A Focused Approach on Job Upgrades and Skills Certifications

Bu* started as a counter and sorter at a laundry service company and over time earned a promotion within the company to reach a job that he loves in maintenance. Amal* came to the U.S. with an engineering degree from Iraq and is currently studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam while working as a Civil Engineering Inspector.

These are just two of many client success stories from Laura Honeycutt, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in North Carolina (USCRI-NC) Employment Specialist. Laura helped launch a Career Enhancement Opportunities (CEO) program last year at USCRI-NC with funding from ORR’s Targeted Assistance Grant and private funders.  The CEO program provides targeted employment support for clients with professional experience and clients seeking job upgrades.

The CEO program has now been in operation for about a year, serving approximately 40 clients during that time. The program focuses on:

  • Job upgrades and raises: When clients have established a job history in the United States, USCRI-NC works with employers to see if clients are eligible for a promotion or wage increase at that company.
  • Career pathways to new certifications, re-certifications, and higher education opportunities: Some clients come to USCRI-NC with a specific training goal in mind and others learn about the opportunity as they talk through their career options.

Having a dedicated employment specialist to focus on job upgrades and highly skilled clients has provided additional one-on-one attention for a group of clients that can sometimes be overlooked.

Clients in the CEO program have seen successes, ranging from certification and placement in security guard positions to a promotion at Panera Bread. Another client is working at Cisco after earning recertification in Cisco Certified Network Associate and Cisco Certified Network Professional. Some CEO participants are becoming registered with the state as HVAC technicians, and several clients have earned their commercial driver’s licenses and are now work with trucking companies.

How does your team go above and beyond in seeking out job upgrades and serving highly-skilled clients? We’d love to hear at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Names changed to protect client privacy.

Post written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele

Interactive Map Shows Foreign-trained Occupational Licensing Law Updates

IMPRINT has created a map showing legislative updates related to the occupational licensing of foreign-trained immigrants and refugees. IMPRINT is a coalition of organizations such as the Welcome Back Initiative, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and Upwardly Global that identifies and promotes best practices in the integration of immigrant professionals.

Click here to see if your state has laws that are either pending or have been enacted from 2014-2017. Several of the laws focus on healthcare professionals; educational and architectural professionals are also included. Other laws establish task forces that will evaluate credentials and workforce integration of foreign-trained professionals, rather than focusing on specific industries.

While you’re visiting IMPRINT’s website, check out another resource they have available, mentioned in a previous Higher bloga map showing organizations and resources available for skilled immigrants across the country.

Guest post written by Carrie Thiele

Three Critical Factors for Developing Occupational Training Programs

How do you decide which refugee occupational training programs to develop when there are countless options?

Huda Muhammed, IRC Baltimore Program coordinator

Maryland has found a winning strategy that includes labor market evaluation, employer input, and consideration of client interests and past experience. ORR’s Targeted Assistance Program (TAP/TAG) grant is given by Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) to Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MIMA).

MIMA works with training program providers to ensure contextualized Vocational English language training (VELT)and industry-recognized credentials (where required by employers) are part of each program.

MIMA chose to subcontract a portion of its funding to the International Rescue Committee to provide industry recognized training programs, in addition to placement and case management services. The IRC is using the funding to partner with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and different vendors to provide medical front office, welding, and forklift training programs, all adapted for the refugee community.

The focus areas for these short-term occupational programs were chosen very carefully. Huda Muhammed, Program Coordinator at IRC, says, “The first thing I do when thinking about training in the Baltimore area is go to O*NET and research occupational growth projections, average salaries, and for potential employers in the area.”  The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration and is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Muhammed then validates her data with local employers, she shares ideas on training programs, and she gauges employers’ interest in hiring training program graduates. This ensures training programs respond to real workforce needs.

A final step in the selection of trainings to develop is to “always look at the background of your clients and the jobs they’ve had before,” said Huda. Many of her clients have welding experience and were very interested in obtaining a welding program certification in the U.S., confirming that it was a solid training focus.

The process has paid off – the average wage for graduates of any of the training programs was more than $13 per hour in July 2017.

We’d love to hear about short-term occupational programs in your state. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

Guest post by Carrie Thiele.

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.

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.

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 

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.

Webinar Alert!

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 

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: