoting their skills as day laborers, CASA staff realized their foreign-born clients also needed training to enhance their skills.

In the beginning, CASA offered a pilot program with a volunteer professor who taught a class on residential and commercial painting. Students learned the techniques of professional painters. This pilot class was met with huge demand. Twelve years later, CASA de Maryland hosts more than five different classes on topics such as childcare, electrical work, home improvement, blueprint reading, HVAC/air conditioning and heating, and building maintenance, all resulting in certifications and licenses.

Through the expansion of their vocational program, CASA de Maryland was able to partner with two of Maryland’s largest counties, Montgomery County and Prince George County, and their community colleges to bring part-time professors to teach the 10-week courses. Classes are taught in English and Spanish and hold about 15 students at a time. Students attending these classes are from all over the world, including El Salvador, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Venezuela. The courses have gained significant public support. Last year, the Montgomery County government provided CASA with $4,000 for student scholarships. A few local employers have also paid for their employees to get the certifications and professional licenses available through these courses.  

“CASA has seen an influx of individuals gaining full-time and permanent employment after they complete these courses. It gives them a boost of self-esteem they didn’t have before,” says Jacinta Nino, CASA de Maryland’s vocational program coordinator.

A student enrolled in the building maintenance engineer class states, “this is an opportunity for me to be a part of my community and give back to them.”

Through their vocational program, CASA embodies its mission of creating a more just society by improving the quality of life of the working class and immigrant communities. CLINIC applauds the team at CASA de Maryland and their efforts to create a community of inclusion.

The Center for Immigrant Integration wants to hear from you and your community on the ways you promote integration. Email CLINIC Integration Program Manager Leya Speasmaker at or tweet us at @cliniclegal.