New Mapping Tool from IMPRINT

Looking for resources and partners that can help you serve highly skilled refugees? Our friends at IMPRINT recently released an interactive map that allows you to see what organizations and resources are available for skilled immigrants in your area and nationally.

The tool also provides state-by-state data about college educated foreign-born individuals, based on 2015 American Community Survey data.

Explore this awesome tool by clicking on the map below:

 

Webinars This Week: Refugee Legal Rights & Career Tips for Skilled Immigrants

There are two webinars this week that you or your clients may be interested in. The first webinar is on Wednesday evening, and will share important information designed to help refugees, asylees and SIV recipients understand their rights in the U.S. The second webinar is on Thursday afternoon, and will share essential strategies that skilled immigrants with foreign credentials can use to advance in their careers.

Here is the information for each webinar:

Photo: www.mirovni-institut.si/

What Does it Mean to be a Refugee in the U.S.? Refugee Legal Rights Discussion Post-Election

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM EST

Upwardly Global, in collaboration with the International Refugee Assistance Project, is organizing a virtual webinar to educate the refugee, asylee and SIV populations as well as interested community members about refugee rights and their eligibility as U.S. residents. Please join us in the discussion about what it means to be a refugee, asylee and/or SIV; how to protect oneself from discrimination and how to create more welcoming communities for refugees. To register, click here.

Photo: BEWFAA/The Washington Post

10 Essential Tips for Career Success

Thursday, January 19th, 2017, 2:00 p.m. EST

Over the past year, WES Global Talent Bridge in the US and Canada have shared resources and methods on helping skilled immigrants succeed in their journey to continue their careers using credentials from abroad. As we begin the new year, we will revisit webinars and events hosted in 2016 and share key messages as well as resources that skilled immigrants need to consider as they work to integrate professionally in their new country. To register, click here.

 

Back to the Basics: Advice for Job Applicants & Job Developers

Jordan“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”                                                               -Michael Jordan

Without knocking innovation, sometimes the best way forward is to go back to the basics. A recent Lifehacker article made this point when they asked a couple dozen hiring managers to weigh in on how applicants can stand out from the crowd.

Here are their top 10 suggestions and how they apply specifically to refugee employment:

 1.  Be Prompt, but don’t arrive too early to your interview.

Many cultures have more flexible standards when it comes to punctuality than we do in the US. It’s a good idea to encourage clients to be early to appointments and interviews. But make sure to also discuss the importance of not being too early, as that can also make a negative impression.

2.  Don’t apply for a job unless you meet the qualifications. 

This can be a tricky one when working with refugees, many of whom may have limited English and all of whom lack US work experience when they first arrive. On the surface, it may seem like your clients do not meet the qualifications for many jobs. Don’t give up too easily though. Politely push employers to tell you exactly what competencies are necessary for the job at hand. If you think your clients are capable of performing the duties described, make the argument, and close the deal!

3. Research the company. 

The more you know about the company, the more you will be prepared to make the argument that your clients are a good fit for their needs. Whenever possible, share information about the company with your clients before taking them to an interview. They will perform better if they know who they’re talking to.

4. Make the right match. 

Don’t try to force opportunities that are clearly not a good fit. That will not result in long term partnerships. Making a good connection with an employer is the first step, but showing them that you understand their needs is what will keep them coming back.

5. Come prepared with questions. 

Make sure you are prepared with good questions for employers and coach your clients on good questions to ask before the interview. Part of this coaching also means helping them know what questions not to ask (e.g. Can you give me a different schedule so I can work with my brother?).

6. List all your (software) skills on your resume. 

This tip may apply to some higher skilled clients that have software skills but may not mention them. The basic point though is just to make sure you are using the resume to list any skills that demonstrate that you are motivated, reliable and dependable. So even if your clients don’t have formal work experience, find a way to highlight their skills.

7. If you lie, you’ll probably get caught. 

Pretty straightforward. Don’t lie. Don’t even exaggerate. Do, however, find a way to present your clients in the best light possible, demonstrating their skills, and highlighting the unique ways that they will add value to employers.

8. Say thank you. 

Sometimes you should be the one to say it. Sometime your client should be the one to say it. It might be a handwritten note. It might be an email. It might even be a text message to your employer connection saying “Thanks for your time today. I really appreciate your partnership.” There are many ways to say thank you. The point is that you should.

9. Don’t be pushy. 

Following up is part of the process. Either you or your clients should follow up after interviews. Just keep in mind that being persistent and being pushy are two different things. If your client is going to be the one to follow up, make sure to coach him/her on how to do this professionally.

10. Put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. 

Perhaps the most important tip on this list. You should always be asking yourself questions like “What does the employer want?”, “What would make their life easier?”, “What do my clients bring to the table that would really add value to this company?” If you do this consistently, employers will love working with you, and your clients will get jobs.

If you’d like to read the Lifehacker article in its entirety, you may do so here.

10 Tips for Newly Hired Employment Managers

Congratulations! After all the long and hard hours you’ve worked building innovative and successful employment programs, you are now a manager. This new role is important and well-deserved but comes with a whole new set of goals and demands. New managers need just as much guidance in their role so here are a few helpful tips to all the new managers out there:

1) Address the shift immediately: If you find yourself managing your former peers you must address the new dynamics immediately. Have a meeting with the staff and your supervisor. Have your supervisor explain the shift and your new role so everyone is clear about the new team dynamic. Whereas you may have gone out with co-workers after work before, that friendship dynamic may no longer be possible. Please keep in mind that some colleagues may be resentful of your promotions but just be professional and focus on running a great program.

2)  Communication- It’s a two way street: A great manager knows how to listen effectively and does not talk down to their employees. Take the time to understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings of your staff. Have a weekly team meeting where you give a few updates but also allow time for the staff to give updates. A few ideas to get staff talking: have your staff come prepared to discuss a difficult client story, a successful client story, and an issue they need advice on. Then talk through each situation as a team.

3) Effective and Efficient Meetings: In the refugee resettlement world everyone is working at such a fast pace. In order to get your staff to slow down and take the time to comprehend what you need them to learn, be wise about when and how often you schedule meetings. If you don’t have enough information to fill up an agenda, don’t call a meeting. Decide what and when new information needs to be shared. For example ORR changes to programs or problems with TANF are going to lead your agenda. Try to focus on 3 to 5 key issues in each meeting, and try not to meet more than once a week as a team.

4) Delegation: A great manager knows the strengths and weaknesses of their staff. It’s your job now to make sure the workload is divided. A manager does not take on all the work themselves; rather they know what needs to be accomplished and can identify which team member is best suited to accomplish the task. You are there to oversee and guide your staff, not to do their work for them. 

5) Accept Responsibility: Problems arise. Accept responsibility for your own actions, and accept responsibility for your team’s actions. Failure to accept responsibility makes a manager look weak to both superiors and subordinates.

6) One-on-one meetings: These meetings are a great way to learn what your employees need. Employees can sometimes be shy to share in a large groups. Here you will want to focus these meetings on the employee’s: needs, strengths, problems with clients. Ask if they want additional training and how are they managing their time. Some people need help managing their workload and this may mean helping them create a strict weekly schedule. These meetings should also be a chance for employees to hear from you. Positive feedback is always going to be better received. Try to make plans to help employee improve their performance instead of just pointing out their weaknesses. 

7) Continued Professional Development: A manager is someone who is constantly learning and growing. There are tons of great seminars out there on how to be an effective manager, but there are also lots of webinars and resources that can help you advance and grow your employment programs. At the end of this article are a few resources.

8) Find a Mentor: Find someone who is an inspiring manager and ask them if they might become a mentor to you. Advice from someone you respect will go a long way. A mentor can also be a great resource and sounding board for your ideas and problems. Be open about how you are feeling in your new role and what support you need in order to continue growing as a manager. 

9) Passion for the Mission: As a manager you will be asked to address many stakeholders in your community, including employers, funders, and government officials. Public speaking may not be your forte but it will improve over time if you can passionately convey your work. Passion for the clients and your organization’s mission will go a long way in the success of your work and will keep you coming to work with a smile on your face and set a great example for your staff.

10 )Lead by Example: Don’t just tell your staff what to do; show them. A great manager knows how to do the work, not just teach it. Instead of asking new staff to teach job club, give them the opportunity to observe you or another seasoned staff member so that they can learn by example. Offer to sit with them if they have a difficult client, or need support with tasks such as intake paperwork or a food stamp re-certification. Staying engaged in the work of your staff will also give you a chance to exercise and refresh your skills. Above all, inspire others to want to help you accomplish desired goals. People who want to do something are far more effective than people who have to do something.

Additional Tools and Resources for Supervisors and Managers:

Workforce Resource: Career Resources for Youth

Jess Wyatt/Refugee Youth Project, Baltimore, MD

Jess Wyatt/Refugee Youth Project, Baltimore

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) includes youth workforce development programs and resources aimed at both in-school and out-of-school youth, with a strong emphasis on out-of-school youth between the ages of 16-24. Since most refugee resettlement programs do not have youth-specific employment programs, being familiar with the resources available to youth through the mainstream workforce development system can be a game-changer for younger refugees. Here are a few key programs and resources to be aware of:

  • Job Corps is a nationwide program that offers free career training in variety of industries. This program is aimed at giving young people the skills they need in order to obtain employment and become self-sufficient. Job Corps is located in all 50 states, but some states have several sites whereas states like Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Alaska only have one Job Corps center.
  • Youthbuild is an organization that is found in 46 states and aims to give construction skills to low income out-of-school youth. The program aims to put the participants on a path to responsible adulthood and teaches them to give back to the local community. The 10-month program pairs classroom learning with construction skills so that teens leave the program with a GED and professional skills. Participants spend about 50% of their time in academic classrooms and the rest of the time is spent on hands-on job training building affordable housing or other community assets. The program serves around 10,000 low-income young people each year and includes mentoring, follow-up education, employment, and personal counseling services.
  • AmeriCorps is a civil service program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, and corporations with the goal of serving local communities. Participants commit to full-time or part-time positions offered by a network of nonprofit community organizations and public agencies, to fulfill assignments in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection.  AmeriCorps is a wonderful opportunity to expose youth to the needs of their own community while also giving them valuable professional skills as well has professional references. Additionally, anyone who completes AmeriCorps is given an educational award with which to use towards an associates, bachelor or master’s degree.
  • Refugee AmeriCorps is a type of AmeriCorps program, that places members at refugee resettlement agencies. Volunteering with AmeriCorps, full or part time, can be a great way to get work experience and give back to the community.  To learn about AmeriCorps volunteer opportunities, visit the AmeriCorps website, or reach out to your local resettlement agencies to learn if they have an Refugee AmeriCorps position available.

In order to gain access to these programs, your agency will need to take the initiative to reach out to these organizations to introduce your population. Like any partnership you will need to consider the cost and benefits of pursuing collaboration with these mainstream programs. For example how much staff time does it take to establish and maintain partnership versus simply doing job development for clients? It may be better to gather other resettlement agencies in your area to act as a larger network when planning partnership with these mainstream programs.

In addition to youth programs, there are also online resources geared towards youth:

youthrulesYouth Rules! – This is a great online resource for tech savvy youth who have a higher level of English skills. The site covers the child labor laws and minimum age for employment in each state. There is a great Youth Worker Toolkit that is basically a 101 on working in the US for youth similar to job readiness training that refugee agencies provide.

All of the presentations are colorful and interactive and there are even helpful free apps for listening to webinars or keeping track of work hours and pay dates.

This resource is a great place to explore different options for part-time work or training. There are forums and blogs and even instructions on how to report violation of workers’ rights.

GetMyFuture is a resource available on careeronestop.org that provides a “dashboard” or “portal” for youth who need information on a range of education and career related topics. For example, youth can get information about writing a resume, applying for college, starting a business, or access assessment tools that will help identify suitable careers based on interest and skills.

All of these programs and websites offer an array of resources related to educational and career resources for youth as well as ideas for topics to cover in job readiness instruction. These resources are easy to navigate but many of them are text heavy and would be difficult for clients without English proficiency to use independently. You may want to consider translating some of the resources into a curriculum for refugee youth or using them during one-on-one sessions between a refugee and volunteer.

For easy links to these and other youth-related resources, check out the clickable Mainstream Youth Employment Resources tool we created this past Spring.

Ask us your questions and share your success stories about working with refugee youth by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Connecting Refugees to WIOA-Funded Programs in Omaha

staff-photoLutheran Family Services of Nebraska’s Refugee Education & Employment Program (REEP) staff members have long been aware of resources available at the local American Job Centers nationwide. Many clients qualify for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funded programs, but until recently the process to fully participate in and benefit from these programs remained out of a reach.

During the past few years, the REEP team has focused on identifying and overcoming the barriers that prevent refugees from accessing WIOA-funded programs through a concerted effort to understand and collaborate with their local American Job Center (AJC).

Why Collaborate?

Brain waste, inaccessibility to higher skilled jobs, lack of transportation, language barriers, unfamiliarity with US workplace culture, and difficulty navigating assistance programs are all challenges faced by resettlement programs across the nation.  Another challenge for programs with limited resources is how they can best connect refugees to training that will put them on a career path that can take them beyond an initial job to pay the bills.

classroom-photoHow can refugee employment programs best help the young Iraqi engineer, who just arrived and expressed to his career counselor that his main desire is to finish his U.S. degree and specialize in robotics? Or the Afghan SIV recipient with a large family who needs a job while working towards U.S. certification in the IT field?  What about the Burmese client who worked for 10 years as a welder in Malaysia, but never got a certificate? How can he apply his skills here?

How can we help foreign-trained professionals and those with backgrounds in the trades discover career pathways that lead to fulfilling work that pays a living wage and capitalizes on their skills?

The mainstream workforce development system is often described as a highway with many off-ramps that job seekers can take to pursue their career goals, and its WIOA-funded programs in particular offer an abundance of opportunities and benefits.

Opportunities within the Mainstream Workforce Development System

WIOA-funded programs provide a variety of workforce development options designed to help individuals with barriers to employment receive training and certification in “H3 jobs” (high demand, high wage and high-skill). With some assistance, refugees with the right aptitudes and skill-sets can access these resources and obtain certifications that can increase their hourly wage by up to 30 to 40 percent.

career-pathwaysIn addition to training programs such as Registered Apprenticeships (RAs), On-the-job Training (OJT) and Individual Training Accounts (ITAs), WIOA-funded programs also provide additional resources that can offset some of the costs associated with starting a new job or career.

Some examples of supportive services include tools, work apparel, and other initial required items normally paid for by the employee through payroll deduction. Participants in WIOA-funded programs may also be eligible for transportation assistance in the form of gas vouchers, car registration fees, repairs or other transportation services.

In some cases REEP clients enrolled in WIOA-funded programs have also been eligible for emergency rental assistance or utility assistance. Eligibility for these temporary supports is determined on a case-by-case basis, and often are a one-time benefit. Tuition, books, and study related costs & supportive services are covered for those pursuing a certification or degree in high-demand careers.  In eligible cases, both WIOA & PELL funding are available.

Partnership between Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and Heartland Workforce Solutions American Job Center

To capitalize on this amazing opportunity for newly arriving refugee populations, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska’s Refugee Education & Employment Program (REEP) began collaborating with a local American Job Center (AJC) operated by Heartland Workforce Solutions (HWS) in early 2013.

The first thing the REEP team did was set up an initial meeting to learn about the resources that the AJC offered and familiarize the AJC management with the LFS refugee resettlement program. Following the initial meeting, the REEP team provided an orientation for AJC frontline staff new to serving refugees. More meetings followed to discuss individual participants the REEP team would be bringing for enrollment and to set expectations for communication between the two organizations.

Because of the complexities involved in the AJC eligibility and enrollment process, refugee employment service providers cannot simply direct their clients to AJCs, cross their fingers, and hope for successful outcomes. Developing a clear understanding of the AJC process and setting clear expectations for communication between the two organizations was essential for the REEP team in order to ensure that they were providing adequate support to clients they would refer to the AJC.

Going through this process of mutual learning was critical in building trust and developing effective ways to collaborate, including working together to address barriers preventing LFS clients from accessing AJC resources.

Benefits of the Collaboration

Both the REEP program and the AJC benefited from this collaboration. The REEP program successfully enrolled 12 clients into WIOA-funded programs through the AJC. Three of these clients were enrolled in On-the-job Training, five clients received skills training, and 5 clients received other supportive services through the AJC.

refugee-at-workSeveral of these clients have been successful in retaining the high-paying jobs that they obtained through participating in these mainstream workforce development programs. Afghan SIV recipients, for example, proved to be a great fit for apprenticeships in the construction field because of their previous work experience with the U.S. military.

The AJC also experienced many benefits from this collaboration, including a link to a pre-screened and motivated talent pool that does not typically access mainstream workforce development services, ongoing wrap-around support from the REEP team for refugee participants, and higher success rates (successful outcomes for refugee clients were double that of the general population in the first two years of the collaboration).

Challenges and Collaborative Solutions

While much progress has been made in accessing WIOA-funded programs for refugees, this endeavor has not been without its challenges. Below is a summary of the five most significant challenges faced during this collaboration and the solutions that the REEP team and the AJC developed to overcome these barriers:

Challenge #1: WIOA program enrollment process delays: The WIOA program enrollment process has historically required a significant amount of time. The complexity and time demands inherent to the current enrollment process directly impacts the clients’ ability to take advantage of employment opportunities and fails to meet the staffing needs of employers offering “living wage jobs.”

Solution: Effective communication and collaboration between the REEP team and the AJC was the best strategy in overcoming these systemic barriers. REEP staff work with AJC staff to streamline the process and provide support where needed

Challenge #2: Scheduling Problems: Scheduling conflicts often resulted in significant delays between Orientation and completion of the TABE test (a math and literacy test participants must pass in many states to qualify for training programs). This was primarily due to the fact that both TABE tests and Orientations were only offered once a week and only during scheduled work hours. Even for the unemployed, the schedule was problematic because it conflicted with the beginning and ending of their children’s school day.

Solution: After the REEP team brought these issues to the attention of AJC management, they agreed to make adjustments to the schedule that resulted in adding more orientation options that could better accommodate the schedules of clients. The AJC also allowed for individual orientations or specially scheduled testing to meet the needs of clients.

Challenge #3: Selective Service Registration Eligibility Requirement: Selective Service registration requirement for males has often been a barrier even though most of the refugees enrolling in WIOA-funded programs are not required by to register since they arrived in the US after their 26th birthday. In order  to receive federal education and training assistance, males under 56 years of age are required to obtain a Status Information Letter from Selective Services verifying they are not required to register with the SSA. SSA processing and procedural complexity often results in significant delays in obtaining the requisite Status confirmation.

Solution: Collaborative efforts between the AJC and the REEP team helped reduce the impact of this issue. The AJC agreed to accept a copy of the Status Information Letter, along with the certified mail receipt from sending the Status Information Letter to SSA through certified mail in cases where participation could not move forward.

Challenge #4: Income Eligibility Problems: Verification of income can be a challenge even though the AJC and federal authorities accept that anyone receiving SNAP or food stamp benefits as meeting the qualification to receive WIOA benefits.  Problems can occur when the client presents DHHS verification documentation that is unfamiliar to WIOA staff and therefore may not be accepted as verification of income. A related issue is determining the actual start date for receipt of benefits. It is often not clear what date is to be used as the client’s application to WIOA date or what effect their post SNAP/TANF earning will have on their eligibility and enrollment delays exacerbate this problem.

Solution: Ongoing collaborative efforts of AJC staff and REEP program staff to mitigate response delays by key outside entities can help to reduce some of the delays in the overall verification process.

Challenge #5: Jobs obtained during the enrollment process: Jobs obtained prior to finishing enrollment can make clients ineligible for WIOA programs. Often during a protracted enrollment process clients are found to be ineligible if they receive a promotion or wage increase. Significant delays in enrollment processing can affect a client’s ability to meet regulatory compliance and ultimately impact their eligibility for needed resource assistance.

Solution: Close communication and cooperation between the AJC and the REEP team helped to mitigate the impact of enrollment processing delays and address this challenge.

Tips for Collaboration with AJCs

The LFS REEP team has learned a lot from their experience collaborating with an American Job Center, and suggests the following tips for refugee employment programs around the country who may be considering similar collaborations:

  • Always have a liaison or navigator who can dedicate time to cultivating the relationship with the AJC and provide support to refugees and AJC staff during the complicated enrollment process. This can be an employment team member, an intern, or a volunteer—anyone who can take the time to learn the process and provide the needed support.
  • Job Developers can play an important role in opening up On-the-job Training and Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for refugee clients by making employer partners aware of these federal programs and connecting them to appropriate staff at the AJC. The subsidies that employers can receive through these programs can serve as a great incentive for taking a chance on hiring a refugee.
  • Invest the time to become familiar with how WIOA is administered and its requirements in your local Workforce Development region through research and look at labor market information to identify the high demand jobs in your area.
  • Be prepared to articulate the benefits of working with refugees and also to provide ongoing support to mainstream workforce development partners, just as you would with employers.
  • Keep up with changes in WIOA policies and meet regularly with AJC leadership to share updates and address challenges.

Many thanks to the staff at Lutheran Family Services Nebraska (especially Ryan Overfield, Carol Tucker, and Rich Surber) as well as the staff at Heartland Workforce Solutions for contributing this case study!

Have you collaborated with an American Job Center or other mainstream workforce development partner in your area? Share your success story by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

Happy National Apprenticeship Week!

This week is the second annual National Apprenticeship Week. Higher has been looking at apprenticeships as a strategy for career laddering for refugees, and we think there is a lot of potential for refugees to take advantage of the Registered Apprenticeship program, but our network is only in the beginning stages of figuring out how to help our clients access these great opportunities.

We can provide a lot of information, but we need your help to discover the frontline strategies and best practices for connecting refugees to apprenticeships!

apprenticeship-eventsThis week provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about apprenticeships. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 313 events planned in 47 states which will provide information on the registered apprenticeship program.

Although we are a couple days late in putting this on your radar (apologies!) there are still many events scheduled for the next 3 days.

Click here (or on the image above) to see if there is an event happening near you!

You can also learn more about apprenticeships by reading Higher’s recent post on Registered Apprenticeships or by checking out the ApprenticeshipUSA Toolkit.

If you have experience matching refugee clients to Registered Apprenticeships, we would love to highlight your success story! Get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

Holiday Gift Guide – Any Recommendations?

Do you know of any businesses or products that should be featured in Higher’s annual holiday gift guide?  We have a great list started for this year’s guide, but it can always be better!  

Stay tuned for our annual holiday gift guide blog post. We’ll put all of your recommendations into one post to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible.  

Please submit your recommendations by commenting below or by contacting us.

Alternative Pathways for Highly Skilled Refugees

Source: https://www.uaf.nl/english

Source: https://www.uaf.nl/english

While many professional fields in the U.S. require licensure, refugees from professional backgrounds who are not immediately able to pursue these credentials don’t necessarily need to be stuck in low-level jobs.

A recent post by our friends at WES Global Talent Bridge shares some fantastic alternative career pathways that highly skilled refugees (and those who work with them) may want to explore, whether they are working towards licensure or just looking for work that is related to their skills.

Here’s a few options they recommend:

  • Accountants can analyze budgets and costs for institutions without a certified public accountant (CPA) license.
  • Engineers or architects who are not lisenced can still work in technical, advisory, and management positions related to engineering projects.
  • Healthcare Professionals have many options including administration, community health, and research. In addition short-term training programs such as CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or Phlebotomist certification can be a good entry point.
  • Lawyers can work as paralegals, and may be able to advise on foreign law as a foreign legal consultant (FLC)
  • Social workers and psychologists can find work as community workers in non-profits and schools.
  • Teachers can sometimes work as substitutes, or even full-time teachers at private and charter schools. Many states also offer alternate routes to certification or licensure (e.g. New York City Teaching Fellows, Teach for America, etc.)

While newly arrived refugees will likely need assistance identifying and accessing the alternative pathways, the opportunities are there. Some refugee employment programs around the country are hiring dedicated staff or mobilizing volunteers that specialize in identifying opportunities and facilitating networking and career mentorship for highly skilled refugees. This is emerging as a best practice in serving this unique subset of newly arrived refugees.

To read the WES Global Talent Bridge article in its entirety, click here!

How to Get Refugees to Living-Wage Work

Guest post from Alicia Wrenn, Assistant Director for Integration at LIRS 

I had the opportunity to attend a Forced Migration Upward Mobility Project (FMUMP) workshop on October 16th in New York City where Dr. Faith Nibbs presented her report Moving into the Fastlane: Understanding Refugee Mobility in the Context of Resettlement. It is great reading and gives us much to think about to improve employment outcomes for clients. One of the main goals of FMUMP is to assist refugees (and employment practitioners), to find jobs that pay a living-wage as defined generally as $5 over the minimum, but it will vary based on the market.

Her team did research in the Dallas and Ft. Worth communities over a period of 2.5 years. They interviewed refugees, employment staff, and scholars – 350 in total.  And they observed 300 hours of service provision and reviewed all available data and literature on the topic.

moving-into-the-fastlane With targeted skills training it took just over one year to break the living wage threshold. The study found this to be the single greatest impact on wages. This was true for all the sub-populations – including highly skilled, low skilled, for men, and for women. Dr Nibbs went through a Return on Investment calculation that showed the net effect when making these wage gains – the savings on government assistance (Food Stamps etc.), plus the increased taxes paid by the refugee at the new wage, and that weighed against the cost of job skills training of approximately $3,000 per person. The ROI to the government is about 600%. So the investment by the government in skills training makes good sense.  

This teaches us a couple of things. Employment teams should be looking for job skills training for clients from all possible sources – government, community college, and company-led – now knowing this is the single biggest influencer. The study found it to be more important than the general English language training that is available. They discovered that the typical ESL that occurs for a few hours per week and teaches general conversation has less of an impact. See the report for interesting ways to improve this instruction such as an on-line platform for more cumulative hours, and the very positive effect of tailoring the vocabulary instruction to the work place. 

Dr. Nibbs had thoughts about other issues undermining living wage attainment. It was discovered that refugee clients are not given an understanding that while yes they need to take the first job, there are certain industries that are much more financially rewarding and will pay a living wage. This research has shown that clients by and large had no idea that they would never make ends meet nor advance up the pay scale in certain sectors. It was thought that Case Managers themselves might not be aware of this hierarchy of earning potential by industry sector.

There are a few interesting pilots occurring to address these gaps. The Office of Refugee Resettlement has funded a Career Navigator position in the State of Washington to determine if this can create a bridge for better placements and better information conveyed to refugees. IRC has five Career Development sites that provide to refugees targeted career training one year after arrival for those unemployed. There should be some interesting learnings down the road.

The report is here –  http://www.fmump.org/ – on the home page there is an option to download. 

You may also be interested in checking out Dr. Nibbs’ presentation at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Conference, which took place in Omaha, NE in November, 2015: http://www.higheradvantage.org/second-annual-refugee-employment-workshop-resources/ .