WES Pilot Provides Alternative Credential Assessments for Syrian Refugees

Resettled refugees often face several barriers to formal recognition of their credentials, preventing them from reaching their full career potential. This is especially problematic for refugees arriving without official documentation such as a completed transcript, diploma or other proof. A World Education Services (WES) pilot in Canada has tested an “alternative assessment” methodology using available evidence of educational attainment and professional achievements when these official documents cannot be obtained. WES is a non-profit organization that evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications.

As Canada has resettled more Syrian refugees, local institutions and employers voiced concern that these refugees, many of whom are highly-educated, would not have access to recognized credential documents for pursuing higher education or regulated professions in the future.

“Because Syria had a highly-literate population and a well-functioning education system before the war, we knew many of these refugees would be highly educated, proficient in English or French and determined to resume professional careers or pursue further study. Recognition of previous education in Syria, therefore, would become a priority for these individuals, since it is critical to this goal,” shared Denise Jillions, Associate Director of WES Global Talent Bridge, during a recent webinar about the pilot project.

WES started exploring the degree of support among academic institutions and regulatory bodies for an alternative assessment model allowing for use of non-verifiable or incomplete documents, in contrast to their standard strict document policy. They decided to move forward in testing a new service delivery model among Syrian refugees in Canada to determine the validity and potential utility of alternative assessments. WES received 337 applications for the pilot program between July 2016 and May 2017, and they were able to prepare Alternative Credential Assessments for applicants who submitted at least one piece of documentary evidence.

Preliminary Findings

78% of refugee participants surveyed after the project indicated that the Alternative Credential Assessment will be useful in taking next steps toward their education and/or career goals. About 20% of those surveyed who already have plans for using the assessment indicated they would like to pursue a new profession, with the majority of respondents reporting they would like to use their assessment to pursue higher education, return to their original profession or find a similar position suited to their level of experience and education.

About 73% of end-users, including academic institutions and employers, reported confidence in the alternative methodology for assessing credentials. Some institutions reported that they are already accepting the assessment for admission to colleges, universities and regulated professions, while other institutions are still reaching a decision on how to use it.

WES hopes to expand this pilot program to the U.S. in the future, and will report their final findings and plans when the project analysis is complete. In the meantime, check out their 2016 report, Providing Pathways for Refugees: Practical Tips for Credential Assessment, which includes six steps for credential assessment for refugees and displaced people.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

Career Planning: How to Make SMART Objectives and Goals Work for Refugees

While working with job seekers it is important to make the most out of the time shared. Using SMART objectives and goals[1] can be an efficient way to help the job seeker identify specific steps to achieve self-sufficiency and longer-term goals. It is a clear, concise way of goal setting to help clients focus their efforts.

Often times during the first employment intake, an employment team member will hear that a job seeker’s goals are, “I want to work any job” and, “I want to learn English.” Those are good thoughts, but not specific enough to provide an action plan. They are not SMART. SMART objectives and goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Example: Claude is a recently arrived refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who speaks fluent French and some English. Claude completed Secondary School (High School) but never received his diploma or certificate. Claude arrived with his mother and six siblings. During his employment intake Claude shares that his long term goal is to become a human rights lawyer, but he also understands the immediate need to financially support his family. The Employment Specialist (ES) suggests seeking work at a local warehouse that often hires new Americans. Claude agrees and is ready to embark on the job hunt.

Objective #1: Obtain employment at the warehouse within two months.

 

Specific Claude begins the job cycle process of applying and interviewing with one particular employer.
Measurable Claude will either have the job or will not in two months’ time.
Attainable The ES already has connections to the employer and knows they are eager to hire newly arriving refugees.
Relevant Claude wants to start working right away to support his family and have money to be able to achieve his long term dream of becoming a lawyer.
Timely Claude needs to be able to pay bills before his family’s initial funding assistance runs out.

 

 

Objective #2: Enroll in General Education Diploma (GED) training course within one year.

Specific ? The objective does not outline explicitly where Claude will enroll.
Measurable Claude attending a GED training course within one year from intake is measurable.
Attainable ? There are several questions that must be answered to know if this objective is attainable.  Is the training free? If not, how will Claude pay for it? How is Claude’s English proficiency in reading, writing, and other subjects? If he needs additional preparation, where will he get it and how long will it take?
Relevant Claude’s long term goal is to become a lawyer, having a GED or High School Diploma is required and therefore relevant.
Timely Claude can keep his job to meet basic needs while going to GED class simultaneously. He seems motivated to do it all.

 

 

 

It is important when creating SMART objectives and goals to consider each step required while keeping in mind the client’s immediate needs and barriers. There are several additional objectives that Claude must achieve in order to reach his longer-term goal of becoming a human rights lawyer, including:

  1. Ensure proficiency for GED training courses
  2. Enroll in GED courses
  3. Obtain a GED
  4. Apply and be accepted to college
  5. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
  6. Apply and be accepted to law school
  7. Obtain a law degree
  8. Obtain a job in the human rights field

Going through each objective required to meet longer-term goals utilizing the SMART technique may help the ES, as well as the client, understand the pathway of a career and its feasibility for the client.

Look out for activities on career planning and SMART objectives and goals in Higher’s upcoming Job Readiness Toolkit!

What are some ways that you teach goal planning when working with refugees? Share your best practices with us at Information@higheradvantage.org!

[1]Objectives are the measurable steps an individual takes to achieve his/her goal(s).

Employment Authorization Document Delays Affecting Cuban Entrants

Higher has received several reports that the Employment Authorization Documents or EAD cards are processing slowly in Florida and other states that see Cuban entrants. The current delay is about six months or more, impacting self-sufficiency and enrollment in employment programs.

If you have Cuban clients that have been waiting more than 75 days for their EAD, you may want to inform your National Headquarters (if applicable) and the State Refugee Coordinator, and you may choose to file a report with USCIS. To file a USCIS report, follow the information below.

If your EAD application has been pending for 75 days or more (25 or more if initial asylum), you may create an e-request online, or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. For customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or have speech disabilities which require accommodation: TTY)/ASCII: (800) 877-8339, Voice: (866) 377-8642, Video Relay Service (VRS): (877) 709-5798, to request creation of a service request. Either method will send the inquiry to the USCIS office where your case is pending so that it can be flagged for priority processing.

USCIS offers the advice here, for applicants experiencing delays in the processing of I-765s.

Three Ways CORE Certification Courses Can Benefit Refugee Employment Services

Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) has developed a series of certification courses[i] to support refugee resettlement staff and volunteers who cover cultural orientation (CO) topics in their day-to-day roles. While lessons have a CO focus, several courses contain information and concepts helpful to employment volunteers and staff. Each self-paced lesson, which can be completed in approximately 20-30 minutes, covers key concepts through an interactive audiovisual interface, and includes links to online resources for further reading. Here are three ways your employment team can benefit from this free resource:

 

  1. Volunteer Training: Incoming volunteers can gain an overview of the refugee resettlement process in the first CORE lesson. The Refugee Resettlement Journey covers topics such as the differences between refugee and asylee status, durable solutions to address the needs of refugees, and the vetting process. Understanding the basics of refugee resettlement is crucial for volunteers working with clients on job readiness and job placement, and with potential employers of refugees.
  2. Working with Interpreters: Staff working with interpreters on a regular basis to complete employment plans, teach job readiness class, or foster conversations between employers and clients should consider the Working Effectively with Interpreters lesson. Concepts – such as why family members should not be used as interpreters, ensuring cultural sensitivity, and the importance of meeting with your interpreter ahead of time – promote more effective, respectful communication with clients.
  3. Job Readiness Facilitation: The first of several adult learning strategy courses is now available. Knowles’ Six Principles covers unique characteristics of adult learners, such as being internally motivated and self-directed. This lesson includes “expert insights” from seasoned adult education trainers. The next course will cover the difference between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches. 

You can register to access the courses here and sign up here for the CORE newsletter to stay up to date on future certification course offerings as they are available. You can also check out the CORENAV resources for refugee self-learning on a variety of topics, including employment.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

 

These resources[i] were developed under an agreement financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State, but do not necessarily represent the policy of that agency and should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Collaborative Job Fair: Connecting Employers and Professional Refugees and Immigrants in Silicon Valley

Twenty-one employers and more than 140 job seekers attended the first Employer Meet and Greet hosted by the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County in April 2017. It was such a success that a second fair is planned for November 9.

The 31 public, non-profit and individual members of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County noticed that refugees with professional experience start in entry-level jobs when they arrive to the U.S. and can get stuck there. Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at Pars Equality Center and the Chair of the Forum, has a passion for seeing professional refugees and immigrants attain better jobs, “We found a need to really pay attention to this group and not let them fall behind due to very few connections when they first arrive,” said Ellie.

The first job fair made quite an impression on the local refugee and immigrant community, as well as employers. “The excitement in the room was so amazing, from both sides,” said Ellie. Job seekers who attended told organizers they had never been to a job fair with such high-level employers, including Cisco, Airbnb, Bank of America, and Comerica.

Employers who previously never imagined they could find the talents and skills they need among newly-arrived refugees and immigrants are now signing up to join the second Employer Meet and Greet. When asked how the Forum was able to get commitments from so many employers for the pilot event, Ellie admitted, “It was hard!” She said it took the support of the entire Forum sub-committee—each member personally reached out to connections to secure commitments. The organizers emphasized that hiring a refugee is not just about doing a good deed, but that the invited employers have a lot to gain by having access to so many educated professionals.

The Forum sub-committee continues to learn from the successes and challenges of planning a collaborative job fair. The upcoming fair will add a resume workshop for job seekers who want additional feedback on how to best frame their education and experience for a job in the U.S. This event will be held at LinkedIn, which is also providing complimentary profile evaluations for the first 50 job seekers who arrive. Attendees will receive feedback on how their profile compares to others in Silicon Valley. Ellie says they hope to have 30 employers and increase the number of job seekers in attendance.

Although the meet and greet fair has proven invaluable in fostering connections and awareness, one challenge has been the difficulty in tracking how many people were hired from connections made at the fair, a data point the Forum hopes to report after future events.

You can learn more about the career pathways promotion efforts of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County here.

Understanding Client Motivations

What do your clients really care about? What has motivated them in the past, and what will inspire and push them forward as they start work in the U.S.?

The answers to these questions might significantly affect employment decisions. As Roy E. Disney said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

Here are some creative ideas for learning about your client’s personal motivators that can be carried out in job readiness classes or during one-on-one meetings:

  1. Value cards: Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE)’s employment section of CO curriculum includes a sorting activity, where participants use photo cards to show what reasons for working are least/most important to them. Examples of the photo cards included: to gain respect in my community, to support my family, and to earn money to go to school in the future.

These two ideas come from an article by Herky Cutler[1]:

  1. Photography: Ask your client to take a dozen pictures of important things in his or her life, using a cell phone. As you review the photos, ask what each image represents, think of how it might related to a job setting, and ask on a scale of 1-10 how important it is to have that as an aspect of work.
  2. Music : Ask your client about a favorite song – one that has personal meaning or significance — and listen to it together if possible, even if you don’t understand the language! Ask questions to learn why it’s significant and how your client relates to the message.

Not only will learning about your client’s personal values help inform your approach, but these self-reflective exercises will remind clients of specific motivators they can rely on when things are challenging at work.

[1] Engaging Client Assessment Tools That Rock! From Career Convergence Web Magazine, February 2017.

Post written by Carrie Thiele

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. Take time this month to ensure you understand the resources available to your clients with disabilities.

The United States Committee for Refugee and Immigrants (USCRI) Resource Guide for Serving Refugees with Disabilities includes an overview of cultural differences in perceptions of disabilities and a chapter on employment, covering topics like promoting employment among clients eligible for SSA benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) sponsors these technical assistance resources:

  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers guidance on disability employment issues. Search for accommodation information by disability for an overview of specific impairments along with accommodation ideas you can share with employers.

 

 

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.