Upwardly Global Now Offers Refugee-specific Services

You may already be familiar with Upwardly Global (UpGlo). Since its founding in 2000, UpGlo has offered free job search training and services, online and in person, to help skilled immigrants and refugees rebuild professional careers in the U.S.  One thing that you may not be aware of, however, is that they now offer refugee-specific services to eligible job seekers nationwide.

The program includes UpGlo’s standard job search training and services as well as an Online Learning Portal that houses free training courses, materials, and community forums. For example, the online community platform, known as WeGlo, provides guides and resources related to refugee legal rights, social and welfare benefits and information regarding naturalization, etc.

UpGlo’s refugee-specific services also include free access to Coursera online college courses, and for clients in the San Francisco Bay area, access to internship opportunities at Tetra Tech DPK.

Additionally, refugee clients are connected with volunteer mentors from various industries through informational and networking events. UpGlo provides refugee-specific training to volunteer mentors, equipping them to assist refugees with interview preparation, job search, and building a professional network in the U.S.

To learn more about UpGlo’s refugee-specific services, click here.

Frontline Perspective: Former Refugees Now Working in Refugee Employment Share Their Advice

Many of our colleagues in refugee employment are former refugees. These staff members bring with them valuable first-hand knowledge of the refugee experience, critical language skills, and a unique perspective that benefits us all.

It’s important to acknowledge, however, the personal challenges and cultural adjustment that these staff members have successfully navigated (or are currently navigating) in order to be effective in their roles.

Speaking about his own experience getting started in refugee resettlement and employment services in 2011, former Higher Peer Advisor Subash Acharya says:

 “[As a Job Developer coming from a different cultural background] I found it challenging to build rapport with employers in the beginning…Many did not feel comfortable with me because they had never worked with someone like me in the past.”

Over time Subash developed strategies for overcoming these challenges, and  eventually was promoted to Employment Services Coordinator at Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord, NH. In this role he managed a successful refugee employment program from 2015-2017, before transitioning out of refugee services in order to pursue the next steps in his own professional journey.

We wondered what the experience of other former refugees now working in refugee employment has been like, so during a breakout session at Higher’s 3rd Annual Refugee Employment Workshop, we asked these individuals to answer 3 questions:

  1. What was your biggest challenge when you began working in refugee employment?
  2. What advice do you have for new refugee employment staff coming from a refugee background?
  3. How can management at resettlement agencies support staff coming from a refugee background?

Here is what they had to say:

Biggest Challenges of refugee employment staff from a refugee background (past and present challenges)

  • Adapting to a new culture while trying to help others (many from cultures different from mine) adapt at the same time can be difficult.
  • Clients from my culture often have higher expectations of me and sometimes expect me to show them favoritism.
  • Coworkers, clients and employers sometimes have had difficulty understanding my accent.
  • Coming from a different culture, early on I had some difficulty building relationships with American employers.

Advice for refugee employment staff from a refugee background

  • Be open-minded and not too judgmental towards your coworkers and clients.
  • Stop…think about when you first arrived. Then act. Your perspective as a former refugee will help you.
  • Be flexible, and don’t take things personally.
  • Work hard on your own cultural adaptation so that you can set an example for clients.

Advice for management about hiring and working with staff from a refugee background

  • Provide additional cultural orientation and be patient as these staff members continue to adapt to American culture.
  • Don’t just hire for language ability; hire former refugees who have some experience with American culture as well as the professional skills necessary for the job.
  • Just like clients, former refugees now working in refugee employment services are adjusting to general American culture as well as American workplace culture. Set these team members up for success by clearly communicating professional expectations and office etiquette.
  • Respect the unique perspective of the former refugees on your team; show an interest in their culture and demonstrate a willingness to learn from them.

We hope that sharing the perspective of our colleagues coming from a refugee background will be a reminder of their vital contributions and provide an opportunity for coworkers and supervisors to think through how they can best support and learn from these staff members.

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.

Friday Feature: The SIV story on This American Life podcast

This Friday we hope you will listen to a podcast with powerful stories of Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients. This American Life is my favorite podcast. The amazing stories of real people always help take my mind off the daily grind. For employment staff who work hard to find better job for those SIVs who are highly educated and often speak English quite well I hope you will enjoy this podcast.

This American Life is an American weekly hour-long radio program produced by WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and hosted by Ira Glass. It is broadcast on numerous public radio stations in the United States and is also available as a free weekly podcast. Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also features essays, memoirs, field recordings, and short fiction.

On January 6, 2017 This American Life aired episode 607: “Didn’t We Solve this One?” This episode masterfully captures the journey of Iraqis who took on the harrowing task of helping US forces juxtaposed against the struggle in Congress to create the SIV program. The SIV program brings Iraqis to the US who served the US forces and now their lives are targeted because of the work they did for the US.

For more information on the SIV program read this post: Afghan and Iraqi SIV Programs

Access the podcast here 

 

Friday Feature: Documentary following Refugees Fleeing to Europe

 This Friday, take some time to watch this film. The film could be helpful in presenting material to community stakeholders who know little about the modern day plight of refugees. On December 27, 2016 PBS’s Frontline premiered Exodus. Exodus is a Keo Films production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and BBC. The director is James Bluemel.

“I am a refugee, I am just like you, I have a family, I have dreams, I’ve got hopes…” says Ahmad one of the 5 stories Featured in Exodus. “I just want a peaceful life away from violence.”

A documentary film featuring first-hand stories of refugees and migrants as they make dangerous journeys across 26 countries seeking safety and a better life. Some of the stories are captured by the refugees themselves on their smartphones tracking their trek via water or van to Europe. These people are fleeing from war in search of peace but along their journey they face smugglers, human traffickers and many do not survive. For those that make it to Europe, many are shut out or encamped.

Much of the dialogue across the US and the world this past year has been ceaselessly negative towards refugees. In addition to your words, perhaps this film can help to combat the stigma in today’s contentious political climate. “It’s important to unmask and humanize, and remind people that this is a human tragedy.”-Director James Bluemel.

Access the film here.

 

 

CLINIC Survey: Is Your Program Serving More Haitians?

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), needs information on newly arrived Haitians. Has your office seen the arrival of Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)? CLINIC is ORR’s TA provider on immigration and legal rights for refugees. 

CLINIC plans to offer a webinar in late January or early February that will focus on how to best serve recently arrived Haitians who qualify for TPS. CLINIC has created a brief survey that will inform the content of this webinar.

Click here to take the survey before it closes on Friday, January 13th.

Happy New Year!!

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

This year has been very challenging and stressful but as always employment staff remained resilient and rose to the challenge. We thank you for your service to you refugee and immigrant clients.If you need any employment assistance or just want to reach out, Higher is always here to support. Email information@higheradvantage.org

 

CareerDescriptions.org predicted the following top 5 careers by 2017. Do you agree?

Workforce Collaboration Case Study: New Collaborative in Bowling Green, KY Helps Fill Key Manufacturing Positions

Photo: www.gm.com/AJ Mast for Chevrolet

Bowling Green, KY may be a smaller city, but it has developed a reputation for being a great place to do business, coming in at #39 this year on Forbes Magazine’s Top 200 “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” list .

Bowling Green’s high income and job growth combined with a low cost of doing business has made it a popular destination for many major companies including Fruit of the Loom, Camping World, Magna International, Holley Performance Products, Russell Brands, and General Motors (The Bowling Green Assembly Plant has been the source of all Chevrolet Corvettes built since 1981).

During the past decade, Bowling Green’s economy weathered the recession and rebounded surprisingly well with a 5% increase in manufacturing employment, a 5% increase in professional and business services, and a 6% increase in leisure and hospitality since 2005. With all of this growth however, some local employers, especially those in manufacturing, have struggled to find enough workers.

Higher Peer Advisor Kelly Rice is the Employment Services Manager at the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green and recently told us about a new collaborative effort called Team Workforce that is working to solve the worker shortage issue that employers are facing.

Here is an excerpt from our interview with Kelly:

Can you tell us about Team Workforce? What is it and who is involved?

Team Workforce is a local team of partners from different agencies including mainstream workforce development, non-profits, and educational institutions. At this point the collaborative includes our local Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Career Center, Goodwill Industries Job Junction, Southern Kentucky Technical College, Western Kentucky University, Department for Community Based Services and the Kentucky Works Program. Our goal is to eliminate the unemployment rate for our local counties and bridge the gap between motivated workers and employers with positions that they are struggling to fill. Our group meets on a bi-weekly basis to discuss current job openings, strategies for helping our clients access these openings, and whether or not we might have good candidates for these positions.

What have been some of the early accomplishments of the collaborative? 

So far we’ve worked a lot with the manufacturing industry and some of our early accomplishments have been the development of a production certificate program and a manufacturing skills program that helps gives clients the skills they need to access better employment opportunities. We’ve also been able to reach out to our city officials and work with them to alleviate some of the transportation barriers job seekers face by changing some bus routes to provide greater access to local industrial parks.

How has your involvement in the Team Workforce collaborative benefited refugees in Bowling Green? Have the other collaborative members and the local employers you are targeting been receptive to working with your clients? 

Our clients have definitely benefited from this collaboration. Of course any collaboration has its challenges. It’s a learning process and we are all still learning how to best accommodate each other’s needs. As anyone who works with refugees knows, issues such as language, transportation, and childcare needs always present challenges and sometimes cause employers or mainstream workforce development programs to be hesitant to work with our clients. We’ve continued to educate our partners and local employers about our clients strong work ethic and skills and have provided support when necessary, such as coordinating interpretation.

Job Preparation Class at ICKY/www.icofky.org

Our employment program has benefited because we are more aware of local employment and training opportunities than we were before and they are more aware of our programs.

Our network has expanded and this has created more training and job opportunities for our clients, which is encouraging.

We have also worked with the local career center to design a weekly basic computer skills training class for clients without much experience using computers. Additionally, we have seen an increase in clients enrolled in the GED program at Southern Kentucky Technical College, which has also opened up pathways to other vocational training programs offered by the school.

Many thanks to Kelly Rice for sharing this collaboration case study! To check out past collaboration case studies, click here.

We’d love to hear your collaboration success story. Please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Kelly RiceKelly Rice has a B.S in Finance from Virginia Tech and an HR certificate from Western Kentucky University.  She worked at Wells Fargo for 8 years and joined the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green as Employment Program Manager in May 2013.

 

Note: Information and statistics about Bowling Green’s economy were obtained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Green,_Kentucky#Economy.

Happy Holidays from Higher

Photo Credit The Cramer Insititute

Photo Credit The Cramer Institute

These past few months have been incredibly busy for everyone in resettlement across the country. We hope you all employment staff can take some time just to relax because you have definitely earned it. Employment is no easy job and the skill-set that each one of you has is so vital to the resettlement of refugees. Each of your clients benefit when you work together to place them in jobs.

Before you go, please check in with both employers and clients before you take vacation because no one wants to come back to a crisis. Most importantly, please take care of yourselves so you can get back to your awesome and life changing work in New Year.

If we at Higher can give your more information that you need in order to succeed in your job or if you need someone to talk through a tough situation please do not hesitate to reach out, we are always available information@higheradvantage.org.

Stay safe and take care.

 

 

10 Tips for Newly Hired Employment Managers

Congratulations! After all the long and hard hours you’ve worked building innovative and successful employment programs, you are now a manager. This new role is important and well-deserved but comes with a whole new set of goals and demands. New managers need just as much guidance in their role so here are a few helpful tips to all the new managers out there:

1) Address the shift immediately: If you find yourself managing your former peers you must address the new dynamics immediately. Have a meeting with the staff and your supervisor. Have your supervisor explain the shift and your new role so everyone is clear about the new team dynamic. Whereas you may have gone out with co-workers after work before, that friendship dynamic may no longer be possible. Please keep in mind that some colleagues may be resentful of your promotions but just be professional and focus on running a great program.

2)  Communication- It’s a two way street: A great manager knows how to listen effectively and does not talk down to their employees. Take the time to understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings of your staff. Have a weekly team meeting where you give a few updates but also allow time for the staff to give updates. A few ideas to get staff talking: have your staff come prepared to discuss a difficult client story, a successful client story, and an issue they need advice on. Then talk through each situation as a team.

3) Effective and Efficient Meetings: In the refugee resettlement world everyone is working at such a fast pace. In order to get your staff to slow down and take the time to comprehend what you need them to learn, be wise about when and how often you schedule meetings. If you don’t have enough information to fill up an agenda, don’t call a meeting. Decide what and when new information needs to be shared. For example ORR changes to programs or problems with TANF are going to lead your agenda. Try to focus on 3 to 5 key issues in each meeting, and try not to meet more than once a week as a team.

4) Delegation: A great manager knows the strengths and weaknesses of their staff. It’s your job now to make sure the workload is divided. A manager does not take on all the work themselves; rather they know what needs to be accomplished and can identify which team member is best suited to accomplish the task. You are there to oversee and guide your staff, not to do their work for them. 

5) Accept Responsibility: Problems arise. Accept responsibility for your own actions, and accept responsibility for your team’s actions. Failure to accept responsibility makes a manager look weak to both superiors and subordinates.

6) One-on-one meetings: These meetings are a great way to learn what your employees need. Employees can sometimes be shy to share in a large groups. Here you will want to focus these meetings on the employee’s: needs, strengths, problems with clients. Ask if they want additional training and how are they managing their time. Some people need help managing their workload and this may mean helping them create a strict weekly schedule. These meetings should also be a chance for employees to hear from you. Positive feedback is always going to be better received. Try to make plans to help employee improve their performance instead of just pointing out their weaknesses. 

7) Continued Professional Development: A manager is someone who is constantly learning and growing. There are tons of great seminars out there on how to be an effective manager, but there are also lots of webinars and resources that can help you advance and grow your employment programs. At the end of this article are a few resources.

8) Find a Mentor: Find someone who is an inspiring manager and ask them if they might become a mentor to you. Advice from someone you respect will go a long way. A mentor can also be a great resource and sounding board for your ideas and problems. Be open about how you are feeling in your new role and what support you need in order to continue growing as a manager. 

9) Passion for the Mission: As a manager you will be asked to address many stakeholders in your community, including employers, funders, and government officials. Public speaking may not be your forte but it will improve over time if you can passionately convey your work. Passion for the clients and your organization’s mission will go a long way in the success of your work and will keep you coming to work with a smile on your face and set a great example for your staff.

10 )Lead by Example: Don’t just tell your staff what to do; show them. A great manager knows how to do the work, not just teach it. Instead of asking new staff to teach job club, give them the opportunity to observe you or another seasoned staff member so that they can learn by example. Offer to sit with them if they have a difficult client, or need support with tasks such as intake paperwork or a food stamp re-certification. Staying engaged in the work of your staff will also give you a chance to exercise and refresh your skills. Above all, inspire others to want to help you accomplish desired goals. People who want to do something are far more effective than people who have to do something.

Additional Tools and Resources for Supervisors and Managers: