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 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.

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.

 

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!

Workforce Resource: Registered Apprenticeship

Source: www.rittal.com

Source: www.rittal.com

Welcome to the fourth post in our series featuring some of the tools, resources and programs available in the mainstream workforce system, shaped by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and delivered through the national network of American Job Centers serving all U.S. job seekers.

It’s a complex, resource-rich system underutilized in refugee employment services. Higher is determined to change that so our clients benefit from new opportunities and employment services.

We’ll do the research you don’t have time for amidst managing client caseloads and employer relationships. You can focus on using highlighted resources to help your clients succeed in the U.S. workforce.

So far we’ve highlighted online tools that you can utilize in your job counseling and job development efforts, as well as On-the-job Training. In this post we’ll talk about the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships Are Making a Comeback

Source: https://www.dol.gov/featured/apprenticeship/shareables

www.dol.gov/featured/apprenticeship/shareables

When you think of an apprenticeship, you probably think of a unionized position in a skilled trade. That’s because that was what the U.S. Apprenticeship program looked like when it started about 75 years ago.

Today there are more than 400,000 registered apprenticeships in more than 1,000 occupations.

Since 2014, the US has added more than 75,000 new apprenticeships, the largest increase in nearly a decade. Some of these are traditional apprenticeships in the skilled trades, but many are non-traditional apprenticeships in fields including Healthcare, Information Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics and Energy. Learn more about DOL industry priorities here.

(Re)starting a U.S. Career Through Registered Apprenticeship

Registered Apprenticeship combines classroom-based learning with structured on-the-job learning. This federally funded “earn while you learn” training program allows employers to develop a highly qualified workforce and helps apprentices learn a trade while earning a living wage.

A Registered Apprenticeship can last anywhere from 1-6 years (most are 4 year programs) and always leads to a nationally recognized credential that is both portable and scalable.

This means that apprenticeships lead to even more opportunity for additional career advancement for job seekers who might choose to take their skills and credential to a different employer or another State.  They might also decide later to obtain a higher level credential as they advance further in their chosen career.

The Five Components of Registered Apprenticeship

While Registered Apprenticeship can be organized differently and customized to the needs of the employer, there are five components to all Registered Apprenticeship programs:  

A Quick-Start Toolkit: Building Registered Apprenticeship Programs, U.S. Department of Labor / Apprenticeship USA

Source: A Quick-Start Toolkit: Building Registered Apprenticeship Programs, U.S. Department of Labor

Are Registered Apprenticeships a Good Fit for Refugees?

Apprenticeships can be a great fit for refugees, particularly those with higher levels of English coming from more skilled backgrounds—whether that be a professional from a STEM industry or a “blue collar” worker with experience in the skilled trades.

Registered apprenticeships have the potential to function as a bridge that overcomes refugees’ lack of US work experience and helps them obtain a “Made in America” industry credential – all while earning a living wage.

Imagine what a difference it could make, both financially and emotionally, for some of our higher-skilled clients to be putting their skills to use, learning new skills, gaining credentials, and earning $5+ above minimum wage. (Most apprenticeship positions start around $15/hour).

Challenges to Anticipate

We believe this is a great opportunity, but it won’t be easy to access. As we’ve noted in past posts, the mainstream workforce development system is huge and complex. Many who work in this system are unfamiliar with refugees. In addition, apprenticeships work differently in different states and expertise is largely centralized in federal and state government.

It will take a significant amount of staff time to figure out how things work in your state or locality. One way that refugee employment programs have overcome this challenge is to assign a staff member or volunteer to be liaison to key stakeholders in the mainstream system, including American Job Centers (AJC), Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), and state/city workforce offices.

With intentional planning and commitment, we believe it’s worth the time to overcome the challenge of access to mainstream programs like Registered Apprenticeship.

3 Ways to Explore Apprenticeship Opportunities

  1. Get to know you state apprenticeship office and other mainstream workforce development players in your area. Start by finding the office for apprenticeship in your state. This list includes all DOL apprenticeship contacts by state.  If you have a hard time connecting with the apprenticeship office, connect with staff at your local American Job Center, and they may be able to help connect you to the right person or organization to talk to.
  1. Search for local apprenticeship opportunities using the map available on the US Department of Labor’s website. You can also use the Apprenticeship Finder search tool on careeronestop.org. It may be strategic to begin intentional outreach efforts with companies and unions that you know have apprenticeships that could match client skills. Take a look at this list of current Apprenticeship grantees to see where apprenticeships may already be happening in your area.
  1. Talk to the employers that you already work with, and make sure they are aware of the federal Registered Apprenticeship program. Who knows? Maybe one of your employer partners would be interested in creating an Apprenticeship program specifically for refugee-background employees. Share this helpful toolkit and  for employers interested in creating Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Resources for Learning More

For more information and resources on Registered Apprenticeships, visit the ApprenticeshipUSA website.

Be sure to look at the ApprenticeshipUSA toolkit, where you can access eLearning modules on the Registered Apprenticeship program, as well as other information about setting up apprenticeship programs and/or marketing them to employers.

If you have any experience with placing refugees in apprenticeships, please email us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your insights on this career path strategy.