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.

 

Understanding a Paycheck Resource

Understanding Your Paycheck eLearning

Meet Amal, who tells her story to help other refugees thrive in the U.S. workforce.

Looking for a great tool on how to understand a paycheck? Higher has developed the perfect tool for you and your clients. Our eLearning module Understanding Your Paycheck, is available through Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

Here are five reasons to check out this resource, according to your peers:

  1. It takes less than six minutes to complete the course.

“The module is really well developed and covers all the aspects of the paycheck in a very short duration of the time.”  Bidur Dahal, Education Trainer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains

2. It’s a great addition to any job readiness class.

“This module was a great tool. I thought it was very user friendly and clear. We will use this in our first job readiness class in April.”  Lauren Brockett, Director of Employment Services at Friends of Refugees – Cafe Clarkston

3. Or maybe to employment orientation.

“It clarifies the paycheck, pay stub and deductions very well. I am really excited about this module and will be very happy to present it to my clients. I will try to make it part of my employment orientation.”  Kawa Hawari, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

4. It feels more like a story than a training.

“I thought it was excellent! I definitely see this as a great job readiness workshop resource. We talk to our clients about understanding pay stubs in detail, but I like this module so much because there’s a story to it—it makes it so much more relatable. Looking forward to being able to use this for our clients! ” Tawni Floyd, Employment Manager at World Relief Tri-Cities

5. It covers more than just the basics.

“I just viewed the paycheck module. It is great! It is short, so that will make it easy to show in class with interpreters. I also like the emphasis on respectfully talking to your boss if you think there is a problem with your paycheck. I love these modules.”  Jessica Ploen, Employment Training Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

 

An eLearning Resource: Interview Behavior Videos

Ever wanted to be able to show clients what a bad interview looks like? Well you are in luck, check out Higher’s Online Learning Institute. You can access the complete module right now with your username and password.  If you aren’t already taking advantage of our 13 eLearning courses, sign up here for instant access to these videos and the other eLearning courses.

Here are 4 things to know about this exciting new resource:

  1. There are two short videos with examples of good and bad interview behaviors.
  2. You can also get transcripts and suggestions for using the module with clients in the companion resource section.
  3. More than 20 resettlement programs across the country are using our eLearning courses in their job readiness activities.
  4.  The job seekers in the videos are refugees. Thanks to them and to African Community Center (ACC), Denver, CO for helping out.

Here’s a sneak peek at Interview Behavior Videos. 

Email Higher at information@higheradvantage.org to let us know what you think, how you’re using our latest eLearning resource and what else would be helpful.

A More Interactive Approach for Job Readiness Class

The infographic below contains several tips when designing your job club curriculum. Best courses for refugee learners should not only include more interactivity, but aim for greater retention.  The current best practice is to introduce new material in 20 minute chunks. This does not mean job readiness classes need to be short, rather the lesson should be designed to reinforce those main ideas and core concepts.

For example, when teaching workers’ rights, you teach the right to a work place free from discrimination. Give real life examples of what discrimination looks like and share a story of a client who experienced discrimination. Then ask the group if they have ever experienced discrimination.

To give another example, when preparing clients for job interviews, you could do a lesson on hygiene and appropriate clothes to wear and then give clients 5 minutes to pick out a perfect interview outfit from a pile of clothes.

What have you found works best for your clients? Tell us your job readiness success stories or contact us for help on how to design a great curriculum. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

 

Celebrating a Client’s First Job

The way you respond to a client’s first job can make all the difference in their success in the workplace.  Celebrating a client’s first job sets the tone for the client making them more positive about what they have accomplished. Refugees spend months or years waiting to reenter the workforce. The words “You’re hired” can come as an enormous relief. A job gives clients a sense of being in control of their own lives again. Though a client may often feel disappointment in accepting an entry-level position, celebrating that job can encourage them to see this as an accomplishment and not a step-down.

Celebrating a client’s first job might be part of your regular routine and does not need to be time consuming or costly.  It’s also a great way to engage the community. Community donations for first jobs and volunteer hours might be counted towards your match for Matching Grant programs. For example, community members might donate items needed like bus cards, nonslip shoes, and hygiene products, or they might donate hours toward tasks such as mock interviews or helping clients navigate their bus route to work.

Client at USCRI North Carolina

Helping clients see their situation through a positive lens can also help with job retention. It won’t make their job easier but it does help them refocus on the positive steps that they are taking rather than the negative aspects of their new job. At all milestones in our clients’ lives here it’s important to be proud and supportive of them.

Here are two great examples from the field:

Job bags: At USCRI North Carolina’s office, employment staff use a combination of education and celebration. After obtaining a first job, a job bag is awarded to the client by employment staff. As staff hand out the bag they applaud and congratulate the client in front of their peers during job club. The contents of the bag include hygiene products, a water bottle to make sure clients remember to stay hydrated, a lunch bag to remind clients to bring food to work, a pen and notepad, an umbrella, some breath mints and a travel toothbrush and paste.

All the items for the bags are donated and put together by volunteers. The staff take the client’s photo with their bag and the photos decorate the walls of the office.

A Celebrity Walk: At the IRC of Tucson, actual cheers of joy erupt from the entire office staff any time a client gets a job. This type of celebration can make a client feel like a celebrity and is a positive influence on all other clients in the office working towards their first job.

Do you have a unique way of celebrating clients? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org and share your story.

Creative, Participatory Employment Plans that Work

fish-copyA guest blog post by Cassie Smith, former Employment Specialist for Caritas of Austin, TX

Refugee employment programs often require clients to create an employment plan for short-term and long-term success. Being newly exposed to American culture and the local job market, clients often find themselves bewildered by the process.

When Cassie Smith was an Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin in Texas, she noticed that clients fell into two categories: those with no career aspirations and those with unrealistic expectations.In an effort to help both types of clients understand and buy in to the goals set in the employment plan, Cassie developed a tool to help clients map their way to success.

Continue reading below to hear Cassie explain the strategy she developed.

Moving Beyond Survival Mode

First, I worked with clients who had no expectations about possible careers in the United States. Their focus had been about survival for so long that they did not have dreams of doing a job that was interesting or even one where they could prosper. Unlike Americans who are asked from a young age about what they want to be when they grow up, these clients simply had no exposure or did not dare to think about what could be.

Developing Attainable Goals

I also had clients whose expectations were blown out of proportion by ideas of the United States as the land milk and honey—a place where they could become wealthy by trading in on their education from their home countries.

These individuals often tried to fast forward their employment plan by applying for jobs that were out of reach because of the lack of language skills, professional experience in the United States, or lack of the necessary certifications, licensures, and degrees. These clients’ focus was often so out of touch with their economic reality that they were passing up money-making survival jobs in order to pursue unattainable goals.

Both types of clients lacked basic knowledge about the steps to achieve employment success in the context of U.S. work culture. I needed a way to talk about the process of getting a survival job, keeping it (the most difficult part), and achieving long-term employment in a field that they might enjoy.

Given that my clients ranged in age, gender, experience, language skills, literacy and education, I also needed a format that could address any number of barriers and skill sets.

I decided on a tailored visual and collaborative method as a way to teach clients about the employment process to create a unique plan who them their own possibilities.

The Employment House:  A Step by Step Process You Can Replicate

I quickly thought of the idea of a house as a model for the plan. The image of a house was one all of my clients could relate to and it had all of the right elements for demonstrating the whys and wherefores of the steps in the process and how to overcome possible obstacles.

I would typically build the house step by step with clients in their second appointment. I liked to do this in conjunction with completing their budget together to demonstrate the urgency of obtaining employment. I used markers and a blank piece of paper as seen in the images below to draw the house in real time, taking clients through the process both visually and verbally.

House one

The Foundation

The Foundation

1. Ask your clients the following questions: “Have you ever built a house before?” and “If you were going to build a house would you start with the roof?” It’s normal to get a few laughs during this stage—this is good as it breaks the ice. Most will answer” “No, you would start building a house with the foundation.”

2. Explain to your clients that you need to do the same thing with your employment plan. The foundation of their career will be the foundational courses provided by your agency or a partner organization (job readiness, ESL or cultural orientation).

3. Finally, it is important to ensure your clients understand and obtain the proper documentation to work in the United States. This documentation needed for the I-9 form will be the floor to the employment house.

The Base: Walls, Windows and Doors
house middle

Walls, Windows and Doors

4. The next step in building the house is to install walls, windows, and door that make the body of the house. Ask clients if they know the process of applying to a job. Depending on their answer, either affirm them, or, explain the stages in the next steps.

5. The window to the house is the resume because it allows us to see inside the house to your skills and abilities.

6. One of the walls of the house is the application process. You can explain in as much detail as you think appropriate.

7. The next step in the process, and another wall, is the interview.

8. Another window to the house can be added here for clients who have not yet obtained a high school diploma or a GED.

9. Finally, you have your first job or the ceiling of our house. This survival employment will help you gain both experience and references (the stairs), which will help you to reach your long-term goals.

The Roof
house complete

The Roof

10. The roof was always my favorite part of the employment plan. Here, clients get to choose a long-term goal. Some will have ready answers. Others will need encouragement to think about what they might like to do. Once the clients have selected a goal, this goes at the pinnacle of the roof.

11. Next, we need to add in the supports for the roof including steps that are specific to the client’s long-term goal. For example, the clients may need advanced English, additional trainings or certifications, or degree evaluations. Depending on the career choice you may need to do additional research with the client to see what requirements are necessary for the job.

12. Once you have completed the plan, make a copy of it and attach it to the clients budget for the clients to keep as a reminder of why they need to work and how they are going to make their goals a reality.

Exponential Benefits of the Employment Plan

To some in our field it may seem easy to call up a partner employer about a prospective new hire, convince them you have a great candidate for the job, and complete all the application for your client. The client gets the job rather quickly and is working the next week.

However, in this abbreviated job placement, important parts of the process are missing. The clients missed out entirely on the employment process. They will be starting at zero should they lose the job and you will have to start the process all over again. If we teach clients how to understand and navigate the employment process, they will advance to greater levels of self-sufficiency and also to their long-term goals more quickly.

By allowing them to participate in making the plan and applying for jobs, your clients will be more likely to take responsibility for their own employment.

cassie pic 1Cassie Smith is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. She worked as a Refugee Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin in Austin, Texas from 2010 until 2014.

 

Back to the Basics: Advice for Job Applicants & Job Developers

Jordan“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”                                                               -Michael Jordan

Without knocking innovation, sometimes the best way forward is to go back to the basics. A recent Lifehacker article made this point when they asked a couple dozen hiring managers to weigh in on how applicants can stand out from the crowd.

Here are their top 10 suggestions and how they apply specifically to refugee employment:

 1.  Be Prompt, but don’t arrive too early to your interview.

Many cultures have more flexible standards when it comes to punctuality than we do in the US. It’s a good idea to encourage clients to be early to appointments and interviews. But make sure to also discuss the importance of not being too early, as that can also make a negative impression.

2.  Don’t apply for a job unless you meet the qualifications. 

This can be a tricky one when working with refugees, many of whom may have limited English and all of whom lack US work experience when they first arrive. On the surface, it may seem like your clients do not meet the qualifications for many jobs. Don’t give up too easily though. Politely push employers to tell you exactly what competencies are necessary for the job at hand. If you think your clients are capable of performing the duties described, make the argument, and close the deal!

3. Research the company. 

The more you know about the company, the more you will be prepared to make the argument that your clients are a good fit for their needs. Whenever possible, share information about the company with your clients before taking them to an interview. They will perform better if they know who they’re talking to.

4. Make the right match. 

Don’t try to force opportunities that are clearly not a good fit. That will not result in long term partnerships. Making a good connection with an employer is the first step, but showing them that you understand their needs is what will keep them coming back.

5. Come prepared with questions. 

Make sure you are prepared with good questions for employers and coach your clients on good questions to ask before the interview. Part of this coaching also means helping them know what questions not to ask (e.g. Can you give me a different schedule so I can work with my brother?).

6. List all your (software) skills on your resume. 

This tip may apply to some higher skilled clients that have software skills but may not mention them. The basic point though is just to make sure you are using the resume to list any skills that demonstrate that you are motivated, reliable and dependable. So even if your clients don’t have formal work experience, find a way to highlight their skills.

7. If you lie, you’ll probably get caught. 

Pretty straightforward. Don’t lie. Don’t even exaggerate. Do, however, find a way to present your clients in the best light possible, demonstrating their skills, and highlighting the unique ways that they will add value to employers.

8. Say thank you. 

Sometimes you should be the one to say it. Sometime your client should be the one to say it. It might be a handwritten note. It might be an email. It might even be a text message to your employer connection saying “Thanks for your time today. I really appreciate your partnership.” There are many ways to say thank you. The point is that you should.

9. Don’t be pushy. 

Following up is part of the process. Either you or your clients should follow up after interviews. Just keep in mind that being persistent and being pushy are two different things. If your client is going to be the one to follow up, make sure to coach him/her on how to do this professionally.

10. Put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. 

Perhaps the most important tip on this list. You should always be asking yourself questions like “What does the employer want?”, “What would make their life easier?”, “What do my clients bring to the table that would really add value to this company?” If you do this consistently, employers will love working with you, and your clients will get jobs.

If you’d like to read the Lifehacker article in its entirety, you may do so here.

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.

Reminder: Register for Tomorrow’s Webinar – Financial Literacy: How to Teach the Basics

money backgroundFinancial Literacy: How to Teach the Basics

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2:00 – 3:15pm EST

This webinar will explore basic financial literacy topics to cover with clients to build a strong foundation for economic self-sufficiency. Presenters will highlight a variety of free financial literacy resources and will provide examples of community partnerships that can be replicated. Financial literacy curricula, job readiness activities and training tips will be shared throughout the training. 

Register here

Reminder: Register for the Financial Literacy: How to Teach the Basics Webinar

 Financial Literacy: How to Teach the Basicsmoney background

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2:00 – 3:15pm EST

This webinar will explore basic financial literacy topics to cover with clients to build a strong foundation for economic self-sufficiency. Presenters will highlight a variety of free financial literacy resources and will provide examples of community partnerships that can be replicated. Financial literacy curricula, job readiness activities and training tips will be shared throughout the training. 

Register here