Response to a Reader About Retention Rate Statistics

Matt Gruel PhotoA post on October 9 provided a list of questions to help you generate new employer ideas, including this one:

 “What are unemployment and retention rates in key industries in your area?”

Matt Gruel, Employment Coordinator with World Relief Tri Cities in Richland, WA (pictured at left) is the first reader to ask a question about a blog post.  Matt asked,

 “How do I go about finding out the unemployment and (especially) retention rates in key industries in my area?  I’m hesitant to ask one of my employers directly since I think it’s something they wouldn’t want outsiders to know.”

Here are answers from a number of sources:

Employer Advice

First, we checked with a few employers who have hired refugees and partnered with refugee employment programs.   Erica Wolff, Director of Human Resources, Training, Safety & Security at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin hotel says,

 “I don’t think it is a problem at all to ask for turnover information if it is used as a measuring tool for placement services.” 

Other employers agree and add that this is very common information to track for management purposes.  If an employer has dedicated HR staff, they are most likely to have the information.  It might be broken out by a few key positions or by hourly/salaried staff.   Even if specific figures are unavailable, asking an employer directly might yield other valuable information or other sources for the data.

Higher’s Webinar Archive

In May 2013, we hosted a webinar about how to use statistics and data in job development.  It includes specific instructions for using Occupational Employment Statistics to target growth industries.  You can review slides on our website.

Where Else to Look for Information:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey.  http://www.bls.gov/jlt/
  • Trade associations or other industry groups.  (e.g. Hotel HR Associations, Unions, Chambers of Commerce)
  • County, City and State Government.  (e.g. Workforce Development Offices, Research and Planning Departments, Business Support Units trying to attract industry and investment)
  • Business Journals and Newspapers.

It’s great to get proof that Higher’s blog is being read.  We want to avoid spouting advice that isn’t useful, just for the sake of making a blog post.  So, thanks, Matt, for reading and for keeping us honest.

 

More on Drug Tests and “False Positives” from a Reader

Homer-Simpson-wingnuts-dohI’m so excited that someone wrote a comment on a post – and it’s a very useful one with more tips and specifics from the experience of Brian Bollinger, ED of Friends of Refugees and former Director of Employment Services at World Relief, both in Atlanta, GA.  THANKS BRIAN!:

A-tripla, the main medication Refugees with HIV are prescribed as a retroviral, very often shows up positive as THC.  Thousands of drug testing sites do not have that on their list of prescriptions, often because it would be illegal for the drug testing manufacturer to force an HIV positive person to self identify.  Self identification almost invariably results in rejection if the job relates to the food industry.  That is illegal discrimination, but it  is nearly impossible to prove that was the reason for rejection. Incidentally, it’s a big legal gray area that is a Catch-22, either voluntarily violate your right to privacy or voluntarily forfeit the opportunity to ever get a job (either because you have HIV or because they presume you use drugs).

Ever since the travel ban on HIV-positive Refugees was lifted, we have seen more and more of this happen, and that isn’t likely to change. Getting out in front of it is critical and can include such techniques as bringing in printed articles listing the medication from well-reputed medical resources, or being ready and able to go the long distance with immediate paperwork, follow-up blood tests and such when they fail the first test.

And, just because it makes me laugh, the graphic for a little comic relief!

5 Creative Ways to Help Clients Master Job Interview Skills

It’s easy to get bored with a topic you repeat so many times, like teaching newly arriving refugees about interview skills for the U.S. workplace.  However, it is an important topic for every client and there’s always room to improve (this applies to everyone, not just refugees).  Clients get bored with it too.  Here are some ideas you can consider to keep it fresh.

  1. Engage Volunteers:  You might not always be able to spend the time that’s needed on individual interview practice with each client.  Interview practice is a fun and stand-alone task that is perfect for volunteers.
    1. Add Quick Practice Into Job Readiness Class:  As basic interview concepts are being presented, include a few rounds of individual practice.  Have everyone stand up one by one, shake hands with you and introduce themselves.  You can take the same approach to answering and asking common interview questions.  For example, begin every client meeting with a handshake and greeting.
    2. Deepen Relationships with Key Employers:  Offer employer contacts the chance to get more involved.  Schedule a convenient time for employers and clients to conduct a few mock interviews.  Employers often express how much they enjoy these kinds of experiences.  And engaging them more will strengthen the relationship for future hires. Clients will benefit, too!
    3. Assign “Homework” for the Next Scheduled Appointment:  Sometimes clients need more time to think of answers or feel ready to express their thoughts in English.  Give them specific interview questions and encourage them to practice their answers before the next appointment.  This also helps encourage individual responsibility for their own successful job search.
    4. Rethink On-line Screening Questionnaires:  Wait a second – don’t tune out.  Everyone hates them, but screening questionnaires (like at Walmart and Office Depot) can be good sources of questions you can use in interview practice. In fact, they are really the same as an on-line job interview and are becoming increasingly common in today’s job market.   If a client aspires to a customer service job and can’t navigate an online screening questionnaire, they might not be ready for that kind of job.

Advice from a Career in Workforce Development

Harry Crawford retires as Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin today.  In his honor, we are reposting this summary of two pieces of his advice.  Harry Crawford

” I wanted to introduce you to Harry Crawford.  he’s the Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin – my boss.  He has more than 25 years of experience in workforce development. Lots of times in meetings with outside agencies, I  have to laugh because everyone ends up taking notes while Harry explains something we all need to understand.  Two pieces of his wisdom are counter-intuitive, but they always guide us through difficult aspects of working with clients, so I wanted to share them with you.

Some Clients Have to Hit the Wall: Sometimes, no mater what you do, clients have a hard time reconciling themselves to taking the first available, entry level job.  Sometimes we call it a survival or starter job.  When we’re feeling stress and worry about their family’s financial stability, Harry reminds us that some clients have to hit the wall before they can internalize the need to start in a job that they may feel is beneath them.  When they run out of options and money, they are forced to accept the realities of US work culture and that’s the best thing for them in the long term.

Finding a Job is a Numbers Game: We emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for their own success from our initial client intakes throughout all of our workshops and one-on-one coaching.  We try not to put more effort into a job search than the clients are giving themselves.  A lot of them get really frustrated by applying for lots of jobs and never even getting a response.  It builds their skills and, eventually, if they apply enough places, someone will call and they’ll find a job. ”

 

How to Use FREE Online Training and Education Resources

ToMortar Boardday, I found a great list of 20 free on-line educational resources through Higher’s FlipBoard magazine that includes some I’ve heard of and others that are new to me.   I wish I had time to investigate each one to evaluate the quality – which varies widely in on-line education and training offerings.  I can still think of several ways we could use these in our work with clients.

Addressing Language Skills:  If a client has already studies a subject in their native language, a basic course could help them learn vocabulary and terminology in English or help them understand what emphasis or application might be different in the US context.  At least one of the sites (Alison.com) offers courses in Arabic language.  The MIT site offers courses translated into Spanish, Persian and several other languages.  There are likely other non-English language resources available from among the list.

Helping Clients Learn Basic (and more Advanced) Workplace Skills:  A couple of the sites offer courses on basic workplace skills and topics like project management, how to find a mentor, health and safety requirements and an overview of the manufacturing process.  These are likely not covered in job readiness class, but many clients could benefit from learning more about them.

Access basic US-style academic courses:  It can be frustrating for clients who yearn to attend college or University, but aren’t quite ready.  Many times, clients sign-up for on-line degrees and don’t understand the financial and time commitment or what it takes to succeed in on-line learning.  Helping clients identify relevant courses could satisfy their desire to learn while working full-time and help them understand the skills they need to succeed in any academic environment.  Some of the sites include standardized test preparation materials, as well.

Figuring out Technical Career Paths:  So many clients say they “know about computers”, but don’t know how those skills are segmented and applied in the job market.  Often, I struggled to figure out career paths and industry leads for technical skills that were completely unfamiliar to me.  With a little research, it seems like you could improve your understanding of these sectors and identify resources for clients to do so.

It would be great to hear from you about which sites you found useful and how you used them.  We’re all busy, but maybe if you can provide the list to clients, they can tell you what was useful for them.

And, stay tuned to begin using Higher’s new on-line training courses in the next month or so.  Our initial topics include  How to Communicate with Employers (for employment professionals) and Workplace Culture (for clients).  If you want to get involved in field testing to be among the first to use this great new resource designed just for us, get in touch at info@higheradvantage.org.

 

Great Job Opportunity in a Great City and Agency

Higher is considering how we can help advertise refugee employment job opportunities.  Career growth in this field might mean moving to another agency or city.  For agencies, being able to cast a wider net for talent and experience can be costly.  Helping agencies and the refugee employment sector attract and retain people with skills, passion and experience is central to our mission.  We’ll be exploring how best to do that.  Feel free to tell us what you think about this or give us suggestions about other things we can do related to career development for refugee employment professionals.

For now, here’s a link to an exciting position open now – Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin, TX.  The position manages 10 people and oversees employment services to approximately 1,000 (primarily refugee) clients a year in the largest non-profit social service agency in the County.

 

Research Study Measures Economic Benefits of Job Upgrades Into Professional Career Tracks

It’s often difficult to help refugees with job upgrades or professional recertification, but the added income for refugees and contribution to the US economy make a  significant difference.  Skilled immigrants increased their average annualized salary by 121% (from an average of $16.967 to $37,490) when they begin working in a better job in their field.  A research study released by Upwardly Global in April of this year, documents and quantifies the economic benefits of employment assistance to help skilled immigrants secure job upgrades related to the careers in which they offer skills and experience.    Look for more resources and examples of job upgrade strategies and successes in professional recertification in the coming months at http://www.higheradvantage.org.

 

 

African Community Center of Denver’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program

During our last webinar (click here to view the slideshow), Donna Kapp, Training Programs Manager for
ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, shared a little bit about how she uses labor market information to inform employer outreach. Afterward, we caught up with Donna to learn a little more about the ACC’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program.

Can you share any successes of the program?DSC02822[2]
CFaSST graduates are often better prepared for work in a commercial kitchen than most Americans! At the beginning of the course, CFaSST participants take a pre-test to determine their familiarity with food safety and to set a benchmark from which to measure their learning. The average pre-test score is 39%. After several weeks of learning in the classroom, field trips, special speakers and applying their learning in a commercial kitchen, every student has passed the post test. In fact, the average score on the posttest is 87% and two participants have scored 100%!

What is the program? What do refugees learn?
CFaSST, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training, is a 100 hour, highly accessible and interactive course on the rules and regulations of commercial food preparation and service in America. It includes information on the importance of food safety, the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them. Participants learn how to prevent foodborne illness by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination, preparing and holding food at the correct temperatures, storing food correctly and cleaning and sanitizing in the commercial kitchen.

They also learn the basics of customer service, how to handle a knife, English vocabulary related to the commercial food industry, and the soft skills employers are looking for in their newly hired employees. Through a dynamic partnership with the University of Denver, the course is offered in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management building on campus. CFaSST participants are able to learn course content in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the event center kitchen.

This partnership also makes possible unique learning opportunities for both students and staff who interact with the CFaSST program on campus. Undergraduate students enrolled in the “Human Capital Management” course develop very close relationships with CFaSST participants. Each CFaSST participant is mentored by one or two university undergrads to learn more about the hospitality industry and how to find and interview for food service positions. For many, this “assignment” becomes a gateway to new friendships as CFaSST participants and university undergrads get to know each other and move forward toward the common goal of employment in the hospitality industry.

While CFaSST participants benefit a great deal from the experience, university students also learn how to interact with and train someone who may be older than they, who might not speak much English and comes from a very diverse cultural background. Students graduating from the university have described this mentoring relationship as one of their most significant learning experiences during their four years at the university.

Check out this article to learn about the program from the perspective of the students and faculty.

How many refugees have completed the program?
Since the program began in the spring of 2012, 46 adult refugees have graduated from the course with certificates of completion, safe food handler cards and their own bimetallic stemmed thermometers.

DSC00370[1][4]Of those that have completed the program, how many have been hired in the hospitality industry?
Since last year, 76% of those enrolled in CFaSST found employment within 90 days of completing the course. Most of those placements occurred within the first 30 days after graduation. 81% of those employed are working in food service related positions such as cook, prep cook, kitchen utility worker, dishwasher, steward and concession stand worker.

We have worked hard to build relationships with various employers in the Denver metro area. CFaSST graduates are working in many different businesses including Chili’s Restaurants, the Sheraton Hotel, Coors Field (where the Rockies, Colorado’s professional baseball team, play), the University of Denver, and many other local commercial food businesses.

What are some of the challenges of the program?
Through experience, we’ve learned that food service jobs are difficult to find right before the holidays. Consequently, we’ve reorganized the schedule so that this fall participants will complete the course and be ready for employment in mid-October rather than late November.  Employment placements are high in Denver right now so it is sometimes difficult to get enough referrals from Volag staff. Fortunately, CFaSST enjoys an excellent reputation within the community and many individuals refer themselves to the program.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone that would like to start a program like this?
Training programs for adult refugees should be closely tied to the American workplace in order to prepare them for employment. That means programs should instruct in the hard and soft skills employers are looking for while building participants’ workplace English vocabulary. Look for employer partners who understand and value the opportunity such programs offer them to contribute to the training content and then hire well prepared employees.

In the classroom, instructors should not be afraid to challenge their students with difficult material while creating a positive and safe environment that encourages learning through a variety of methods and activities. CFaSST participants are always respected as mature and capable learners who, through hard work, rise to the expectations of the instructors.

To learn more about CFaSST, please contact Donna Kapp, donna@acc-den.org or 303-399-4500 x331.

Training Program Gives Refugees Work Experience

Training program gives refugees work experience
Written By Jessica Opoien, Oshkosh Northwestern Media
May 23, 2013

Refugees resettling in the Oshkosh area now have an opportunity to gain work experience, English skills and job references thanks to a partnership between World Relief Fox Valley and Habitat for Humanity. photo (3)

The Habitat Employment Training Program places refugees resettling through World Relief into what amounts to an unpaid internship while they look for jobs. The eight-week program puts refugees to work in the Habitat ReStore and on construction sites.

“Our main goal is to advance their communication skills, in a workplace rather than just a classroom, as well as provide them with a working reference — just kind of an initiation to the American job culture,” said Keri Ewing, Americorps VISTA volunteer coordinator with Habitat for Humanity.

Fourteen refugees participated in a pilot program, with seven completing it. Since then, five have found full-time employment. The program began as a partnership between Habitat and World Relief, a humanitarian organization that helps refugees resettle in the United States. An Oshkosh office opened in January 2012.

The collaboration expanded to include the Workforce Development Center, the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Winnebago Literacy CouncilCity of Oshkosh, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, ADVOCAP and the Wisconsin Works program. The program’s funding currently comes from Americorps and a Community Foundation grant.

Last year, World Relief assisted in placing 86 refugees in the Oshkosh area, most of whom were Burmese. Others hailed from Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Darfur. About three-fourths of those refugees were adults. The office expects to resettle about 100 refugees per year.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) resettlement handbook, the United States was projected to resettle 52,500 refugees from around the world in fiscal year 2011. The word “refugee” refers to people who have crossed international borders for actual or feared risk of persecution for political, religious or ethnic reasons.

When refugees flee their country, they have three options. They can stay in a resettlement camp in a second country, and return to their home when conditions have stabilized. If their country remains unstable, sometimes they can integrate into the country of asylum — an option that’s very rare. The third, and also rare, option is to resettle in a third country like the U.S.

Upon being resettled, refugees receive 30-90 days of direct assistance from organizations like World Relief, as well as language training and a short orientation. After three months, they still receive some assistance but are expected to have found a job.

However, with little to no English skills and no work experience in the U.S., finding a job is often easier said than done. That’s where employment training program comes in.

“We have people from different countries either with no work experience or work experience that is not recognized,” said Myriam Mwizerwa, office director at World Relief Fox Valley. “Anything they can do here in the U.S. and have that reference helps.”

Refugees come from a wide variety of circumstances and have a broad range of professional experiences. Some have worked as doctors and lawyers, others as carpenters. Some have worked recently and others have spent the last several years in refugee camps. The number one goal for all refugees, regardless of professional experience, is economic self-sufficiency, Mwizerwa said.

The two biggest barriers to self-sufficiency are language barriers and transportation, said Christy Hillebrand, World Relief’s employment specialist. English classes are helpful, but often, being in a work environment helps improves language skills more than learning in a classroom.

photo (4)Jay Barrientes, project manager for Habitat for Humanity, works directly with refugees on the construction sites. Currently, he is working with three refugees from Myanmar: Ruata Ialrem, Sum Hran and Vum Iian, on a house on Winnebago Avenue that is expected to be finished by Aug. 6. Hran said someday he would like to have a job making furniture.

Barrientes said language is the biggest challenge, but they work through it by going slowly and using hand signals. Safety is also a major challenge, he said, adding that regulations vary significantly from country to country. Much of the skills and knowledge he passes on are things he takes for granted.

“They’re getting American job skills in an industry that many of them could probably leave here and go work in … at least they know basic measuring skills and operating power tools … and then to be able to feel more comfortable with the language and interacting with people,” Barrientes said. “These guys want to help, and I think they want to be part of our community.”

Mwizerwa and Hillebrand said World Relief is still trying to make connections with employers and find job possibilities for refugees, as well as professional mentors. Since the organization is relatively new to the area, it’s still working on making itself known. In the meantime, while refugees search for full-time employment, the Habitat program allows them to become more comfortable in the American workplace.

“The refugees are able to help out with something that’s going on in the community and give back, too,” Hillebrand said. “So it’s a win-win.”

To learn more about World Relief Fox Valley, please contact Myriam Mwizerwa, mmwizerwa@wr.org or 920-891-7961.

FREE RESOURCE! Pre-Employment Training

Higher’s July webinar on training design and delivery strategies received rave reviews from all participants with much interest in sharing existing resources geared to pre-employment classes that include multiple English levels.  One of the webinar’s guest presenters, Brittani Mcleod of Catholic Community Services of Utah, agreed to share her tested curriculum outline.  You can download the outline here.  This is a great starting point for any refugee employment service providers who are looking to create a pre-employment training that addresses the needs of job seekers with varying levels of English.  If you would like to receive the full curriculum which includes activities, vocabulary lists and picture cards, contact us.

Picture Card Example from CCS Utah Pre-Employment Curriculum

What strategies or tools are you finding helpful when preparing refugees for employment?  Let us know in the comment section.  We would be happy to feature your program on our website too!