Building a Story Bank to Support Your Program’s Success

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. –Robert McKee

The recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Workforce GPS webinar, Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Success, provided some great ideas for collecting stories that can inspire our clients, encourage employers, and inform the community.

Why are personal stories important? Research indicates that people remember information better when it’s delivered through a story. Potential employers learning about refugee employment services may be more likely to connect with you by hearing a story about a client overcoming barriers to reach their career goals rather than hearing just the facts about your team’s outstanding placement numbers and retention rates. Most importantly, make sure you obtain every client’s consent on a document that they sign. Without a client’s consent their story cannot be shared.

Sharing stories requires having them available. Presenters Lenora Thompson and John Rakis of Coffey Consulting LLC shared these tips for building and maintaining a story bank:

  • Have a variety of stories ready to meet a variety of audiences. Save your stories by theme or by audience for ease in locating the right one.
  • Ensure your materials are high-quality, whether the story is delivered verbally, in written format, through photographs or by video.
  • Protect your client’s identity as needed by using a completely different first name.
  • Have accompanying media releases on hand.
  • Keep your story bank up to date so that it’s relevant to any current issues occurring in the news.
  • Enlist volunteers to build your story bank – journalism students, retirees or videographers would make great candidates!
  • Share the stories far and wide in your agency’s newsletters, website and social media pages, as well as in community presentations, job readiness classes and in one-on-one conversations with employers and clients.

Interested in learning more about crafting an effective story? Check out the complete power point presentation and a downloadable list of additional storytelling resources on the DOL’s Workforce GPS website. You can also visit the National Storytelling Network’s website to find story collections, additional resources, and for information on small grants that could be used to help build your agency’s story bank.

Do you have an example of an effective employer or client story? We’d love to share it! Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Want a well-paying job with benefits for your clients? Consider apprenticeships!

According to experts on National Public Radio’s (WAMU 88.5) program that originally aired on June 12th titled How To Earn Six Figures Without A Four-Year Degree, by 2025 there will be two million jobs needing skilled labor that will go unfilled if today’s labor market conditions hold. The program featured four experts from different backgrounds who discussed the merits of apprenticeship job training over more traditional forms of education.

The takeaway for you:

  • Many jobs do not require four year college degrees and pay middle income wages, including some in the six figures
  • Many positions are most easily accessed via apprenticeships

What is an apprenticeship?

  1. It is typically a three to four year training program where you are learning the building blocks of a specific job, leading to mastery in an occupational area and professional certification that travels with you. Some apprenticeships are for a set amount of time, while others are competency-based, allowing apprentices to complete their training as fast as their aptitude allows.
  2. You are working and getting paid while also completing academic coursework that is tailored to the position and provides a foundational and conceptual framework.
  3. You are learning under direct supervision of a skilled expert.
  4. You are training to take an available job with that same company.

Apprenticeships have been around for centuries but in the last century they lost favor as the four-year college experience was increasingly sought after and promoted by parents and school guidance counselors. This trend appears to be reversing however. Factors including an aging American workforce, the career preferences of younger American workers, and the emergence of new technologies requiring specialized skills have all contributed to an ever-increasing gap between available jobs and good candidates for those jobs. As a result, there is a renewed interest in apprenticeships as a strategy for incentivizing workers and filling labor shortages.

Panelist Robert Lerman, a Fellow at the Urban Institute and a founder of the American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship, discussed the difficulty of the school-based-only approach for some young people.  Courses in a four-year degree program do not always feature relevant, skill-based learning, so why spend the time and money? To illustrate this point the program spoke with Cory McCray, a current Delegate in the Maryland House of Representatives and former electrician who completed an apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. As an apprentice in the construction trade McCray did not assume the levels of debt accrued by his peers who went to four-year colleges because he had fewer classes and completed paid work as part of his training. He argues that the academic coursework he did have was motivating because it led to a quality performance on the job.

Other panelists spoke about the challenges of making an informed decision about a career path without some significant exposure in the workplace. For example, businesses in the tech industry find that hands-on workplace learning is essential to helping staff gain mastery in their field. Ken Hitchcock, Director of the Pickens County Career and Technology Center in Liberty, South Carolina stated that many apprenticeships provide additional support to those that believe they have poor math abilities or those that need English language support by providing remedial classes.

In what industries are apprenticeships located?

According to guest Nicholas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, there are lots of opportunities in a variety of industries: manufacturing, IT (including cyber security), health, finance, aeronautics, mechanics, electronics, culinary arts, and construction.

Finding national and state registered apprenticeship programs in your area.

Check with your Workforce Development Board for the resources in your community. As an example, check out this great resource produced by the Oakland County Workforce Development agency in Michigan and provided by Jennifer Llewellyn, Manager of the agency.

You will find general and location-specific information on apprenticeships here at the Department of Labor Apprenticeship USA website.

So let’s get to work for our clients of all ages!

Additional Resources                                                      

See previous blog post on apprenticeships from Higher:

http://www.higheradvantage.org/workforce-resource-registered-apprenticeship/

National Apprenticeship Week is November 13-19

https://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/NAW/

This post is written by Guest Blogger Alicia Wrenn, Assistant Director of Integration at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Does your agency utilize apprenticeships for clients? If, yes please let Higher know by writing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Training Shortens Entry Path into U.S. Financial Field

We’ve all learned that having overseas financial services experience doesn’t guarantee quick entry into the U.S. banking industry. Fortunately that traditionally long journey toward entering the U.S. financial sector has been shortened for some refugees, thanks to industry training initiatives.

Pictured is Baktash Muhammadi

Baktash Muhammadi, for example, resettled from Afghanistan to the U.S. in the summer of 2017,  started Goodwill’s BankWork$ financial services training program within three weeks of arrival. Upon completion of the free, eight-week training program, Baktash was quickly employed as a relationship banker at Bank of the West and is on a career path he loves!

BankWork$ provides training for young adults from low income and minority communities to prepare them for jobs as bank tellers, customer service representatives, and personal bankers. Graduates are supported not only in their initial job searches, but receive continued mentoring to help with future job upgrades as well. Last year, BankWork$ placed 75% of its graduates with partner banks, including Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. Click here to see their upcoming class schedule as well as application information. If your city isn’t currently included, check out other Federal Employment Training Program options in your state and stay tuned for future updates from BankWork$ as they continue to add new sites around the country.

Written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele.

Targeting Growing Industries as a Job Developer

Are you looking to connect with potential employers in fast-growing fields? Here are two online resources to help you make new connections and diversify your pool of job leads.

  1. CareerOneStop lists the 50 fastest-growing industries in the U.S., and that list might spark some ideas for you in looking up industry-specific employers in your area with the Business Finder, which includes contact information for some 12 million businesses. It’s quick and easy to use!
  2. Join LinkedIn “groups” related to the growing field you’d like to explore for potential job openings. Joining a group connects you with numerous employers that you can message personally to set up in-person introductions. Here’s how:
    • Search for industry groups by typing in the name of an employment field the “search” bar at the top left of linkedin.com. A quick search of “healthcare,” for example, returned results such as a “Healthcare Industry Professionals” group with nearly 100,000 members.
    • Click on one of the group names you’re interested in; then click “request to join” on the right side of the page.
    • Once the administrator has approved your request, you can click on the group to access a list of members. Send private messages to set up informational interviews that can help you land a new employer!

What are some other ways you’ve found to successfully diversity your network of employers? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org

Written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele.

 

3 Tools to Help Identify Your Clients’ Skills

The urgent need for qualified employees in fast-growing fields is shifting employer’s priorities from requiring specific credentials toward identifying in-demand skills. This is beneficial for our clients, who often have the skills required for jobs but do not have U.S. credentials upon arrival. Here are three tools that can help you identify your clients’ skills:

These resources are all linked under the job seekers’ page at Skillful, a web-based initiative that aims to align people looking for work, training programs, and career coaches with the specific skills heavily needed by employers.

This post was written by Guest Blogger, Carrie Thiele.

Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Leveraging First Placements: How to be Strategic with Entry Level Jobs

Refugees arriving in the U.S. need to begin working as soon as possible. Our job as refugee employment professionals is to make that happen. While a refugee’s first job will rarely be their “dream job”, there are ways to leverage the first placement so that it becomes the first step on a career ladder, rather than a “dead-end job. There are also ways to ensure employers see refugees as employees worthy of long-term investment, rather than short-term labor solutions.

Join Higher’ s Nicole Redford and front-line refugee employment practitioners for a webinar that will present strategies for finding and landing employers who will offer not just a first job but a first step on a career-ladder.  Guest speakers include Hilary Lucas of Catholic Charities of Cleveland and Lindsey Saultz of Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains.

To register please click here.

 

Workforce Collaborative Brings Together Local Service Providers to Enhance Refugee Work Readiness

When looking at ways to enhance your job readiness training or employment placement, has your agency tried looking into existing community organizations doing similar work?

Local collaboration can mean more than working with other refugee agencies. Collaboration and partnership with other nonprofits in your community doing similar work can maximize the benefits of your employment programs. Like using a bank to teach your financial literacy courses. Looking to other nonprofits who are doing job development or job readiness courses is a great way to further develop opportunities for your clients.

This week, guest blogger Elizabeth Ringler shares an example from Pennsylvania.

A workforce collaborative in Pittsburgh, Pa has launched a new initiative to enhance refugee work readiness through targeted training. The collaborative includes the Career Development Center at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which is a resettlement agency, and the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.  Together, the two organizations serve large numbers of refugees and immigrants in Allegheny County, Pa. This collaboration was made possible through the All for All Immigrant Workforce Initiative organized by the City of Pittsburgh.

Refugees participating in the program meet twice a week to learn job readiness skills including how to look for a job, resume writing, interview preparation, and networking skills. The program also offers opportunities to enhance participants’ computer literacy and workforce specific English language skills. Additionally, the program offers on-site childcare for participants.

“This program aims to teach immigrants about the American job search process and work culture, and supports each individual in developing a job search strategy that meets their needs and leads to long term career success. By working with regional employers, we hope to showcase the important role and economic value immigrants have in Pittsburgh,” says Career Development Center Director Sarah Welch.

To learn more about the All for All Immigrant Workforce Initiative, contact Iris Valanti, Public Relations Associate, Jewish Family & Children’s Service Email: ivalanti@jfcspgh.org

If your agency does a similar event please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

Frontline Perspective: Former Refugees Now Working in Refugee Employment Share Their Advice

Many of our colleagues in refugee employment are former refugees. These staff members bring with them valuable first-hand knowledge of the refugee experience, critical language skills, and a unique perspective that benefits us all.

It’s important to acknowledge, however, the personal challenges and cultural adjustment that these staff members have successfully navigated (or are currently navigating) in order to be effective in their roles.

Speaking about his own experience getting started in refugee resettlement and employment services in 2011, former Higher Peer Advisor Subash Acharya says:

 “[As a Job Developer coming from a different cultural background] I found it challenging to build rapport with employers in the beginning…Many did not feel comfortable with me because they had never worked with someone like me in the past.”

Over time Subash developed strategies for overcoming these challenges, and  eventually was promoted to Employment Services Coordinator at Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord, NH. In this role he managed a successful refugee employment program from 2015-2017, before transitioning out of refugee services in order to pursue the next steps in his own professional journey.

We wondered what the experience of other former refugees now working in refugee employment has been like, so during a breakout session at Higher’s 3rd Annual Refugee Employment Workshop, we asked these individuals to answer 3 questions:

  1. What was your biggest challenge when you began working in refugee employment?
  2. What advice do you have for new refugee employment staff coming from a refugee background?
  3. How can management at resettlement agencies support staff coming from a refugee background?

Here is what they had to say:

Biggest Challenges of refugee employment staff from a refugee background (past and present challenges)

  • Adapting to a new culture while trying to help others (many from cultures different from mine) adapt at the same time can be difficult.
  • Clients from my culture often have higher expectations of me and sometimes expect me to show them favoritism.
  • Coworkers, clients and employers sometimes have had difficulty understanding my accent.
  • Coming from a different culture, early on I had some difficulty building relationships with American employers.

Advice for refugee employment staff from a refugee background

  • Be open-minded and not too judgmental towards your coworkers and clients.
  • Stop…think about when you first arrived. Then act. Your perspective as a former refugee will help you.
  • Be flexible, and don’t take things personally.
  • Work hard on your own cultural adaptation so that you can set an example for clients.

Advice for management about hiring and working with staff from a refugee background

  • Provide additional cultural orientation and be patient as these staff members continue to adapt to American culture.
  • Don’t just hire for language ability; hire former refugees who have some experience with American culture as well as the professional skills necessary for the job.
  • Just like clients, former refugees now working in refugee employment services are adjusting to general American culture as well as American workplace culture. Set these team members up for success by clearly communicating professional expectations and office etiquette.
  • Respect the unique perspective of the former refugees on your team; show an interest in their culture and demonstrate a willingness to learn from them.

We hope that sharing the perspective of our colleagues coming from a refugee background will be a reminder of their vital contributions and provide an opportunity for coworkers and supervisors to think through how they can best support and learn from these staff members.

Head, Heart, Hands: A Strategy for Employer Conversations

When I was a rookie job developer just starting out I came up with a little strategy that I would use when approaching employers. I called it Head, Heart, Hands, and it represented 3 simple messages that I wanted to communicate to employers:

  1. Head: It makes good business sense to hire refugees- it will be a good investment.
  2. Heart: I’m doing something positive by hiring refugees- I’m helping someone rebuild their life.
  3. Hands: It will make my life easier to work with this job developer and hire refugees.

Original Sketch, Daniel Wilkinson, Circa 2011

While I had initially thought of the elements of Head, Heart and Hands as the three points on my employer pitch outline, what I began to realize was that it wasn’t as important to hit all three points, but rather to identify which of the elements was the driving motivation for the employer.

Some employers’ primary concerns may be business issues such as high turnover, frequent employee absences, lazy workers, or issues affecting their bottom line. For these employers you take the “Head” approach and emphasize how your clients will meet the employers’ need where past employees have fallen short. You might highlight client retention rates, strong work ethic or the Work Opportunity Tax Credit incentive.

Other employers just need workers fast. They’re looking for an easy solution to their current labor shortage. For those employers, you take the “Hands” approach, and emphasize how you can solve that problem by getting them work-authorized, motivated and dependable employees quickly.

Finally, there are employers out there who get really excited about the “Heart” aspect. Some may be immigrants or descendants of immigrants and identify with the struggle from that perspective. Others may just have a strong motivation to help others. Although the “business case” is typically much more effective than the “charity pitch,” if you can tell that an employer is really excited to help refugees from more of a humanitarian perspective, then run with it!

Do you have a go-to strategy that you use when walking into a meeting with an employer? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org or in the comments section below!

Free Job Development Webinar June 27- Space Limited!

Mark your calendars for an upcoming FREE webinar from our friends at DTG-EMP/Kenfield Consulting.

The webinar, “3 Red Hot Issues Every Successful Job Developer Must Address” will take place on Tuesday, June 27, from 9-10 AM Pacific Standard Time and will give an overview of the basics of the Consultative Selling model – a job development model designed for those assisting job seekers with significant barriers to employment.

The webinar will focus specifically on the following:

• How to Convince employers to hire a candidate they would typically reject
• How to Assess clients for motivation to work and when motivation is an issue implement basic intervention techniques that work
• How to Find employers who will hire candidates with employment barriers

This webinar is limited to 200 registrants, so visit www.dtg-emp.com to sign up now!

How can Consultative Selling help refugee employment programs? Listen to what Ryan Overfield, Manager of Refugee Education and Employment Programs at
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, had to say about his staff’s experience implementing this model:

For more on Consultative Selling, check out Higher’s Consultative Selling Resource Pack, located in the Downloadable Resources section of our website.