A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

When Serving Highly Skilled Refugees, You Don’t Need to Re-invent the Wheel!

Many refugee employment professionals dream about developing customized employment services for clients with higher levels of education and professional experience. Unfortunately, because of limited time and resources, these dreams are rarely realized.

Take heart, my friends! You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Momentum has been building on the issue of skilled immigrants for the past decade, and some great resources have been developed that you can use, adapt, or refer clients to directly.

Check out the organizations and initiatives below:

Upwardly Global– Upwardly Global (UpGlo) provides customized training and support for skilled immigrants and connects them to employer partners interested in hiring global talent. In addition to its 4 brick and mortar locations (New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Silver Spring, MD) UpGlo offers online training programs for skilled immigrants who live elsewhere in the US. In the past year, Upwardly Global has begun offering refugee-specific services, including an online learning portal, free access to Coursera online college courses, and other tailored trainings and resources.

IMPRINT Project– The IMPRINT Project is a coalition of organizations active in the emerging field of immigrant professional integration. Imprint works closely with business, government, higher education and other partners to raise awareness about the talents and contributions of immigrant professionals. In addition to the services that member organizations provide, IMPRINT provides a wealth of resources on its’ website including publications, program resources, articles and op-eds and webinars. Check out the IMPRINT Project’s recently released interactive map which showcases over 50 programs and services around the country that are designed to help immigrant and refugee professionals.

Global Talent Bridge– An initiative of World Education Services, Global Talent Bridge is dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States. Global Talent Bridge’s services include support, training, and resources for community organizations, government agencies and employers; direct outreach to skilled immigrants, including seminars and comprehensive online resources; and policy advocacy at the local, state and national level. To get started, check out their Resources for Immigrants page.

Welcome Back Initiative– The Welcome Back Initiative focuses on internationally trained health workers living in the United States. They do this primarily through their network of “Welcome Back Centers” which provide orientation, counseling and support to foreign-trained health workers. Welcome Back Centers currently exist in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington State, Maryland, New York, Texas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education(CCCIE) – In addition to the professional experience and education immigrants bring with them, many also pursue education here in the US. Classes at a community college are often the first step. CCCIE’s mission is to raise awareness of the important role community colleges play in delivering educational opportunities to immigrants and to promote and expand the range and quality of programs and services for immigrant students among community colleges around the country. For an orientation to this organization and what they do, check out their Immigrant Students and Workforce Development page.

In addition to the great resources listed above, don’t forget about mainstream workforce development programs/resources in your region that may provide the extra boost that a skilled immigrant needs to break into a professional job. Contact your local American Job Center to inquire about training opportunities including Apprenticeships, On-the-job Training, and Individual Training Accounts (ITAs).

What are your go-to resources for refugee clients with professional backgrounds? We’d love to highlight your success story. Get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

Webinar Alert: Post-Employment Services and Strategies for TANF Programs

August 2, 2017, 1:00 – 2:00 PM EST 

Post-employment services that align with individual’s interests, strengths, and abilities are necessary to ensure they can maintain or advance in employment. Unfortunately, many TANF participants tend to obtain low-skill/low-wage jobs with little room for advancement and can experience difficulty retaining jobs.

TANF programs strive to address this issue by offering a variety of post-employment education, training, and supportive services designed to help TANF families sustain long-term livable wage employment and occupational advancement. Given the significant flexibility TANF programs have in the type of post-employment support offered, these services vary across states and programs, depending on the needs of TANF participants.

This interactive webinar will highlight how TANF programs continue to support TANF participants post-employment through a variety of approaches.

Register here.

Webinar Alert: TANF, Childcare and Workforce Development (Today!)

Note: After posting this announcement yesterday, it came to our attention that the registration had been closed. Following this information, we removed the announcement from our site. We are happy to announce that registration has been reopened for this webinar, in case you are able to attend today. We apologize for any confusion. 

Possibilities for Coordination between TANF, Child Care, and Workforce Development
July 26, 2017, 3:00 – 4:00 PM EST

Child care subsidies are critical for families receiving TANF cash assistance, as well as those transitioning off assistance, to be able to participate in employment activities, to maximize educational activities, and achieve better employment outcomes. Studies show that parents receiving child care are likely to have more stable employment, which enables them to support their families and gain increased financial security.

This webinar will explore how states have coordinated TANF and child care services to enhance workforce development outcomes. The webinar will also examine the research associated with TANF and child care to highlight best practices. Presenters will include Heather Hahn, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute; Erin Oalican, Reach Up/TANF Program Director, Vermont Department for Children and Families; and Paulette Bushers, TANF Program Manager, Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Register here.

3 Ways to Empower Highly Skilled Clients

Refugee employment staff are deeply committed to the work that they do and work hard to empower all clients. Finding ways to empower clients of different skill levels takes creativity and intentionality.

Empowering highly skilled refugees is a unique challenge as it requires balancing immediate needs with long-term aspirations. Creating a standard approach to helping clients develop both short-term and long-term goals will help them have realistic expectations and a sense of optimism for their career path!

Here are 3 best practices for empowering highly skilled clients as you help them work towards their career goals:

1.) Build volunteer/internship opportunities into the Job Readiness experience

Where can you provide opportunities for highly skilled clients to use their skills during the job search process? Consider providing volunteer/internship opportunities for these clients at your agency or at other local organizations or employers.

One idea is to have highly skilled clients mentor or assist in teaching ESL to lower skilled clients. Providing volunteer/internship experiences will be good for clients’ morale and will look good on a résumé!

2.) Take a collaborative approach 

Collaborate with highly skilled clients on a job search strategy that takes into account both their short term needs and long term goals. Encourage highly skilled clients to participate in their job search by assigning them tasks they can complete themselves to move their job search forward.

Wherever possible, provide choices that allow the client to guide the process. Providing choices for our clients can be empowering, as explained in this video interview with Carrie Thiele, Integration Programs Manager at ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, CO.

3.) Develop a long-term career plan

Be sure to let highly skilled clients know that after they attain the first step of basic self-sufficiency you really want to see them take the next step to move towards their career goals.  Remind them that their first job is not their last job, but rather just the first step to achieve economic security.

Set an appointment for 6 months after they begin their first job in which you will discuss appropriate next steps to pursue, whether that be credential evaluation, a job upgrade or a referral to another training or employment program.

Consider connecting highly skilled clients to a volunteer career mentor who can support them through the process of pursuing their career goals (Check out this guide from LIRS on setting up an employment mentoring program).

We are looking for stories from the field about agencies that have provided volunteer or internship opportunities for clients or have implemented other creative strategies. Share your story by sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

New Funding Opportunity from ORR

Looking for an opportunity to fund a career advancement program that will assist refugees on a path to long term economic integration?

ORR has recently published a funding opportunity announcement for the Refugee Career Pathways program. This is a new program that will fund efforts to assist refugees in obtaining professional or skilled employment using the career pathways approach. The full application can be found by clicking here.

Application Due Date: 08/29/2017

Please note that a previous forecast on grants.gov that indicated this program would be funded in fiscal year 2017 has been removed. ORR anticipates awarding grants under this program in November 2017 (fiscal year 2018).

Webinar Reminder!

Don’t forget to attend our webinar tomorrow! If you missed the initial announcement a few weeks ago, here is the description and registration link:

Short to Long Term Economic Integration for Refugee Employment: Using Theory of Change to Implement a Career Advancement Program

July 11, 1:00 PM EST

Supporting clients in obtaining early employment, often referred to as “survival jobs”, is no longer enough. Join Higher, META, and the IRC on July 11th at 1:00 p.m. EST in a discussion of steps you can take to develop new, evidence-based, data-driven programs that meet the longer-term employment goals of your clients:

  • Higher’s Program Manager, Nicole Redford, will discuss the importance of seizing the opportunity to evolve employment programs to address both the short-term and longer-term employment goals of new clients, as well as those who have been here awhile
  • META’s Technical Advisor, Jaime Costigan, will walk through how to use a theory of change to thoughtfully evolve your employment programs
  • IRC’s Technical Advisor for Economic Empowerment Programs, Erica Bouris, will provide an example of a career advancement program with impressive evidence-based outcomes.

To register, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2260690847922998018 

Tackling the Transportation Barrier

Transportation is one of the most significant barriers that refugees face in obtaining initial employment and advancing in their careers.

Tackling this barrier requires a multi-faceted strategy:

1.)  Incorporate community navigation into job readiness training

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

Being able to navigate one’s community is important. There’s nothing more isolating and paralyzing than not having the ability to venture beyond your own home.

Helping clients develop a mental map of their community and ensuring that they are able to use the public transportation system should be a key learning objective integrated into Job Readiness curriculums.

2.) Ensure that employment opportunities are easily accessible to clients

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

This is easier said than done, but very important. In order to set clients up for success resettlement, programs must consider likely employment possibilities when finding an apartment for refugee families. Employment teams and R&P teams should be in constant communication about preferred neighborhoods that would be most conducive to accessing employment opportunities.

Sometimes due to financial constraints, limited housing, or the preferences of refugee communities themselves, you may not be able to place new families in the most ideal locations for employment opportunities. In these cases, it’s up to you to put in the additional effort to identify employers that will be easy for clients to reach.

While it’s easy to stick with your go-to employers, putting in the work to find employers that are convenient to different neighborhoods will help you diversify your employer network and create better employment situations for your clients.

3.) Think outside the box

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

Every situation is different, and the reality is that you often have to make less-than-ideal employment opportunities work. For example, in New Orleans, most of Catholic Charities’ clients prefer to live in an area of the city that is not particularly convenient to employment opportunities, resulting in long commutes on multiple bus routes.

Catholic Charities has been able to minimize the impact of this challenge by purchasing affordable bicycles for their employment clients from another local non-profit which teaches at-risk youth bike repair skills. The clients then are able to do part of their commute by bike which can cut their commute time in half or make it possible to take just one bus instead of two.

In addition to facilitating bicycle access, consider other creative alternatives such as car pool solutions, ride share services or employer-sponsored transportation.

4.) Recognize that transportation is connected to career advancement.

For those clients with the desire and ability, make sure that your agency provides resources (in their language if possible) for obtaining driver’s licenses. Also consider asking volunteers to help clients prepare and practice for driver’s license tests.

What transportation solutions have you found work best for your clients? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org or by filling out this poll:

How do most of your clients get to work?

 

Last Minute Webinar Announcement!

Tomorrow, Thursday, June 22, from 2:00 – 3:15 PM, WES Global Talent Bridge will be hosting a webinar entitled “Exploring Reskilling Opportunities for Immigrant Professionals focused on helping immigrants and refugees with professional backgrounds re-enter professional-level jobs.

In this webinar presenters Allie Levinsky from Upwardly Global and Jamie McDermott from the Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare will discuss best practices for providing career guidance to highly skilled immigrants and refugees as well as current reskilling initiatives.

To register for this webinar click here.

Today is World Refugee Day

Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day.

On this day we commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.

Because of your work in refugee resettlement, those few refugees that make a home in the United States have the opportunity to work and learn the skills necessary to make positive contributions in their new communities.