New Cultural Orientation Curriculum for Reception and Placement

The Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration recently announced the release of f Making Your Way: A Reception and Placement Orientation Curriculum. Based on the R&P Orientation Objectives and Indicators, the curriculum was developed by the Cultural Orientation Resource Center at the Center for Applied Linguistics to provide domestic orientation providers with lesson plans, tools, and techniques to help refugees on their integration journey.

There is a unit devoted to employment and employment themes are embedded throughout the curriculum.  Your national volag will likely send you a hard copy and you can also download any parts of the curriculum from the Cultural Orientation Resource Center’s website.

Let us know how you are using this new tool — will be great to share ideas with each other!

Tax Season is Here!

tax timeTax preparation can be stressful and confusing for many people and we have all heard stories of refugees not getting their full tax benefits.  Some may not know the system very well yet and others may rely on a local tax preparer who may take advantage of their situation.  We want to help employed refugees get the most

For Matching Grant clients, the guidelines include specific language about an important tax benefit – the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC).  The EIC can be a really important tool in helping clients understand the advantages to early employment.  There are some great outreach tools available to  help you in these efforts on the Earned Income Credit website.

Outreach flyers are available in 21 languages.  There’s also an EIC Estimator to more quickly calculate the potential value of the Earned Income Credit for an individual or family.  Plus fact sheets, FAQs, printable materials and videos.  Everything you need to get the word out to your clients.  Use these tools to get the word out quickly!

Also, the Internal Revenue Service supports free tax preparation sites around the country through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  Some local resettlement offices have become VITA sites themselves.  If you would like more information on how to do this, you can look here on the IRS website or contact us to get connected with a local resettlement office with VITA designation.

You can also check out this google map to find sites in your area.

Free Resources for Doctors

20060909-121226During the initial months of resettlement, we know it can be difficult to support the long-term career goals of resettled refugees who want to re-enter the medical field as doctors.

Here are two free resources from the Educational Commission for Foreign Graduates that clients can access on their own during and beyond their first few months of resettlement.

Click on the hyperlinks below to explore further.

 

1.  The One Dozen Most Important Things You May Not Have Known, Understood, or Realized about American MedicineThis is a series of modules that offers a quick in the culture of the American healthcare system.  

2.  Tips for Understanding US Medical Jargon — The use of informal language is common in the medical world, and there are a variety of abbreviations, idioms/slang terms, and “medicalese” that American healthcare professionals employ on a regular basis.  Using these abbreviations and terms properly is important to avoid being misinterpreted or appearing insensitive.

Both of these resources crossed my desk through an email from IMPRINT, a coalition of organizations active in the emerging field of immigrant professional integration.  You can sign up for their mailing list here. http://www.imprintproject.org/

 

Preparing for the Arrival of Congolese Refugees

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) are co-leading a work group to help support resettlement programs and communities as they begin receiving more refugees from Congo.  Higher was invited to participate in this work group along with several state coordinators, health officials, and other stakeholders representing both national and international program perspectives.  Its a great opportunity for Higher to lift up employment as a critical component of successful resettlement.

At the work group’s most recent meeting on September 24, representatives from overseas cultural orientation programs commented on how eager most Congolese are to begin working in the U.S.  One representative expressed that employment is the topic that gets the most questions during their 5-day orientation for refugees preparing to travel to the U.S.   Others expressed an interest in hearing from Congolese refugees who are already established in their new communities.

Let us know if you have a success story to share.  Here are two already posted on ORR’s website in case you are looking for some good examples to share with your community.

 

Charlotte Sews for Success in the Microenterprise Program

 

Providing for a Family of Seven

 

In the coming months, Higher will share more  from the work group and welcomes your insights and ideas from the field to share back to the work group as well!

 

 

 

 

Looking Back on 2013

As the new fiscal year begins, I wanted to share three trends from the field that Higher took note of in 2013.  All three show creativity and innovation in addressing some of the common challenges we all face in supporting refugees’ entry into the workforce.  Here are the top three:

1.  Expanded employer partners — more local refugee employment offices are marketing their services to a broader array of companies.  With more diverse caseloads and more competition for available jobs, refugee employment professionals are networking and finding entry-level opportunities in new industries.

2.  Short-term skills training — new training models in food service, hospitality and sewing indicate progress in designing skills training that fits into the short time frame available during the initial resettlement period.  By including employers in the design of these training programs, refugees who complete a short-term training are finding it easier to get a job that uses their new skills.

3.  Post-placement support — front-line employment specialists are offering additional follow-up to companies who hire their clients.  They are  leveraging the challenges that come with on boarding new staff to their advantage by offering a free interpreter for any kind of safety training require and being willing to visit an employer after hours.  These steps are reported by front-line staff to increase the likelihood that the employer will call the local refugee employment office first when they have openings to fill.

Please contact us if you would like to hear more details or connect to someone in the field who is currently working on one of these ideas.

Group Workshops Improve Refugee Employment Outcomes

Group workshops are an effective way to review information provided to a family post resettlement and to provide employment programming.  Several positive aspects can be achieved if the right atmosphere is developed.  First, participants can learn from one another as well as from the facilitator or caseworker leading the group.  Second, the organization can reinforce key concepts multiple times with several participants at once, thus increasing their likelihood of  understanding.  Third, major issues or concerns will be discovered quickly and addressed..

JFCS PittsburghIn addition, group workshops are a familiar format to most refugees, since they are used in the refugee camps to instruct refugee families before their arrival.  They can be used again once the families are here  to reinforce concepts for Cultural Orientation, Acculturation, and Job Readiness or Employment Programs.  The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) has posted resources for organizations that work with refugees, so curriculum is already available and simply needs to be tailored to a specific city and or local region.

Three distinct approaches to job readiness group workshops are used in Pittsburgh:

  1. Weekly Orientation to the Workplace, hosted by Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Pittsburgh (JF&CS)
  2. English Language Training by Northern Area Multi-Service Center (NAMS)
  3. The Refugee Career Mentoring Program (RCMP); a collaborative effort with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services that focuses on assisting refugees with advanced degrees and professional backgrounds.

JF&CS provides a weekly workshop for participants, reviewing topics most critical to job acquisition and retention.  Subjects covered include the job placement process, completing an application, interview skills, hygiene, safety at the workplace, and the proper way to call in sick and/or terminate employment.  All workshops are interpreted and PowerPoint presentations are translated into the primary language of the major population group to ensure understanding.

NAMS partnered with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Adult ESL School to provide Basic ESL and job readiness preparation on-site. The Job Readiness Program follows a set curriculum and was taught from an ESL/Adult Education framework. Each class is devoted to a special topic related to job readiness, with basic ‘soft skills’ such as time and attendance, embedded in the curriculum.

RCMP focuses on providing support to refugees with advanced degrees, and they work in collaboration with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Three Rivers Workforce Development Board, Vibrant Pittsburgh, ESL providers, and the refugee resettlement agencies in Pittsburgh.

RCMP links a refugee with a mentor in his/her field. Workshops focus on professional resume writing, networking, and job search that is specific to specific areas of professional expertise. This program provides clients a better understanding of the processes required to gain employment in their field. It also gives professionals in the Pittsburgh area an opportunity to give back to their community and to learn more about the refugee community.

Success Story contributed by Dawn Brubaker, Refugee Employment Coordinator, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh and Elizabeth Ringler, MPIA, Refugee Social Services, Job Developer, Northern Area Multi-Service Center

For more information on this promising practice, contact Elizabeth Ringler: elizabeth.ringler@namsc.com

Seasonal Job Lead

Seasonal Bell Ringer Jobs Build Understanding of Customer Service and US Culture of Giving

Guest Blog Contribution from Higher Peer Expert, Lorel Donaghey, Caritas of Austin

Now is the time that Salvation Army missions across the country begin to take applications for season bell ringer positions, which are full time from Thanksgiving weekend until December 24.  In Austin, we placed 6 refugees as bell ringers last year and hope to place more this year.  The Salvation Army liked the chance to show people that giving is not just a Christian tradition and were happy to demonstrate greater cultural diversity.  For our clients, it offered a resume builder, $8/hour and a great learning experience.  Everyone who grew up in the US knows about Salvation Army Bell Ringers, but the concept is completely foreign to refugees.

Clients needed to be able to say basic greetings in English, keep close track of their kettle at all times, be reliable and be willing to engage people to encourage them to give.  Although they moved to different sites frequently, everyone left and returned to a central site and transportation was provided.  The purpose was to safeguard collections, but it made it much easier for our clients, as well.  We provided quite a lot of interpretation during training and during the first week or so of work and on-going to help things work well.  It was really worth it.  One of our clients won the top collections award one week and all of them got positive feedback from the store managers where they were stationed.  You can read more about the experience in the attached article that we placed in local news media last year.

 

Refugees Ring in the Holiday Spirit

December 28, 2011

Hundreds of documented refugees come to Caritas of Austin each year fleeing religious and political persecution. For many, the journey to a new life in the United States is the first time leaving the small villages and rural environments where they lived. Caritas helps refugees acclimate to their new home, learn new skills and find employment.

For 10 documented refugees who found employment as bell ringers for the Salvation Army, this year marked their first holiday season in the United States.

The bell ringers are a common holiday tradition seen each year positioned in front of stores and along streets we pass daily. The custom of placing loose change into a bright red kettle is second nature for many. However, for refugees who have never experienced Christmas in the United States, this concept is brand new.

The opportunity to work as bell ringers would provide much needed employment to support their families while learning some of our holiday traditions.

Before beginning their jobs at local bell ringing stations, Caritas case managers and staff from Salvation Army spent time training refugees. They learned the basic principles of the position, including how to say, “welcome,” “thank you,” and “Merry Christmas.”

Aden, a refugee from Somalia, speaks very little English and had no previous exposure to western work and culture. Before coming to the United States, he had only been on a bus twice and was never far from his village.

Aden was stationed at Macy’s at Barton Creek Mall. It was a challenge to help him navigate the store and even find a restroom. But he did it. When his case manager visited him at work, Aden grinned, shook his kettle and said in an amazed voice, “Money is coming. Bell is ringing and they are giving!”

Basra, another refugee from Somalia, arrived for her first day and when Salvation Army Lt. Frankie Zuniga came to check on her, she was dancing, ringing the bell and getting people engaged to donate. Zuniga was amazed as she helped reassure him that Caritas clients can do the job and do it successfully!

Working as bell ringers has helped Caritas clients learn how to engage customers and follow basic work expectations. After only two days of work, they were all clearly feeling more confident about their English and ability to do a valuable job. They have also learned about charitable giving and nonprofit traditions. They were skeptical at first that people would really give, but now they are seeing how it works.

It takes a team of volunteers, interns, staff and translators to help them learn and keep the jobs. The Salvation Army staff has also been very supportive. After one day, they knew that refugees could contribute as valued employees. As the holidays come to an end, the refugees can apply their valuable experience to future positions.

 

 


New ORR Technical Assistance Award

Higher was awarded a new 3-year technical assistance grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the beginning of October.   Since that time, we have been working hard to define our work plan by talking to local service providers and other key stakeholders in refugee employment.

Higher’s technical assistance for the coming year includes a stronger focus on community engagement.  This is right in line with our new approach and we are pleased to be able to work with ORR to use employment as a critical community engagement strategy.

Our three main priorities in the coming year include:

1) Develop a jobs database by developing national relationships with companies who are interested in hiring refugees

2) Pilot an employment mentoring initiative to deepen social networks for job seekers from a refugee background

3) Create online training for both refugees and service providers that build skills to be successful in the workplace, as a job seeker and job developer, respectively.

Want to be more involved in Higher’s efforts? Here are two ways you can join now!

1) Become a Peer Expert.  Higher’s peer experts regularly offer guidance on individual technical assistance needs and also are called upon to help shape Higher’s business development strategy.  Send your resume to Higher along with a brief introduction about your background in refugee employment.

2) Contribute to Higher’s Blog and Website.  We are looking for guest contributions from service providers, employers and refugees themselves about all things related to refugee employment.  Share a success story, a lesson learned, a new tool or useful resource.  Contact Higher with your contributions.

As always, let Higher know how we can help you.  We are your consultants and look forward to working together in the year ahead so that more refugees work.

FREE RESOURCE! Pre-Employment Training

Higher’s July webinar on training design and delivery strategies received rave reviews from all participants with much interest in sharing existing resources geared to pre-employment classes that include multiple English levels.  One of the webinar’s guest presenters, Brittani Mcleod of Catholic Community Services of Utah, agreed to share her tested curriculum outline.  You can download the outline here.  This is a great starting point for any refugee employment service providers who are looking to create a pre-employment training that addresses the needs of job seekers with varying levels of English.  If you would like to receive the full curriculum which includes activities, vocabulary lists and picture cards, contact us.

Picture Card Example from CCS Utah Pre-Employment Curriculum

What strategies or tools are you finding helpful when preparing refugees for employment?  Let us know in the comment section.  We would be happy to feature your program on our website too!