Circle of Support Opens Doors to Employment for Refugee Women

A Women’s Empowerment Group at Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) brings refugee participants, including single moms, together for classes on children’s safety, nutrition, and sewing. LSS-SW has found that the social connections made through these classes are a positive factor on participants’ employment readiness, combined with support from case management, Intensive Case Management, and employment services programs.

“These women inspire each other,” says Jeanine Balezi, LSS-SW Intensive Case Manager. She tells how women see their friends start working, and then they want to find a job, too.

Photo of a 12-week Kith and Kin class offered by LSS-SW in partnership with the Association of Supportive Child Care. Classes focus on in-home childcare safety and early-childhood development games and activities.

One example is an LSS-SW client with five children who spoke very limited English when she arrived. She was terrified to start working and was upset when Jeanine told her to take responsibility for getting her children to daycare as a first step to independence. When she started attending the women’s group, the client showed interest in getting a job for the first time.

“She said she wasn’t depressed anymore,” tells Jeanine. “She had gained another family.”

The client was placed in a job at a hotel, but started having back pain after some time working. One of her friends from the women’s support group helped her apply for a different job at a school, where the work was physically less demanding. She started working there, obtained her driver’s license, and bought a car—now she’s independent.

The Women’s Empowerment Group sessions are conducted in partnership with a local university and are led by qualified volunteers. Babysitting is also provided, and the last class had 24 women in attendance. Jeanine stays in close touch with the employment team at her agency to coordinate services and let them know when participants express interest in finding a job.

Supporting single parents as they prepare for employment is a team effort. What supportive services does your agency offer? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

Donated Bikes Pave the Way to Jobs in Tucson

Cars, bikes and buses – oh my! Transportation is a common challenge for newly-arrived refugees, but you might find some inspiration from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) and their strategy for using donated bikes to help clients get to work.

LSS-SW provides 1-2 bicycles per client household with employable adults, thanks to partnerships with Wheels for Kids and local Boy Scout drives. Both partnering organizations have provided donated, refurbished adult and child bikes.

“We’ve seen clients who are able to work that might not have otherwise been able to.” Since several of Tucson’s bus lines have limited hours of operation, “many of our clients working at hotels have to find another way to get home,” says Kyle Dignoti, LSS-SW Resource and Pre-arrival Coordinator. “Having the opportunity to use a bike has really impacted their mobility.”

Bikes are never given to clients without appropriate safety equipment, including a helmet, rope lock, and brake lights. Safety information is reviewed one-on- one with each recipient, and bicycle safety classes are available through Pima County.

Once a client has a bike, maintenance can be a challenge, but BICAS (Bicycle Inter Community Art and Salvage) in Tucson helps overcome that hurdle by training clients how to fix their bicycles. Clients are able to keep their bikes running and know how to perform basic fixes on their own.

If you have a car or bike donation program in place, we’d love to hear about at it at information@higheradvantage.org. Haven’t found a community partner to help develop these resources yet? Start by googling terms like “donated bikes” or “bike classes” and see who is in your area – you might be surprised how easy it is to find great local partners!

 

 

Identifying Job-Getting Personal Qualities

Refugees looking for their first job in America often underestimate the value of informing potential employers about personal character qualities that bolster their employability.  The following exercise helps job search clients identify their own employment-worthy character traits and develop greater confidence in their own ability to get a job in the United States.

Introduction:  In order to ‘sell’ oneself in the job market, it is necessary to know exactly what it is that one has to offer.  In this exercise, participants will identify their own positive personality traits valued by American employers.

Time: 5 – 10 minutes

Materials: Copy of “My Personal Qualities” (below) for each participant.

Procedure:

  • Distribute a copy of the handout to each job search client. It may be helpful to provide a bi-lingual version to help clients learn the meanings of the English terms.
  • Ask participants to check off all the personality traits that they possess.
  • Once they are done, ask them to identify the top 5 traits that they possess and that relate to the job they hope to do (e.g. if one hopes to be a truck driver, then “dependable” may be a more important personal quality than “cheerful”).  Ask clients to think of a time when they successfully used each of these 5 traits (on the job or otherwise), and to be prepared to talk about it.
  • Ask participants which 5 personality traits they think most employers most look for when hiring a new employee. There is no one right answer to this question, but for the following are qualities that many employers look for when considering to hire someone:  positive attitude, punctual, works well with others, self-starter, adaptable, and self-managed learner.

For a variation on this discussion ask participants which top qualities they would look for in an employee if they were the business owner.

My Personal Qualities

Put a check beside the words that are true regarding you…

___  Well-organized                                         ___   Hard-working

___  Ambitious                                                   ___  Active

___  Flexible                                                      ___  Energetic

___  Cooperative                                               ___  Responsible

___  Punctual                                                     ___  Neat

___  Alert                                                            ___  Friendly

___  Motivated                                                   ___  Polite

___  Honest                                                        ___  Independent

___  Efficient                                                     ___   Relaxed

___  Confident                                                   ___  Intelligent

___  Dependable                                              ___  Competent

___  Knowledgeable                                        ___  Thorough

___  Adaptable                                                   __  Curious

___  Disciplined                                                ___  Helpful

___  Mature                                                        ___ Caring

___  Creative                                                    ___  Open-minded

___  Funny                                                        ___  Patient

___  Careful                                                      ___  Respectful

___  Reliable                                                     ___  Willing to learn

___  Positive Attitude                                       ___  Works well with others

___  Self-starter                                                ___  Self-managed learner

Now, list your 5 top personality strengths and think of an example of a time when you successfully used each one.

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Do you have any creative games you use in Job Readiness class? If yes, please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org

This post was written by guest blogger Daryl Morrissey, Cultural Orientation Coordinator at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

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.

A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

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: TANF, Childcare and Workforce Development (Today!)

Note: After posting this announcement yesterday, it came to our attention that the registration had been closed. Following this information, we removed the announcement from our site. We are happy to announce that registration has been reopened for this webinar, in case you are able to attend today. We apologize for any confusion. 

Possibilities for Coordination between TANF, Child Care, and Workforce Development
July 26, 2017, 3:00 – 4:00 PM EST

Child care subsidies are critical for families receiving TANF cash assistance, as well as those transitioning off assistance, to be able to participate in employment activities, to maximize educational activities, and achieve better employment outcomes. Studies show that parents receiving child care are likely to have more stable employment, which enables them to support their families and gain increased financial security.

This webinar will explore how states have coordinated TANF and child care services to enhance workforce development outcomes. The webinar will also examine the research associated with TANF and child care to highlight best practices. Presenters will include Heather Hahn, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute; Erin Oalican, Reach Up/TANF Program Director, Vermont Department for Children and Families; and Paulette Bushers, TANF Program Manager, Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Register here.

Tackling the Transportation Barrier

Transportation is one of the most significant barriers that refugees face in obtaining initial employment and advancing in their careers.

Tackling this barrier requires a multi-faceted strategy:

1.)  Incorporate community navigation into job readiness training

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

Being able to navigate one’s community is important. There’s nothing more isolating and paralyzing than not having the ability to venture beyond your own home.

Helping clients develop a mental map of their community and ensuring that they are able to use the public transportation system should be a key learning objective integrated into Job Readiness curriculums.

2.) Ensure that employment opportunities are easily accessible to clients

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

This is easier said than done, but very important. In order to set clients up for success resettlement, programs must consider likely employment possibilities when finding an apartment for refugee families. Employment teams and R&P teams should be in constant communication about preferred neighborhoods that would be most conducive to accessing employment opportunities.

Sometimes due to financial constraints, limited housing, or the preferences of refugee communities themselves, you may not be able to place new families in the most ideal locations for employment opportunities. In these cases, it’s up to you to put in the additional effort to identify employers that will be easy for clients to reach.

While it’s easy to stick with your go-to employers, putting in the work to find employers that are convenient to different neighborhoods will help you diversify your employer network and create better employment situations for your clients.

3.) Think outside the box

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

Every situation is different, and the reality is that you often have to make less-than-ideal employment opportunities work. For example, in New Orleans, most of Catholic Charities’ clients prefer to live in an area of the city that is not particularly convenient to employment opportunities, resulting in long commutes on multiple bus routes.

Catholic Charities has been able to minimize the impact of this challenge by purchasing affordable bicycles for their employment clients from another local non-profit which teaches at-risk youth bike repair skills. The clients then are able to do part of their commute by bike which can cut their commute time in half or make it possible to take just one bus instead of two.

In addition to facilitating bicycle access, consider other creative alternatives such as car pool solutions, ride share services or employer-sponsored transportation.

4.) Recognize that transportation is connected to career advancement.

For those clients with the desire and ability, make sure that your agency provides resources (in their language if possible) for obtaining driver’s licenses. Also consider asking volunteers to help clients prepare and practice for driver’s license tests.

What transportation solutions have you found work best for your clients? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org or by filling out this poll:

How do most of your clients get to work?

 

Driving in the United States: A Resource from the Refugee Center Online

Every state across the US requires you to get a driver’s license if you want to get behind the wheel of a car.

It is not uncommon for Americans to drive more than an hour each way to work, and 77 percent of Americans drive alone to their jobs, while an additional 11 percent carpool.

Driving may be a mode of transportation to work for some of your clients.  Thus, educating refugees about the local licensing process is very important and should be included in Cultural Orientation and Job Readiness Courses.

Clients need to know and understand the licensing rules, before beginning the process to legally drive. To help clients understand the intricacies of driving in America, The Refugee Center Online has put together How to Get a Driver’s License: Translated Driver’s Handbooks in over 20 languages.

In the United States, the issuance of licenses is the authority of individual states (including Washington, D.C. and all territories). Drivers are normally required to obtain a license from their state of residence, and all states recognize each other’s licenses for temporary visitors.

Any questions about driving should be directed to state DMV offices or local police.  If you have any additional resources you would like to share please contact us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Don’t forget to buckle up!

Enhancing Employment Readiness Training through Group Games and Activities

Source: http://www.teachhub.com

For people who are visual, hands-on learners, valuable skills can be taught through professionally styled games and activities.

Whether the “student” employee is a young adult or someone who has been in the workforce for some time, light-hearted approaches to learning can be fun and effective.

Just be careful that your activities don’t come across as too “childish”.

Avoid anything that involves dancing, extreme physical activity or runs the risk of making the participant look or feel foolish or unprofessional.

Here are two activities that you may want to try:

1. Communication Skills Building: Match job training participants in pairs and seat them in chairs facing each other. Then, direct participants to interview one another. Give each person a question-and-answer sheet that includes questions like, “What was the proudest moment of your life, and why?” and, “Who are your heroes, and why?” Instruct the participants to individually stand and describe the other person based on the interview. This activity promotes interpersonal communication skills and builds closeness among participants.

2. Building Confidence in the Workplace: Pair up trainees and assign one person to be the customer and the other to be the employee. Give the customer a card that describes a common customer complaint, such as a defective product, a late delivery or a rude salesperson. Instruct the customer to act out her role and the employee to work toward a solution using your company’s best practices for service excellence (try to come up with a few fake companies and what their best practices would be).

Once the role-playing is complete, critique the exercise and invite other participants to chime in with their thoughts on approach and technique. This activity is great to help clients understand how to deal with rude customers and how to address customers in a friendly, professional manner. This activity emphasizes the important role of a positive attitude not just in the interview process but as part of the everyday work environment. This activity will help clients develop confidence about how they are expected to interact in the workplace and learn additional job requirements that may not always be described in the hiring or orientation process.