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:

Identity Theft

Attention refugee employment staff! There have recently been incidents regarding identify theft and refugees. Individuals from within and outside of the refugee community have convinced refugees to provide their social security number (SSN) and have used this information to file fraudulent tax claims.

Please let all your clients know that they should protect their social security number, alien number, and any other personal identifying information (PII). If a client reports that they suspect their identity has been stolen, please assist them in filing a report at www.IdentityTheft.gov.

Include this topic in your financial literacy/job readiness curriculum:  Along with teaching clients about financial literacy and taxes, protecting PII and preventing identify theft are topics that can be easily covered in class. Here is a sample of what could be covered in a lesson:

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number or other personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund. You might get a notice from the IRS or find unfamiliar accounts on your credit report. You might notice strange withdrawals from your bank account, get bills that aren’t yours, or get calls about debts that you don’t owe.

How to Prevent Identify Theft

Secure your financial documents and records in a safe place at home and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work. Keep your personal information secure from roommates or apartment maintenance staff that comes into your home.

Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your social security card at home. Make a copy and black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Carry the copy with you.

Protecting Your Social Security Number (SSN) and other personal identifying information (PII)

Keep a close hold on your social security number and other PII.  Ask questions before deciding to share any information. Ask if you can use a different kind of identification. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s SSN, ask them why they need it and how it will be used? The decision to share your personal information is your own.

What to Do if You Think You are a Victim of Identify Theft

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, act quickly. Here are 5 steps you can take to limit the damage:

  1. Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report (for instructions on how to do so click here).
  3. Report identity theft to the
  4. File a report with your local police department.
  5. Most importantly, you should contact your case manager if you need help or clarification.

Please visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov for more resources.

Has identity theft or tax fraud every happened to a client of yours? If yes, please write us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your experience and how you helped your client resolve the issue.

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

 

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

Job Readiness Activities for Adult Learners

Last week in Denver, attendees in the job readiness session participated in an activity to list the tools, resources and activities they currently use with clients.  Here’s the combined list.  If possible, a link to a version of the activity is included.  If you have a different version of any activity, or you have any resources to add, please contact us so we can update the list!

Interview Practice

Mock Interviews

Record Clients & Play Back for Client

Practice Interview Questions

Interactive Activities

Job Readiness Bingo

Body Language Activities

Flash Card Bowling

Welcome Circle: Begin Class by Asking Everyone Name, Origin, Languages and their First Job

First Day: Classroom Expectations – Importance of Classroom Success

Incorporating Certificates after Job Day Trainings

Resume Jeopardy

Skills

Identifying Skills that Refugees Have – Physical vs. Personal Skills

Explain How to Transfer Skills

Look at Job Listing Examples and ask, “Do you have the skills?”

Presentations

Picture Heavy PowerPoint

Visual Resources

Pictures

Describe Career Dreams Using Pictures

Videos

Videos to show the Work Done at Different Jobs

Quality Control Video – Quality, Quantity

Cards

Realia – Safety Gear

Higher Resources

Higher Advantage Modules

U.S. Job Cycle Visual (page 2)

Guided Practice

Mock Hotel Environment – Practice

Dishwasher Training at Location

Time Clock Practice

Time Clock for Attendance

Production Line Simulation

6-Day Training Spurts (short-term)

Applications & Resumes

Resume Preparation

Filling out Applications

Applications Planted at Businesses

In Class Resume Building (Skeleton Version)

Practice Application

Job Search

How to Find Jobs

Digital Literacy

Computer Lab

Mobile Computer Labs

Group Discussions

Small Group Discussion about Hygiene & Dress

Small Groups – Have clients create their own business & say what skills are needed for job

Specific Training Topics

Safety Classes: Use signs with Pictures, explain what signs mean. Explain the importance of reporting issues

Lessons on Trauma and the Impact of Trauma

Workplace Culture (i.e. handshakes & other non-verbal communication)

Job Security/Responsibility to Communicate with Supervisors (2 weeks notice)

Coworker relationships, manners, mannerisms

Hygiene, Grooming

Transportation – Teaching bus lines

English Instruction

Translated Materials

Mandatory ESL

Teach Job-Appropriate Vocabulary

Community Partnerships

Clothing Donations as Incentives

Local Library Partnerships

Adding Social Enterprises into your Curriculum

Financial Literacy

I-9 & W-2 (Tax & Pay)

Explain Payroll, Direct Deposit and Tax Forms

Assist with Opening Bank Account

Translators/Interpreters

Record Videos of Interpreters

Assessments

Go Over Pre-Employment Assessment (Reading Comprehension)

Mock Interview/Application Process as Assessment

Other

Self-Reflection

Tour at Companies

CORE

Childcare (Paid Employees)

One-on-One Pre-Employment Counseling

Wish List

More Tactile Activities

Child Care Resources – Toys for Kids

Notes

Factoring in Trauma when making Job Placements

Meat Packing isn’t good for People with Trauma

Higher’s December Webinars

Financial Literacy: How to Teach the Basics

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2:00 – 3:15pm EST

Financial literacy is an essential component of economic self sufficiency. This webinar will explore what topics are most important and will feature resources designed to be used as job readiness activities. Panelists will share financial literacy initiatives and examples of community partnerships that can be replicated. Financial literacy curriculums will be highlighted throughout the training.  

Register here


Collaborating with Mainstream Workforce Development and Taking Advantage of WIOA-funded Training Opportunities

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2:00 – 3:30pm EST

Higher has made a concerted effort over the past couple years to educate our network about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) and has highlighted mainstream workforce development resources and collaboration case studies on our blog. In this webinar, Higher will continue building our network’s awareness of WIOA-related opportunities by highlighting specific career pathways opportunities within the mainstream workforce system that have potential to help refugees move beyond “survival jobs.” Speakers are still being confirmed, but Higher is hoping that this webinar will feature both government WIOA experts, as well as refugee field staff that have successfully collaborated with the mainstream system.

Register here

Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 4

digital literacy 1At a recent Maryland-wide workshop which focused on refugee workforce development, Higher had participants do a brainstorming activity, in which groups worked together to list common barriers refugees face to employment as well as possible solutions.

These types of activities inevitably generate a “wish list” of solutions which are great ideas but not always in our power to implement quickly (e.g. adding staff members, ESL at work sites, home-based self-employment for refugee women).

While there are certainly times to pursue those big ideas, perhaps the best thing about exercises like this is that they allow groups to identify simpler solutions that can be implemented immediately.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share some of these insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement! So far, we’ve focused on tips for overcoming Limited English Proficiency (LEP) challengestips for overcoming transportation challenges and tips for overcoming childcare challenges. This week we’ll share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of Computer Access/Digital Literacy.

Tips for Overcoming Computer Access/Digital Literacy Challenges:

  1. Connect clients to local computer labs and/or digital literacy training opportunities. Suggested Resource: The Literacy Directory lists free resources to help adult students reach life goals in areas such as improving reading, math, and science skills, learning English, building job and job search skills, becoming a U.S. citizen, and finding adult education, child, family, and digital literacy programs.
  2. Help clients access low-cost computers. Suggested Resource: EveryoneON is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected Americans. A true digital literacy initiative, they aim to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans – regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level. Let’s help them do this!
  3. Educate clients about affordable internet options. Suggested Resource: ConnectHome is a public-private collaboration to narrow the digital divide for families with school-age children who live in HUD-assisted housing. ConnectHome is the next step in President Obama’s continued efforts to bring affordable broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and electronic devices to all Americans.
  4. Utilize interns and/or volunteers to help clients improve their computer skills. Suggested Resource: DigitalLearn.org is a collection of self-directed tutorials for end-users to increase their digital literacy, and a community of practice for digital literacy trainers to share resources, tools and best practices.
  5. Encourage your clients to work with you on this challenge, asking them to network within their community to explore solutions.

Stay tuned for more tips from MD refugee employment programs and stakeholders. The final part in this series will address unrealistic client expectations.

Do you recommend any additional digital literacy resources? Feel free to participate in the conversation by leaving a comment below or sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

Tax Season Can Mean Money in Client Pockets

eitc image shrinkFree Translated Resources for Clients and Employers

The majority of refugee families are eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). This can result in significant amounts of money into client budgets and back into the local economy.

Refugees have to know about the opportunity and be connected with qualified, FREE filing assistance in order to benefit.

According to national estimates, 20 to 25 percent of eligible workers do not claim the EITC. This means that millions of workers are missing out on the income boost they’ve earned.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers excellent resources to help us promote the opportunity.  Click here to learn everything you need to know to help clients file correctly.

You can order free English/Spanish posters and download client flyers in 24 languages including Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Swahili, Spanish and Somali.

Consider supplying key employers with these resources.  It will help our clients and their other employees.  Just one more benefit for employer partners in hiring refugees in partnership with us!

 

 

Free Resource: Urban Institute Net Income Calculator

net income example 0Sometimes, it’s hard to know if a refugee family will really be better off if they add additional income to the mix.  “If a low-income family earns more money, how much will the family’s benefits from safety-net programs go down, how much will state and federal income and payroll taxes change, and how much will the family’s total income go up?”

The Net Income Calculator, a user-friendly tool from The Urban Institute gives you the bottom line and makes a complex calculation relatively simple.

How it Works

You first select the variable you want to test – either wages earned or hours worked.  The tool generates scenarios at a few different intervals for comparison.

To test the tool, Higher plugged in numbers for a family of 5 (children ages 10, 4 and 2) living in Texas.  The husband earns $8.00/hour in a full time job.  The wife has the opportunity to add income from a 20 hour a week job earning minimum wage.  The tool requires estimates of unsubsidized monthly rent and total child care costs.

All calculations related to benefit amounts, tax credits and taxes are built into the model.  All of you definitely have enough knowledge to use the tool accurately and you don’t have to be a math whiz, either.

Information it Delivers
net income example

Amount of new earnings “kept” vs “taxed”

Several charts are generated to show you the net impact on family finances at two different levels.  In our example, the levels are 20 and 40 hours a week of added income from the wife’s potential new job.

net income example 2

Composition of monthly net income for the household

You can see two of the charts delivered for our example at left and below.

 

 

This example is consistent with my experience in Austin, TX.  There is less than $100 net increase in family income in adding a parttime job for the wife.  Are there other benefits, including improved English and future work opportunities?  Yes.

Do those outweigh the concerns the family might have about childcare, cultural factors and additional stress?  No matter the support and coaching you provide, the final decision is up to the family.