No English Needed to be an Entrepreneur

As Higher begins planning for the 2013 fiscal year, I have been thinking a lot about employment programs that strengthen English and increase a refugee’s marketability in the workforce. It has been long understood that in an economy that is producing few jobs, employers have increased flexibility to pick and choose new hires that need to meet a gold standard – long U.S. work histories, willingness to work unconventional hours, and high level English ability. But what about immigrant entrepreneurs? Do they need to meet the same gold standard?

Well, according to a New York Times article I ran across, the answer may in fact be, no. For immigrants coming to the shore of America with little to no English ability, their ethnic diaspora is avenue that can lead to business success.

Among the individuals highlighted in the New York Times article is Felix Sanchez de la Vega Guzman. (Spoiler Alert) Mr. Sanchez turned a street tortilla business into a $19 million food manufacturing empire. His success can be credited to understanding his own ethnic community and how technology could help him market to his ethnic community all across the U.S. and beyond.

Yes, Mr. Sanchez is one of a relatively small number of people who have been able to succeed at this level without learning English, but he is at no means alone in this endeavor. Click here to read more about these immigrant entrepreneurs.

Gardens Are A Place For Personal Growth

When I was living in Zimbabwe, I remember the initial trip from the airport in Harare to the tiny village where I would end up residing. It took hours to get to our designation. The roads were bad and our jeep was no better. Most of the journey there was not much to look at. A few trees here and there and the occasional passerby headed back to the city. But about two hours into the ride, an oasis was unveiled. A beautiful orange grove started to align both sides of the street and I was mesmerized by how the arid landscape transformed into a lush, green canopy. We stopped and purchased oranges from the local farmer’s roadside stand. The air smelled sweet and the oranges were delicious.

It occurred to me when I was back in the States that the farmer I met on my way that day came from the same place as many of our Zimbabwean asylees. It also occurred to me that many of them must have been farmers with amazing talents and how we (the U.S. resettlement network) must capitalize on those talents. This is why I love a recent article in the Baltimore Sun about a new IRC initiative in Baltimore centered on refugee urban gardening.

You see, farming is much more than cultivating, planting, growing, and harvesting produce. You learn a lot about yourself and your abilities. You are able to cultivate and grow relationships with others as well. Both in working together to yield a harvest and selling produce that feeds those who have come to buy it.

Interested in IRC’s urban gardening initiative, click here.

-Jonathan Lucus,

Director of Higher

 

To Tweet or Not To Tweet…

Higher (during its RefugeeWorks days) spent a lot of time at its trainings talking about social networks and the pervading relevance of networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

I ran across an article today that implores job seekers to use Twitter to connect with employers and land a job in less time than a standard job search.

Case in point, I have been trying to gain access into a national food service company. I used LinkedIn to connect with a recruiter who, in turn, connected me with two corporate folks. Now, I have an advantage in getting the meeting I have been trying to set up for weeks!

Below are a few tips from the article:

1) Employers are looking to spend less money on recruiting new employees. Twitter has become a cost effective tool for them.

2) Competition is high for every job openining that is out there. Fifteen million people are out of work in the U.S. It is time to be creative when it comes to networking!

3) Twitter gives you a direct connection to those individuals who are in charge of finding potential talent.

4) Networking, networking, networking. Twitter is a great way to build a network of folks who can give you job leads before they are posted on websites and newspapers.

5) The bottom line is Twitter yields results. And that is what we are all looking for!

See the entire article here.

-Jonathan Lucus,

Director of Higher

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!

Employers Are Looking On-Line. Are You Visible?

Applying for jobs on-line can be a bit of a conundrum. Will your resume get noticed? Will there be thousands of people applying for the same position? We all wonder these questions in the age of job link websites like Monster.com and Craigslist. However, employers still use these avenues to find talented, qualified people. However, your resume will be tossed aside (virtually) if you are not thorough enough in your presentation.

Below is an article from AOL Jobs that makes the case for taking your time when submitting your application on-line and conveying why you are the right person for the position your are applying for.

http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/08/10/employer-says-shes-been-looking-for-a-year-cant-find-a-soul-t/

The article’s author, Claire Gordon gives (4) extremely useful tips that will help ensure an employer will look at your application:

1) Send a cover letter.

2) Explain why you want the job.

3) Mention the position you are applying for.

4) Sell your services, not your goal.

As new Americans strive to enter the workforce they need to set themselves a part from the rest of the job seekers. Being thorough with the application process and being passionate about the job they are applying for will surely help their resumes get more than a passing glance.

-Jonathan Lucus,

Director of Higher

 

Guest Contribution from Catholic Community Services of Salt Lake City

The story that follows highlights the reliable labor pool that Aramark’s Parks and Destinations Division has discovered in job seekers from a refugee background.  RefugeeWorks is proud of the work Catholic Community Services began several years ago that has resulted in a national recruitment strategy for a company with strong values in diversity and corporate responsiblity.  Special thanks to Jason Stout, Job Developer at Catholic Community Services for contributing this story.

 

Making Our Mark with Aramark
Jason P. Stout
Job Developer at CCS Refugee Resettlement Program of Utah

“The refugee program has been a terrific source of employees and has enhanced our diverse workforce here at Lake Powell as well as at other ARAMARK Parks & Destinations properties.
The individuals from this program have worked in some of our key hospitality positions and several have been commended for a terrific work ethic and positive attitude that is inspirational.” –Donna Gold, Regional Human Resources Director for Aramark

Our initial successes with Aramark were nothing short of serendipitous. At one location, less than a week transpired from the initial phone call to the first day of training some 400 miles away, but the prelude to this success is even more compelling.

Bruno Schwartz, the International Recruiting Manager for The Canyons Resort in Park City (the largest resort in Utah and part of the Aramark family) attended a networking roundtable with the Utah Governor’s International Trade and Diplomacy Office in early 2010. When he mentioned that he was struggling to obtain visas for international applicants (through the J-1 and H2B visa programs), Jennifer Andelin, the International & Immigration Specialist at Congressman Chaffetz’s office and local refugee advocate, suggested he consider the refugee community. Before long, 15 refugees were working as housekeepers at The Canyons and more soon followed.

Meanwhile, in Wahweap, Arizona, Aramark’s Lake Powell Resort was filled to capacity much earlier than usual due to the local filming of a Disney movie. They were in need of over 20 housekeepers, boat maintenance personnel, servers, bussers and other staff. Donna Gold, the Regional Human Resources Director for Aramark, called Bruno Schwartz (a former colleague) and was soon in contact with our job development team at CCS. Our team worked around the clock to identify, prepare, and transport 14 of our own clients to Wahweap in six days. In the following weeks we brought a dozen more clients, including a number from other refugee agencies in Salt Lake City.

We only had two job developers helping at the time, and between the two of us, we spent half a dozen weekends in Lake Powell, dealing with challenges and ensuring a smooth transition. We ensured that an exhaustive checklist was completed before and after relocation, including medical, communication, banking, nutrition, housing, permission from the Office of Refugee Resettlement for long-distance job placement, initial training and paperwork, and local volunteers to teach ESL.

That first season was a success, and in 2011 we were asked to contribute staff at another Aramark location: Mesa Verde, Colorado. The Canyons continues to hire refugees, and we also hope to return to both Lake Powell and Mesa Verde this year. As Aramark expands nationally in their refugee hiring in 2012, we are proud that our successes were an initial impetus in that chain.

As for Lake Powell Resort and Mesa Verde, the only bottleneck this year is finding enough refugees to meet the demand.

Great Picture Guides Now Available

If you are looking for picture guides for common items used in food-related industries, look no further!  Caritas of Austin is sharing their picture guides with us and they are now posted on the RefugeeWorks website.
They are translated into Arabic, Burmese, Nepali, and Spanish.  And they are simple, clear, and reproducible for free.  Enjoy!
Leave a comment to let us know how you are using the translated guides.

Foreign-Trained Refugee Professionals Keep Inspiring

A lot of good things are going on in the RefugeeWorks’ Refugee Recertification Program in San Diego.

Issam, one of the original RefugeeWorks engineers was placed by Welcome Bank Center of San Diego (WBC) as a volunteer at the County of San Diego several months ago. Issam was named as the Dept. of Public Works Volunteer of the year, he was awarded this month. Issam has been working to map San Diego County flood plains.

On May 2nd, the WBC will be honoring participants who completed courses last year by awarding Certificates of Completion and State Senator Joel Anderson’s office will be presenting Certificates of Achievement to the students as well. Gail Patterson, the direct of the WBC stated, “Grossmont College and WBC staff are proud of how hard our refugee professionals have worked to achieve- it really is amazing and inspiring.”

In other news: The San Diego Scoop, a local newspaper, ran an article about refugee and immigrant foreign trained professionals in the paper and it was picked up by several of the other local papers in San Diego.