Government Shutdown 101: What Does It Mean for Migrants and Refugees?

It’s common knowledge that the federal government shut down at midnight September 30.  But now many of us are now wondering what the shutdown means for migrants and refugees.  Read more in this re-post from LIRS President Linda Hartke’s blog.

Also, as most of you probably  know already, refugee arrivals will be frozen until October 21, except for a few extreme medical cases.  Please let Higher know at if you have additional information, questions or experience with maintaining refugee employment services in light of the shut down.



10 Job Possibilites for Low Skilled Clients

It’s always a struggle to help clients with little obvious marketable experience and very low English language skills find their first job.  Volunteering, training or part-time work can be helpful, but the majority of these clients also comeWant Ads from the most vulnerablefamilies, so income without delay is critical.  Here are 10 potential jobs that have worked for others in the network.  If you don’t have employer contacts in these sectors, start building relationships now.

  1. Recycling – sorting single streams, electronic component break-down or simple processing into reusable materials could be contractor or government jobs.   
  2. Road- or Curb- side Trash Pick-up – it’s hot work, but road crews often leave from central locations and can be full time seasonal work for people who don’t want to work indoors
  3. Goodwill Sheltered Employment – Opportunities could include retail stores, donation sorting and vocational training.  Lack of English is often a qualifying barrier.
  4. Food Processing – think beyond meat packing to the booming locavore, organic and artisanal sectors, as well as frozen food.  Look at grocery store suppliers, too.
  5. Farming/gardening/landscaping – look into arboretums, urban farms, corporate campuses, apartment complexes, nurseries, garden stores and lawn care services
  6. General labor with a small contractor – larger companies may have inflexible safety and security parameters, but small contractors or independent professionals may be willing to give clients a chance.
  7. Vehicle detailing – car washes, rental car agencies, other businesses with commercial fleets – like Greyhound or school districts and contract detailing services.
  8. Home Healthcare for Relatives – in some cases, SSDI benefits can include payment for in-home care provided by a family member. Find out more from resettlement colleagues or other social work professionals.
  9. Housekeeping – many clients are afraid of this type of work, but hotels are key employers in many places. Nursing homes, office cleaning contractors or anywhere with public space could also be options for this type of work.
  10. Dishwasher Hotels, convention service contractors, chain restaurants and nursing homes can all be great possibilities.  Some fast food chains have separate positions with no customer contact, which can also be good options.

Employer Outreach Brochures 101

Brochure PhotoNo matter how your agency is structured or how you handle job development, everyone needs an effective marketing brochure.  A leave-behind that summarized your services and reaches out to potential employers is a basic that can be intimidating to develop.  Here are ideas, steps and examples to make it not so scary.

What you put together doesn’t have to be produced by an expensive consultant.  (Huh, as if, right?)   In fact, some  non-profit Directors of Communication or Development caution that something too glossy can make it look like you don’t need the help or that you might be wasting resources.  Noone wants to leave that impression, which is rarely true in our field, anyway.

Who Should Develop Your Marketing Piece? 

If you’re lucky enough to have access to your development or communications team, they could be very helpful.  You might be able to tap into intern or volunteer talent.  There’s no reason why you can’t do it yourself.  You could pass a draft around the office for feedback.  If you have a good relationship with an employer, you could ask them to review a final draft, as well.

What Information Should You Include?

Higher has recently collected three good examples that are available for you to download on our website.   They come from different sources and were intended for use by one or more agencies.  All of them are effective examples with lots of good ideas you can use as models for your own brochure.  Thanks to Volag USCRI, Lutheran Services Carolinas and Caritas of Austin, TX for letting us share their great examples.

Don’t worry or deliberate too much. Just get started.   Identify the information you want to include.  Look for pictures and graphics you can use.  Work with the data you have available already.  It’s easier than you think.  Even if you already have a brochure, you could improve or update it with fresh photos, more recent data or a new success story.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Use business vs nonprofit language:  Be succinct.  Direct.  Brief.  Speak their language.
  • What’s in it for them?:  That’s the lead in – not the plight of refugees or the services we’re so passionate about.  Think Free, Pre-screened, work authorized, job retention, support, easy, interpretation.
  • Use numbers and statistics:  Provide concrete and quantifiable information you have or can pull together from existing donor reports or performance data.  Consider job retention rate.  Pie chart of industries where refugees area already working.  Number of employees placed or number of employers who hired them.
  • “Join the Club”:   No risk in jumping on the band wagon.  Give them a list of area employers who already hire.  Don’t leave out national names or the competition in an industry you want to target.  Include a tesimonial quote from a supportive employer, preferably someone influential and clearly in a leadership role.
  • Give it visual punch:  Graphics.  White space.  Pictures of refugees at work.  A success story from a refugee who has moved up, won an award or is also an employer.
  • Remember the 5 second rule:  Hiring managers/employers are busy.  They make a decision to consider your pitch in just five seconds.  If they can’t immediately see what you’re asking and why they should listen, they won’t.  Wordy, cumbersome brochures may just go into the circular file.
  • Don’t forget to provide contact information:  Be sure they can find you.  Staple a business card.  Place contact info prominently.  Consider creating a dedicated email address that won’t be affected by staff turnover.
  • Spread it around:  Leave it everywhere you go.  Put it on coffee shop bulletin boards.  Do an electronic version so you can attach it to emails.  Load it on your website.  Always have some with you.

5 Places to Find Job Leads

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes you just run out of ideas or feel like all of your new employer prospects are dead.  Here are five accessible places to find fresh leads

1.  Mine monthly reports for employers who have already hired a refugee.  These will be soft targets likely already somewhat familiar with our client population and perhaps curious about their country of origin and journey to the US.  If the employee still works there and is doing well, it could be an even stronger lead.  You can provide more information, outline your employment services and explore ways to leverage that first success into additional opportunities.

2.  Ask existing Employers to recommend and refer. Think about similar businesses or others in their supply chain.  For example, a hotel will have contacts with other properties or with a linen service.  A construction firm might work with a single stream recycler or industrial cleaning contractor.  A grocery store might refer you to wholesalers or small local food production operations.

3.  Don’t forget about the power of your own dollars and contacts.  My friends make fun of me when I ask about jobs on my own time – even doing personal errands or on evenings out with friends.  But it works.  My dry cleaner hired a client in their processing facility and I found a great lead from the emergency repair man called when a broken water main flooded a friend’s backyard cookout.

4.  Think about Craigslist and other job boards for more than current openings.  When you see openings that might be a good fit for your clients, respond with a quick marketing pitch and attach an electronic copy of your employment services brochure.  It’s quick and easy and you never know who might respond.  If you can identify the company by name, don’t be afraid to call them up to offer a qualified, pre-screened candidate if you have one – or request a meeting to introduce yourself.  They’ll be more motivated to hear how you can help when they’re swamped with hundreds of unqualified job board applicants.

5.  Follow business news and industry publications for leads and trends.  Many cities have a Business Journal that publishes an annual Book of Lists including top employers in a number of different categories.  Your agency’s development office probably has a copy they’ll share.  News about promotions and industry leaders can give you the name of a hiring authority or let you know that someone who already knows about you has moved to a different company that should also hire your clients.  Announcements of new construction can tip you off to a major new employer in advance so you have time to develop the right connections and help them get started.


Make your Business Card Work Harder for You

Ever throw away a business card you obviously saved for some reason but couldn’t remember why?Business Card Blurb

As a Job Developer, I left a card everywhere I went, but was afraid  people wouldn’t remember us when they had a job opening.  Here’s an easy, quick and cost-effective solution.

Add a brief pitch to the back of your business cards.  You can do it the next time you reprint – or add on now with a sticker you can make yourself.  You won’t have to spend any extra money to get extra results from your job development efforts.

A few prospects I met with actually got in touch later on because of the blurb on my card, which you can see in the picture.  You’re welcome to copy it.  Or, write your own.  Use business language.  Focus on what’s in it for them.  Leave plenty of white space.



Gear Up Now For the Busiest Hiring Season

calendar graphic Welcome Back from Vacation.  Enjoy Indian Summer.  Make the Most of Fall.  Get Ready for the Holidays.  The end of the year will be here before we know it.

Now is the time to find job openings and reach out to new employers.  It it also often a time of heavy arrivals, so there will be plenty of clients who need to work.   Here are some scheduling tips and ideas to help you make the most of Fall opportunities.

School is back in session.  Businesses catering to students will be hiring.  There will be competition from students for part-time jobs.  But there will be turnover and opportunities.   Also, watch for late registration for ESL and community college classes now and watch for dates for orientation and registration for next semester and plan to help clients prepare and reserve time to attend.

Summer’s over.  As the heat breaks, businesses will gear up for fall.  More business travel, festivals and special events mean jobs in restaurants and hotels.   Manufacturers gear up early to meet holiday product orders and will begin hiring now.  Hiring managers are focused, but not as busy as they will be in a couple of months.

Christmas is Coming.  It’s not too late to start helping clients polish their resumes and interview skills, learn how to navigate retail on-line application questionnaires and focusing job development efforts of seasonal jobs.  Don’t forget about Salvation Army Bell Ringer jobs.  See last year’s blog post that talks about details you can use.

Low English Proficiency (LEP) Demographics


Statistical analysis from the Migration Policy Institute highlights the increasing number of LEP residents in the US, especially in metropolitan areas and in California, Texas and New York.  Higher numbers of LEP men work in construction and extraction and LEP women in service and personal care.  How is the picture similar or different for your refugee clients?   Share your success stories, resources or models on our website

Compensation Comparison for Three Attainable Jobs

worker pay

Hourly wage, number of hours per week and access to benefits are all important considerations for our clients.  For the whole article highlighting the benefits to employers of paying a living wage, go to

Large Minnesota Employer Regularly Hires Refugees

Fairview Health Services is one of the largest employers in Minnesota and a strong supporter of refugee employment. With many refugees and political asylees employed at four of their hospitals in the greater Twin Cities area, the Minnesota Council of Churches has found an employer who truly provides newcomers a promising start in America.

According to Katie Thomas, match grant coordinator for Minnesota Council of Churches, “Fairview Health Services is committed to a diverse workforce and to giving refugees an opportunity to begin careers in the U.S.” Under the leadership of a senior human resources director of diversity, Fairview manages a diversity hiring program that has benefited refugees and other candidates looking to enter the healthcare field. Impressed with their investment in their employees, both Katie and her colleague Mike Zaslofsky work hard to nurture a lasting relationship with the company.

Fairview Health Service provides refugees with more than just an entry level job; they are also committed to offering their employees opportunities for advancement. Several refugees have been promoted while employed at the hospitals. One employee began as a Nutrition Services Aide and is now doing direct patient care as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant after completing a Fairview-sponsored training program. Another client who worked as a pharmacist in Sudan was hired as a pharmacy technician. The hospital hopes to assist him in the re-certification process. The salaries are good too. Newly hired refugees referred by Katie and Mike generally make between $10.41 – $15.00 per hour with benefits.

Supervisors at all four hospitals express enthusiasm about the caliber of employees they have found with newly arrived refugees. Materials Management Supervisor Tim Henry at Fairview Southdale Hospital comments, “[Refugees] are some of the most reliable employees I have. They show initiative, want to be here and any employer would benefit from hiring them because of the attributes they bring to the job. They have a top notch work ethic.”

Employment Representative Jean Shepherd at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, agrees. “I like working with the refugees that are referred from Minnesota Council of Churches because they are eager to be of service to our patients. They have a very positive attitude and they are eager to learn. Mike and Katie send [candidates]who have the skills, as well as the legal documents. Working together is what it’s all about!”

In addition, Steve Kroeker, Director of Nutrition Services at University of Minnesota Medical Center has said, “They’re hard working people who’ve adapted well in our department. They respect others and do great work.”

Seasonal Job Lead

Seasonal Bell Ringer Jobs Build Understanding of Customer Service and US Culture of Giving

Guest Blog Contribution from Higher Peer Expert, Lorel Donaghey, Caritas of Austin

Now is the time that Salvation Army missions across the country begin to take applications for season bell ringer positions, which are full time from Thanksgiving weekend until December 24.  In Austin, we placed 6 refugees as bell ringers last year and hope to place more this year.  The Salvation Army liked the chance to show people that giving is not just a Christian tradition and were happy to demonstrate greater cultural diversity.  For our clients, it offered a resume builder, $8/hour and a great learning experience.  Everyone who grew up in the US knows about Salvation Army Bell Ringers, but the concept is completely foreign to refugees.

Clients needed to be able to say basic greetings in English, keep close track of their kettle at all times, be reliable and be willing to engage people to encourage them to give.  Although they moved to different sites frequently, everyone left and returned to a central site and transportation was provided.  The purpose was to safeguard collections, but it made it much easier for our clients, as well.  We provided quite a lot of interpretation during training and during the first week or so of work and on-going to help things work well.  It was really worth it.  One of our clients won the top collections award one week and all of them got positive feedback from the store managers where they were stationed.  You can read more about the experience in the attached article that we placed in local news media last year.


Refugees Ring in the Holiday Spirit

December 28, 2011

Hundreds of documented refugees come to Caritas of Austin each year fleeing religious and political persecution. For many, the journey to a new life in the United States is the first time leaving the small villages and rural environments where they lived. Caritas helps refugees acclimate to their new home, learn new skills and find employment.

For 10 documented refugees who found employment as bell ringers for the Salvation Army, this year marked their first holiday season in the United States.

The bell ringers are a common holiday tradition seen each year positioned in front of stores and along streets we pass daily. The custom of placing loose change into a bright red kettle is second nature for many. However, for refugees who have never experienced Christmas in the United States, this concept is brand new.

The opportunity to work as bell ringers would provide much needed employment to support their families while learning some of our holiday traditions.

Before beginning their jobs at local bell ringing stations, Caritas case managers and staff from Salvation Army spent time training refugees. They learned the basic principles of the position, including how to say, “welcome,” “thank you,” and “Merry Christmas.”

Aden, a refugee from Somalia, speaks very little English and had no previous exposure to western work and culture. Before coming to the United States, he had only been on a bus twice and was never far from his village.

Aden was stationed at Macy’s at Barton Creek Mall. It was a challenge to help him navigate the store and even find a restroom. But he did it. When his case manager visited him at work, Aden grinned, shook his kettle and said in an amazed voice, “Money is coming. Bell is ringing and they are giving!”

Basra, another refugee from Somalia, arrived for her first day and when Salvation Army Lt. Frankie Zuniga came to check on her, she was dancing, ringing the bell and getting people engaged to donate. Zuniga was amazed as she helped reassure him that Caritas clients can do the job and do it successfully!

Working as bell ringers has helped Caritas clients learn how to engage customers and follow basic work expectations. After only two days of work, they were all clearly feeling more confident about their English and ability to do a valuable job. They have also learned about charitable giving and nonprofit traditions. They were skeptical at first that people would really give, but now they are seeing how it works.

It takes a team of volunteers, interns, staff and translators to help them learn and keep the jobs. The Salvation Army staff has also been very supportive. After one day, they knew that refugees could contribute as valued employees. As the holidays come to an end, the refugees can apply their valuable experience to future positions.