“Why I Love What I Do”

Dallas Refugee Employment Staff on What Keeps Them Going

Happy Monday! At a recent Higher workshop in Dallas, TX (which we highlighted in last Monday’s post) we asked the participants to share one reason why they love working in refugee employment services.

Here are a few of our favorite answers:

  • Every day we make a difference in our client’s lives
  • Waking up every day and working with people from all over the world
  • Working with coworkers who are like family and are passionate about the work that we do
  • Getting to watch the process of refugees going from knowing nothing [about life in the US], to getting jobs, paying taxes, starting businesses, and becoming citizens
  • As a former refugee, I do this work to give back
  • Seeing clients come back after a couple years and seeing how they are succeeding
  • Making great connections between clients and employers
  • Through empowering our clients it empowers me
  • Everything I do for my clients contributes to this great nation

We hope these reflections from your colleagues in Dallas will be a positive way to start your week!

What inspires you to do work with refugees? Let us know in the comments section!

Job Readiness Instructors from several Dallas and Fort Worth agencies participate in an activity during Higher’s workshop on April 6, 2017.

Higher Texas Workshops Recap

Last month Higher was in Texas where we conducted 1-day workshops in both Houston and Dallas. In each location we brought together employment staff and resettlement directors representing 12 local resettlement offices from 6 of the 9 national resettlement agencies. The workshops were full of interactive activities focused on best practices in refugee employment, local collaboration, and strategies for success at a time when many refugee resettlement offices and employment teams are going through significant changes.

As is the case with all Higher events, we walked away inspired by the dedication and commitment that refugee employment staff bring to their work and the resiliency and creativity that the staff we interacted with in Texas are applying to their current challenges. We were also encouraged to hear about the outpouring of support that programs are experiencing both from surrounding communities and employers.

Thanks to all of the staff who participated in our workshops in Texas! You have provided us with valuable insight into your work which will inform our technical assistance activities for the next several months.

Here are some photos from the events:

Omar Al Sammarraie, a Job Developer at Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, contributes his thoughts to an activity highlighting current challenges and opportunities in refugee employment.

 

Andre Shango, a Job Developer at Catholic Charities in Houston, reports out for his group on our activity discussing the elements of successful refugee employment programs.

 

Job Developers from Dallas and Fort Worth, TX

Webinar: Investing in Refugee Entrepreneurs

Join us May 17 at 1:00 PM EDT!

Studies show that refugee entrepreneurs, with community support and backing, contribute greatly to our local and national economies. In this webinar, Welcoming Refugees and Higher, an ORR technical assistance provider for refugee workforce development, will show you how to effectively communicate these contributions, support refugee entrepreneurs as part of your current work, and build greater community awareness and support.

In this webinar you will learn how to:

  • Communicate three ways that refugee entrepreneurs economically contribute to your community
  • Identify two ways that employment programs can support refugee entrepreneurs as part of your work
  • Articulate two concrete suggestions for ways that your organization can increase community awareness and support for refugee entrepreneurs

Featured Speakers:

  • Hannah Carswell, Program Manager, Welcoming America
  • Nicole Redford, Program Manager, Higher
  • Diego Abente, VP and Director of Economic Development Services, International Institute of St. Louis

REGISTER HERE NOW

Identity Theft

Attention refugee employment staff! There have recently been incidents regarding identify theft and refugees. Individuals from within and outside of the refugee community have convinced refugees to provide their social security number (SSN) and have used this information to file fraudulent tax claims.

Please let all your clients know that they should protect their social security number, alien number, and any other personal identifying information (PII). If a client reports that they suspect their identity has been stolen, please assist them in filing a report at www.IdentityTheft.gov.

Include this topic in your financial literacy/job readiness curriculum:  Along with teaching clients about financial literacy and taxes, protecting PII and preventing identify theft are topics that can be easily covered in class. Here is a sample of what could be covered in a lesson:

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number or other personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund. You might get a notice from the IRS or find unfamiliar accounts on your credit report. You might notice strange withdrawals from your bank account, get bills that aren’t yours, or get calls about debts that you don’t owe.

How to Prevent Identify Theft

Secure your financial documents and records in a safe place at home and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work. Keep your personal information secure from roommates or apartment maintenance staff that comes into your home.

Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your social security card at home. Make a copy and black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Carry the copy with you.

Protecting Your Social Security Number (SSN) and other personal identifying information (PII)

Keep a close hold on your social security number and other PII.  Ask questions before deciding to share any information. Ask if you can use a different kind of identification. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s SSN, ask them why they need it and how it will be used? The decision to share your personal information is your own.

What to Do if You Think You are a Victim of Identify Theft

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, act quickly. Here are 5 steps you can take to limit the damage:

  1. Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report (for instructions on how to do so click here).
  3. Report identity theft to the
  4. File a report with your local police department.
  5. Most importantly, you should contact your case manager if you need help or clarification.

Please visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov for more resources.

Has identity theft or tax fraud every happened to a client of yours? If yes, please write us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your experience and how you helped your client resolve the issue.

Models for Integrating Language and Workforce Development Skills

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a 1-day conference at Johns Hopkins University’s American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington D.C. The theme of the conference was “Integrating Migrants into the Workforce” and focused on immigrant integration efforts in both Germany and the U.S.

One of the most interesting presentations I heard was by Dr. Heidi Wrigley from Literacy Work International. The Presentation focused on models in the U.S. that are leading the way in offering both English instruction and vocational training.

Here are four models that Dr. Wrigley highlighted:

McDonald’s: English Under the Arches

English Under the Arches (EUA) is one of four Archways to Opportunities programs designed to help employees grow professionally.

The program launched in 2007 with the mission to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that teach managers and crew the English they need to communicate effectively and confidently with customers, staff and in their lives outside of McDonald’s.

These classes are free for employees and they are also paid their hourly wage while they are in class. Helping non-native speakers learn English allows them to break down barriers and feel comfortable when communicating effectively with fellow team members, customers, and, most importantly, in their everyday life.

Proficiency in English is often a prerequisite for most jobs in the U.S. and provides mobility for individuals to pursue higher education opportunities, which in turn leads to increased earning power. To learn more about this program, visit the EUA webpage or read the most recent Archways to Opportunity Progress Report.

Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs: Ready to Work

Ready to Work (RTW) is a workforce development program in Seattle, WA designed for immigrants and refugees who face barriers to gaining employment.

The program combines English as a Second Language (ESL) classes with computer literacy instruction and case management to help immigrants gain job readiness skills and take steps toward economic self-sufficiency.

RTW was created as a prototype model of English language acquisition offered in a community-based setting, and focused on career development, and employment. Classes meet four days a week, three hours a day, for a total of 12 hours per week.

Instruction is provided by two Seattle Colleges and Literacy Source (a community-based adult education provider). Unlike many other programs, RTW tracks participants’ progress over a longer time frame than conventional funding streams typically allow.

For more details, see National Skills Coalition’s Amanda Bergson-Shilcock’s blog post from June 2016: Ready to work: Seattle creates new on-ramp for immigrant English learners.

Washington State: I-BEST

Washington’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST) quickly teaches students literacy, work, and college-readiness skills so they can move through school and into living wage jobs faster.

Pioneered by Washington’s community and technical colleges, I-BEST uses a team-teaching approach.

Students work with two teachers in the classroom: one teacher provides job-training and the other teaches basic skills in reading, math or English language.

Students get the help they need while studying in the career field of their choice. The I-BEST program offers several career pathways including Hospitality, Manufacturing and Nursing.

I-BEST challenges the traditional notion that students must move through a pre-determined sequence of basic education or pre-college (remedial) courses before they can start working on certificates or degrees.

The combined teaching method allows students to work on college-level studies right away, clearing multiple levels with one leap.

Check out this video, which features three students sharing their experience with the I-BEST model:

OneAmerica’s English Innovations

English Innovations (EI) is a blended social learning model that integrates English language learning and combines a collaborative, supportive classroom environment with online tools that enable self-paced, independent learning.

Offered as an alternative approach to conventional systems of language instruction which often do not provide the flexibility and resources that adult immigrants need, the EI program includes:

  • Tailored curriculum framework integrating digital literacy skills & language development
  • Blended model for in-class and self-paced learning through online tools and game-based learning
  • A collaborative classroom environment which facilitates cognitive, social and emotional engagement
  • Tutor-facilitated activities, volunteer involvement, and peer support
  • A model grounded in communities, engaging immigrants and immigrant-serving organizations in advocacy for effective English learning and immigrant integration

How do you see ESL and Vocational Training intersecting in your area? Are you aware of an innovative model that we should highlight? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Note: Some language in this post was pulled directly from program websites for the purpose of accurately describing these programs.

 

Understanding a Paycheck Resource

Understanding Your Paycheck eLearning

Meet Amal, who tells her story to help other refugees thrive in the U.S. workforce.

Looking for a great tool on how to understand a paycheck? Higher has developed the perfect tool for you and your clients. Our eLearning module Understanding Your Paycheck, is available through Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

Here are five reasons to check out this resource, according to your peers:

  1. It takes less than six minutes to complete the course.

“The module is really well developed and covers all the aspects of the paycheck in a very short duration of the time.”  Bidur Dahal, Education Trainer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains

2. It’s a great addition to any job readiness class.

“This module was a great tool. I thought it was very user friendly and clear. We will use this in our first job readiness class in April.”  Lauren Brockett, Director of Employment Services at Friends of Refugees – Cafe Clarkston

3. Or maybe to employment orientation.

“It clarifies the paycheck, pay stub and deductions very well. I am really excited about this module and will be very happy to present it to my clients. I will try to make it part of my employment orientation.”  Kawa Hawari, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

4. It feels more like a story than a training.

“I thought it was excellent! I definitely see this as a great job readiness workshop resource. We talk to our clients about understanding pay stubs in detail, but I like this module so much because there’s a story to it—it makes it so much more relatable. Looking forward to being able to use this for our clients! ” Tawni Floyd, Employment Manager at World Relief Tri-Cities

5. It covers more than just the basics.

“I just viewed the paycheck module. It is great! It is short, so that will make it easy to show in class with interpreters. I also like the emphasis on respectfully talking to your boss if you think there is a problem with your paycheck. I love these modules.”  Jessica Ploen, Employment Training Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

 

An eLearning Resource: Interview Behavior Videos

Ever wanted to be able to show clients what a bad interview looks like? Well you are in luck, check out Higher’s Online Learning Institute. You can access the complete module right now with your username and password.  If you aren’t already taking advantage of our 13 eLearning courses, sign up here for instant access to these videos and the other eLearning courses.

Here are 4 things to know about this exciting new resource:

  1. There are two short videos with examples of good and bad interview behaviors.
  2. You can also get transcripts and suggestions for using the module with clients in the companion resource section.
  3. More than 20 resettlement programs across the country are using our eLearning courses in their job readiness activities.
  4.  The job seekers in the videos are refugees. Thanks to them and to African Community Center (ACC), Denver, CO for helping out.

Here’s a sneak peek at Interview Behavior Videos. 

Email Higher at information@higheradvantage.org to let us know what you think, how you’re using our latest eLearning resource and what else would be helpful.

A More Interactive Approach for Job Readiness Class

The infographic below contains several tips when designing your job club curriculum. Best courses for refugee learners should not only include more interactivity, but aim for greater retention.  The current best practice is to introduce new material in 20 minute chunks. This does not mean job readiness classes need to be short, rather the lesson should be designed to reinforce those main ideas and core concepts.

For example, when teaching workers’ rights, you teach the right to a work place free from discrimination. Give real life examples of what discrimination looks like and share a story of a client who experienced discrimination. Then ask the group if they have ever experienced discrimination.

To give another example, when preparing clients for job interviews, you could do a lesson on hygiene and appropriate clothes to wear and then give clients 5 minutes to pick out a perfect interview outfit from a pile of clothes.

What have you found works best for your clients? Tell us your job readiness success stories or contact us for help on how to design a great curriculum. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

 

Celebrating a Client’s First Job

The way you respond to a client’s first job can make all the difference in their success in the workplace.  Celebrating a client’s first job sets the tone for the client making them more positive about what they have accomplished. Refugees spend months or years waiting to reenter the workforce. The words “You’re hired” can come as an enormous relief. A job gives clients a sense of being in control of their own lives again. Though a client may often feel disappointment in accepting an entry-level position, celebrating that job can encourage them to see this as an accomplishment and not a step-down.

Celebrating a client’s first job might be part of your regular routine and does not need to be time consuming or costly.  It’s also a great way to engage the community. Community donations for first jobs and volunteer hours might be counted towards your match for Matching Grant programs. For example, community members might donate items needed like bus cards, nonslip shoes, and hygiene products, or they might donate hours toward tasks such as mock interviews or helping clients navigate their bus route to work.

Client at USCRI North Carolina

Helping clients see their situation through a positive lens can also help with job retention. It won’t make their job easier but it does help them refocus on the positive steps that they are taking rather than the negative aspects of their new job. At all milestones in our clients’ lives here it’s important to be proud and supportive of them.

Here are two great examples from the field:

Job bags: At USCRI North Carolina’s office, employment staff use a combination of education and celebration. After obtaining a first job, a job bag is awarded to the client by employment staff. As staff hand out the bag they applaud and congratulate the client in front of their peers during job club. The contents of the bag include hygiene products, a water bottle to make sure clients remember to stay hydrated, a lunch bag to remind clients to bring food to work, a pen and notepad, an umbrella, some breath mints and a travel toothbrush and paste.

All the items for the bags are donated and put together by volunteers. The staff take the client’s photo with their bag and the photos decorate the walls of the office.

A Celebrity Walk: At the IRC of Tucson, actual cheers of joy erupt from the entire office staff any time a client gets a job. This type of celebration can make a client feel like a celebrity and is a positive influence on all other clients in the office working towards their first job.

Do you have a unique way of celebrating clients? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org and share your story.

5 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

Aside from language, literacy, and cultural adjustment issues, transportation is one of the most significant barriers to employment that our clients face. While not always possible, finding employment that is easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transportation is ideal. Here are a few mapping strategies that you can use to help your clients overcome this employment barrier:

1. Explore the area immediately surrounding your client’s home. Type your client’s address into Google Maps and zoom in and out to look for grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, factories, etc. that would be easily accessible for clients. After familiarizing yourself with a neighborhood through Google maps, it’s a good idea to visit the neighborhood, since there are things you will notice in person that you wouldn’t see just by looking at a map on a computer screen.

2. Use a map of your city’s public transportation system to inform your employer outreach efforts. Start by looking at a paper map or maps that may be available on your city’s public transportation website. Then go to Google Maps, and find transportation lines near where your clients live and follow them to see what businesses are along these routes. Another fun thing to do is to drive public transportation routes as you are doing employer outreach. Sometimes you will see businesses that may not be listed on Google Maps.

A sample of results for Google Maps search: “manufacturing near Chicago”

3. Search for target industries or major employers in the neighborhood, city or region where your clients live. For example you could search for “manufacturing near Pittsburgh, PA” or “Hotels in New Orleans.” Research the largest employers are in your area to see how accessible these employers are for your clients. Where Are the Jobs? is a very helpful website that you can use to obtain labor market information for your area.

4. Start with areas of the city your clients are already familiar with. Take a look at a map with your client or just have a conversation to find out which areas of the city they travel to on a regular basis. If a job opportunity were to open up in an area they are already familiar with and comfortable traveling to, chances are they will be positive about that job and will be likely to be successful there.

5. Use maps to advocate for your clients. Maps can come in handy as visuals in conversations with employers or with your R&P (Reception and Placement) department. With employers, you can use maps to prove that transportation will not be a problem, pointing out the exact transportation lines that your clients will use, and that the transportation schedule will coordinate with the work schedule. With your R&P colleagues, you can use maps to show which neighborhoods are best situated for easy access to employment opportunities. Employment departments and R&P departments may want to consider doing strategy 1 (above) together as a strategy for increasing collaboration on housing and employment.

One rule of thumb for public transportation: Try to keep commute times to an hour or less and avoid having clients take more than two modes of transportation (e.g. switching buses). When the commute is longer than an hour and clients have to take more than 2 modes of transportation, it is almost inevitable that they will struggle to make it to work on time or that they will end up quitting their jobs because the commute is just too overwhelming.

Hopefully, these tips will help you find jobs closer to home for your clients, as well as improve job satisfaction and retention. Let us know if you have other innovative mapping strategies at information@higheradvantage.org!