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

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.

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.

Models for Integrating Language and Workforce Development Skills

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a 1-day conference at Johns Hopkins University’s American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington D.C. The theme of the conference was “Integrating Migrants into the Workforce” and focused on immigrant integration efforts in both Germany and the U.S.

One of the most interesting presentations I heard was by Dr. Heidi Wrigley from Literacy Work International. The Presentation focused on models in the U.S. that are leading the way in offering both English instruction and vocational training.

Here are four models that Dr. Wrigley highlighted:

McDonald’s: English Under the Arches

English Under the Arches (EUA) is one of four Archways to Opportunities programs designed to help employees grow professionally.

The program launched in 2007 with the mission to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that teach managers and crew the English they need to communicate effectively and confidently with customers, staff and in their lives outside of McDonald’s.

These classes are free for employees and they are also paid their hourly wage while they are in class. Helping non-native speakers learn English allows them to break down barriers and feel comfortable when communicating effectively with fellow team members, customers, and, most importantly, in their everyday life.

Proficiency in English is often a prerequisite for most jobs in the U.S. and provides mobility for individuals to pursue higher education opportunities, which in turn leads to increased earning power. To learn more about this program, visit the EUA webpage or read the most recent Archways to Opportunity Progress Report.

Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs: Ready to Work

Ready to Work (RTW) is a workforce development program in Seattle, WA designed for immigrants and refugees who face barriers to gaining employment.

The program combines English as a Second Language (ESL) classes with computer literacy instruction and case management to help immigrants gain job readiness skills and take steps toward economic self-sufficiency.

RTW was created as a prototype model of English language acquisition offered in a community-based setting, and focused on career development, and employment. Classes meet four days a week, three hours a day, for a total of 12 hours per week.

Instruction is provided by two Seattle Colleges and Literacy Source (a community-based adult education provider). Unlike many other programs, RTW tracks participants’ progress over a longer time frame than conventional funding streams typically allow.

For more details, see National Skills Coalition’s Amanda Bergson-Shilcock’s blog post from June 2016: Ready to work: Seattle creates new on-ramp for immigrant English learners.

Washington State: I-BEST

Washington’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST) quickly teaches students literacy, work, and college-readiness skills so they can move through school and into living wage jobs faster.

Pioneered by Washington’s community and technical colleges, I-BEST uses a team-teaching approach.

Students work with two teachers in the classroom: one teacher provides job-training and the other teaches basic skills in reading, math or English language.

Students get the help they need while studying in the career field of their choice. The I-BEST program offers several career pathways including Hospitality, Manufacturing and Nursing.

I-BEST challenges the traditional notion that students must move through a pre-determined sequence of basic education or pre-college (remedial) courses before they can start working on certificates or degrees.

The combined teaching method allows students to work on college-level studies right away, clearing multiple levels with one leap.

Check out this video, which features three students sharing their experience with the I-BEST model:

OneAmerica’s English Innovations

English Innovations (EI) is a blended social learning model that integrates English language learning and combines a collaborative, supportive classroom environment with online tools that enable self-paced, independent learning.

Offered as an alternative approach to conventional systems of language instruction which often do not provide the flexibility and resources that adult immigrants need, the EI program includes:

  • Tailored curriculum framework integrating digital literacy skills & language development
  • Blended model for in-class and self-paced learning through online tools and game-based learning
  • A collaborative classroom environment which facilitates cognitive, social and emotional engagement
  • Tutor-facilitated activities, volunteer involvement, and peer support
  • A model grounded in communities, engaging immigrants and immigrant-serving organizations in advocacy for effective English learning and immigrant integration

How do you see ESL and Vocational Training intersecting in your area? Are you aware of an innovative model that we should highlight? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Note: Some language in this post was pulled directly from program websites for the purpose of accurately describing these programs.

 

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.

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/ .