Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers

The Cooper Union's Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers provides admitted participants the opportunity to update their skills and work in their chosen fields by offering them professional courses and job placement assistance free of charge. The program includes courses in information technology as well as chemical, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering. All courses are scheduled around the needs of working professionals during weekday evenings and weekends during the day.

The Cooper Union’s Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers is now managed by the Workforce Development Department at CAMBA. The partnership with CAMBA, one of the leading nonprofits in New York City, will allow us to provide a wider array of services to our students, employers and partner organizations. Cooper Union will continue to provide all academic services under the leadership of Professor Fred L. Fontaine.

All students of the Cooper Union’s Retraining Program who are seeking employment now have access to CAMBA’s Workforce Development Services, including:

  • Individually assigned Job Developers dedicated to student’s job placement
  • Access to Fast Track, a 3 day career readiness class with relevant content for new immigrant professionals
  • Access to over 70 CAMBA programs offering support in the areas of housing, family support, legal services, economic development, youth services and health


The program offers more than 20 introductory and high-technology courses designed to bring engineering, computer programming, and business skills of participants up to date. Over the years, the course offerings have been flexible in response to the demands of the job marketplace and the needs of the students. 

Courses are held at The Cooper Union's Albert Nerken School of Engineering and are taught by Cooper Union alumni, graduate students and experts. Courses are offered in fall and spring, and occasionally during winter inter-session or the summer, depending on funding. Participants receive 24-30 hours of course time per session. Classes are varying between two and three hours and the sessions between eight and twelve weeks. 

Since its inception in 1987 the Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers has taught over 4,700 students and placed more than 60% of them in jobs.

Professor Fred L. Fontaine, chairman of the electrical engineering department of Cooper Union Albert Nerken School of Engineering, is the educational director of the program. Larisa Akerman is the program co-director, and helps students enter the program, get connected to other services they may require, and oversees job placement efforts.


The program welcomes all legal immigrants, seeking re-training in the fields of engineering. All participants must be permanent residents, and have work authorization. See our application information page.

Job Placement & Career Services

Job openings are obtained via our instructors, professional network, previous program students and referrals from other community organizations, newspaper advertisements, and the internet. 

If you would like to advertise a job opening, please contact Larisa Akerman at 718.226.0437.

Students can access CAMBA’s Workforce Development Services, which include resume preparation, mock interviews, career advising, facilitated professional networking and job placement. CAMBA pursues a sector-based approach to job development, with employer-partners who invest time, effort and resources to integrate newly trained job seekers into their workforce.


The program has a library of video and print resources covering science and technology, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, chemistry and environmental protection, computer science and job marketing. Utilizing these, students can improve their English and learn professional terminology and job-hunting skills.

For Program Alumni

We need your help to maintain the quality of the program. Please take a few moments to fill out a follow-up survey. The survey is mailed to you after you have completed the program. Please mail or fax it back to us. The information you provide is important to our fundraising efforts and helps us improve our performance. 

Program History

In 1987, Bnai Zion initiated a program under its Scientists Division to help scientists and engineers who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union to find jobs. At first, classes were given at the Bnai Zion House, but the number of students soon outgrew the space. In 1991, Bnai Zion formed a partnership with Cooper Union to run the program on a larger scale. In 2015 the program moved entirely to The Cooper Union. In 2016 a partnership was formed with the Workforce Development Department at CAMBA and now serves over 200 students a year. For more about the past, present and future of the program see, A Foundational Commitment Continues.

About The Cooper Union

Committed to enhancing the lives of the immigrants and citizens of the Lower East Side, Peter Cooper, self-made inventor and industrialist, established The Cooper Union in 1859. Through its three top-ranked schools - the School of Art, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, and the Albert Nerken School of Engineering - The Cooper Union has built an international reputation for excellence and innovative approaches to education. 

The Albert Nerken School of Engineering is routinely cited among top three undergraduate schools of engineering in America by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical, civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering.

Our Sponsors

The Retraining program is made possible through generous donations from the Robin Hood Foundation. The Retraining Program would also like to thank our individual donors for support.


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.