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:

Bridging Access to Mainstream Workforce Resources: Rockford, Illinois

-This piece was contributed by Rock Valley College

Rock Valley College—working in collaboration with Catholic Charities, The Workforce Connection and other local partners and employers— offers comprehensive workforce services tailored to the needs of refugees to create a multitude of mutually beneficial relationships and success stories. Heilman attributes some of this success to Rock Valley’s intensive case management concept. A caring case manager matched with interpreters who understand refugees’ adjustment problems all work together to make a huge difference.

Overview

Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois has been a hub for social networking, employment services, and adult education for refugees since 1978. The college’s Refugee Training Program (RTP) is imbedded in The Workforce Connection, an American Job Center (AJC) channeling mainstream workforce resources to all Rockford job seekers. RTP services and funding streams are integrated, as are programming options for refugees. This is a unique hybrid model that

illustrates some of the WIOA-funded resources refugees can access. Eighteen workforce agency partners are located under one roof at The Workforce Connection office, so refugee clients can easily navigate career opportunities while also taking care of their family’s social and educational needs. The relationship with Rock Valley College is consistent with the concept of a “one-stop-shop” upon which AJCs across the U.S. are structured.

Rock Valley, the only community college in Illinois to receive refugee social service funding, is positioned to offer a full scope of resources and services to refugees including childcare, housing assistance, food stamps, energy assistance, public school resources, and employment assistance.

The college not only facilitates access for refugees by partnering with community agencies but by also applying their connections with workforce resources to create customized career pathways. They are the bridge between training resources and the goal of getting their clients and their skill sets ready for the U.S. workforce.

Populations Served
Catholic Charities Diocese of Rockford resettles approximately 350 refugees in Rockford each year. The majority of these receive services from Rock Valley College at different times in their initial resettlement period when they are no longer participating in other programs that might involve duplication of services. The largest refugee populations being resettled in Rockford now are from Congo, Burma, and Iraq.

Facts about Rockford

The Rockford metropolitan area’s population is 348,360 and projected to decrease. The 8.3% unemployment rate is higher than the national average

rock-v 
Centrally located between Chicago; Milwaukee; Dubuque, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin, the logistics and transportation sector is one of Rockford’s major industries.
Rockford is home to the nation’s first Harley Davidson Dealership, the rock band Cheap Trick and the Rockford Peaches all-women baseball team from the 1940s and 50’s (made famous in the film A League of Their Own, 1992).

Amy Heilman, who has served refugees at Rock Valley College since 1992, is now the RTP Program Director. According to Heilman, RTP has connections to clients, interpreters, and employers that result in specialized expertise in workforce development for refugees and immigrants. The larger workforce system is not set up to serve every special population that needs to access workforce services. Reliance on specialized community agencies is an approach that has proven effective elsewhere with other special populations (e.g. people with disabilities or urban youth). RTP provides this specialized expertise for refugees and immigrants at The Workforce Connection.

“From the first day of enrollment, we know who refugees’ relatives are and where they live. We might know their neighbors, and we know our clients’ backgrounds. Heilman said. “Most refugees in the community live within a five-mile radius of Rock Valley College. RTP is not only familiar with their culture and their networks, but also their general barriers to employment.”

Core Programs Are the Foundation for Success

Intensive Case Management – The strength of Rock Valley College’s program is due in large part to its Intensive Case Management, a rather stark contrast to other mainstream workforce and adult education programs. Intensive case management is the process of identifying, planning, coordinating, and monitoring services and resources to meet the individual client’s goals. As soon as an individual is enrolled in the program, a case manager begins coordinating services, based on individualized strengths and needs assessments, and establishes a service plan with that individual. Case management services are made possible with diverse funding sources including the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Work Force Innovation Act (WIOA).

English-language Training – The college’s English-language training program is another strong success factor. All adult refugees are eligible to enroll in Rock Valley College community ESL courses. Clients are either ready for job placement or they continue their study. The next step essential for so many clients needing extra support to gain English skills, and to get oriented to the workplace, they attend the Workplace Transitions for Refugees and Immigrants class: a contextualized and blended ESL/job readiness class covering topics including American workstyles, communication on the job, pay checks, workplace rights and responsibilities, and how to write a resume. The intense course is offered three hours a day for three weeks.

Refugee Youth Program Mural located in the neighborhood. All photos provided by Rock Valley College.

Refugee Youth Program Mural located in the neighborhood. All photos provided by Rock Valley College.

This course will have 30 attendees in 2017 and in WIOA terms it is a short-term pre-vocational training. After completion of this class the participants can enroll in an Individual Training Account (ITA). ITAs are a training option available to eligible and appropriate participants when it is determined by a career planner that they will be unlikely or unable to obtain or retain employment that leads to self-sufficiency or higher wages from previous employment through career services alone. An ITA gets the participant a credential which they can put on their resume. WIOA offers the option to enroll job seekers into Individual Training Accounts which are a per capita funding mechanism paying for training to support the job seekers specific career goals. Eligible clients purchase training services from eligible training providers – in this case the Transitions class – that they select in consultation with a career planner.

Participants are expected to utilize information such as skills assessments, labor market trends, and training providers’ performance, and to take an active role in managing their employment future through the use of an ITA. An ITA may be awarded to eligible adults, dislocated workers, and out of school youth ages 18-24. ITAs are not entitlements and can be provided to eligible participants on the basis of an individualized assessment of the person’s needs and documented on the participant’s Individual Employment Plan (IEP). RTP applies ITA funds to help refugees gain the skills they need from among all of the training options offered.

From these courses, they are referred to job search activities which can include placement, transitional job programs, additional vocational training or OJT.

Job Development and Placement Services – Job Development staff within the mainstream workforce development system are most commonly called Business Service Representatives (or BSRs).. Rock Valley’s BSRs work with employers and identify job opportunities for job seekers who visit The Workforce Connection. One BSR and one Employment Specialist manage all employment functions for refugees as a part of Rock Valley’s staff structure. These services include interviewing refugee students about employment needs, maintaining the connection to employers, providing job leads, and referring enrollees to classes.

The program has exceeded its goals for the last program year:

  • Percentage of Participants students placed in employment – 96% last program year (goal of 75%)
  • Percentage of Participants students retained in that job after 90 days – 89% last program year (goal of 80%)
  • Average earnings 90 days out – exceeded the set dollar amount set for last program year

This tracking has continued to fuel the success of the program as they continually gather outcome information that informs the way they work with their clients. Additionally, clients in WIOA-funded programs get a 12 month follow up after job placement and it too has shown good outcomes again allowing for continued learning.

Rock Valley’s BSR maintains contact with a variety of companies, from large corporations to independently owned shops. Lowe’s Home Improvement hires for a variety of jobs – pickers, packers, loaders, unloaders, transportation and sales associates. A large commercial laundry employs many as do small business environments.

On-the-Job Training (OJT) – On average about 15% of refugee clients access On the Job Training programs. These courses provide a bridge or on-ramp to

Refugee Worker at Rock Valley commercial laundry

Refugee Worker at Rock Valley commercial laundry

allow refugees to transition into more advanced job training programs in healthcare, manufacturing, transportation or logistics. Instructors also offer specific guidance to explore career options and develop the study skills required for a certificate or degree programs. The OJT program provides refugees with a real job and subsidizes up to 75% of wages and training costs to the employer. Participants earn money while learning new job skills with an employer. “Upon conclusion of the training time, most applicants are hired with no strings attached,” said Mark Spain, Business Services Coordinator in Rock Valley’s Refugee Training Program. “The program can be utilized in a variety of occupations, from entry-level to professional,” he continued. Refugees have been placed in jobs from manufacturing to technology professionals, depending on employers’ needs and participants’ skill sets.

According to Heilman, the reason that more refugee clients do not access OJT is that they do not meet the English language proficiency requirement (the standard varies depending upon the industry but often centers around an 8th grade English level). Additionally, the paperwork required of employers sometimes discourages them from participating in the federal OJT program. The employers utilizing OJT are often employers who are struggling to find qualified workers. “[In Illinoise], it is typically manufactures who find the OJT program to be a valuable approach to filling vacancies.” Learn more about OJT programs.

Refugee Success Stories

Mu Dah

Mu Dah spent 13 years in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand. After resettlement in the U.S., initially this single mother spoke no English and lacked reliable transportation or childcare. The combination of intensive case management and an observant ESL teacher proved to be life-changing. “The ESL instructors saw in her a desire to learn and encouraged her,” Heilman said. “She slowly gained self-confidence, began attending the job readiness class consistently, and eventually achieved her first employment opportunity, at Goodwill Industries.”

The skills and training provided at Goodwill – part of a WIOA-funded work experience training opportunity – helped her transition to a job at Spider Company, a 70,000-square-foot facility in Rockford that produces small high-tech engineering parts for the aerospace, farming and healthcare industries. The Workforce Connection paid her salary at Goodwill and provided a training plan for the skills they wanted her to learn for the job. “Rock Valley College helped me get trained and then find employment at Spider Company which helped my family succeed,” Mu Dah said. “I am so happy about getting a job and now have money to afford better things.”

Mulenda Bisoga

Mulenda Bisoga left Congo in 1998, when rebel and government forces were in conflict. After a long and painful journey, Mulenda and his family came to Rockford in 2014. He began taking English classes through Rock Valley College. He soon went to work in Rochelle, Illinois and has now been working with the same employer for more than a year and enjoys his position. Out of hundreds of nominees from throughout the state, Mulenda received Illinois’ annual Workforce Partnership Award for his success.

Amy Heilman, Program Director of the Refugee Training Program

Amy Heilman, Program Director of the Refugee Training Program

Making the Match in December: Spotlight on YMCA International Services Houston, TX

December is the perfect time of year for agencies to focus on raising the match for Matching Grant. With the country in a giving mood most agencies are able to raise 25% to 65% of their fiscal year match between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Now that the match for MG can be raised 100% through in-kind donations your agency has a ton of options for what to ask for from donors or how to raise the match. When calculating the match please remember that not all gifts or volunteer hours will count toward MG, follow the ORR guidelines on what can be included as match and be sure to keep a precise record.

YMCA International Services of Houston recently shared a creative strategy their office uses during the holiday season to raise the match and help refugee families. Here is what Joe Saceric, ymcaDirector of Community Relations wrote about this program:

Every year many refugee families will be celebrating their first holiday season in their new homes. To provide them with comfort, and to welcome them YMCA International Services of Houston hosts an annual Adopt-A-Family program.  In December families and community groups “adopt” families for the holidays, purchasing items on their wish list which they fill out with a staff person or a volunteer mentor. For many this is an opportunity to wish for items they otherwise will continue to live without like a TV, or bike, or even a computer that could benefit everyone.

YMCA International Services of Houston's Adopt-A-Family program

YMCA International Services of Houston’s Adopt-A-Family program

One of the most unique aspects of this program is that those adopting have the opportunity (only if they wish) to deliver the gifts to the homes of the refugee family they adopted. During these visits the families will encourage their visitors to stay and talk, they will often serve treats, and for some this has been the beginning of a new friendship. This is an extraordinary way for Houstonians and their new neighbors to meet each other and celebrate their cultures during the holiday season. 

Along with the families and groups many other YMCA centers throughout Houston also partake in the festivities, many of these adopters are local youth and teen!  Through the generosity of so many last year close to fifty families were adopted. Adopt-A-Family continues to grow every year. This year over fifty families have already been adopted, and there is still time for a few more.

If you agency would like assistance or ideas for raising the match, or if you have a MG success story you would like to share; please do not hesitate to contact us here at Higher: information@higheradvantage.org

 

Holiday Outreach Strategy + Holiday Graphic!

Showing appreciation for your employer partners is easier than ever before.

We designed this holiday graphic to provide you with an easy and quick way to send a thank you email to employers and community partners. 

You can do it in three easy steps:

1. Download a high resolution JPEG by right clicking on the below image and selecting “Save As”.

higher-holiday-card 2016

(or Download a PDF here)

2. Add your agency logo and message to an email.

3. Hit send.

Do you have a holiday outreach strategy that works? Please share in the comments below or contact us with the details!  

Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Connecting Refugees to WIOA-Funded Programs in Omaha

staff-photoLutheran Family Services of Nebraska’s Refugee Education & Employment Program (REEP) staff members have long been aware of resources available at the local American Job Centers nationwide. Many clients qualify for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funded programs, but until recently the process to fully participate in and benefit from these programs remained out of a reach.

During the past few years, the REEP team has focused on identifying and overcoming the barriers that prevent refugees from accessing WIOA-funded programs through a concerted effort to understand and collaborate with their local American Job Center (AJC).

Why Collaborate?

Brain waste, inaccessibility to higher skilled jobs, lack of transportation, language barriers, unfamiliarity with US workplace culture, and difficulty navigating assistance programs are all challenges faced by resettlement programs across the nation.  Another challenge for programs with limited resources is how they can best connect refugees to training that will put them on a career path that can take them beyond an initial job to pay the bills.

classroom-photoHow can refugee employment programs best help the young Iraqi engineer, who just arrived and expressed to his career counselor that his main desire is to finish his U.S. degree and specialize in robotics? Or the Afghan SIV recipient with a large family who needs a job while working towards U.S. certification in the IT field?  What about the Burmese client who worked for 10 years as a welder in Malaysia, but never got a certificate? How can he apply his skills here?

How can we help foreign-trained professionals and those with backgrounds in the trades discover career pathways that lead to fulfilling work that pays a living wage and capitalizes on their skills?

The mainstream workforce development system is often described as a highway with many off-ramps that job seekers can take to pursue their career goals, and its WIOA-funded programs in particular offer an abundance of opportunities and benefits.

Opportunities within the Mainstream Workforce Development System

WIOA-funded programs provide a variety of workforce development options designed to help individuals with barriers to employment receive training and certification in “H3 jobs” (high demand, high wage and high-skill). With some assistance, refugees with the right aptitudes and skill-sets can access these resources and obtain certifications that can increase their hourly wage by up to 30 to 40 percent.

career-pathwaysIn addition to training programs such as Registered Apprenticeships (RAs), On-the-job Training (OJT) and Individual Training Accounts (ITAs), WIOA-funded programs also provide additional resources that can offset some of the costs associated with starting a new job or career.

Some examples of supportive services include tools, work apparel, and other initial required items normally paid for by the employee through payroll deduction. Participants in WIOA-funded programs may also be eligible for transportation assistance in the form of gas vouchers, car registration fees, repairs or other transportation services.

In some cases REEP clients enrolled in WIOA-funded programs have also been eligible for emergency rental assistance or utility assistance. Eligibility for these temporary supports is determined on a case-by-case basis, and often are a one-time benefit. Tuition, books, and study related costs & supportive services are covered for those pursuing a certification or degree in high-demand careers.  In eligible cases, both WIOA & PELL funding are available.

Partnership between Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and Heartland Workforce Solutions American Job Center

To capitalize on this amazing opportunity for newly arriving refugee populations, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska’s Refugee Education & Employment Program (REEP) began collaborating with a local American Job Center (AJC) operated by Heartland Workforce Solutions (HWS) in early 2013.

The first thing the REEP team did was set up an initial meeting to learn about the resources that the AJC offered and familiarize the AJC management with the LFS refugee resettlement program. Following the initial meeting, the REEP team provided an orientation for AJC frontline staff new to serving refugees. More meetings followed to discuss individual participants the REEP team would be bringing for enrollment and to set expectations for communication between the two organizations.

Because of the complexities involved in the AJC eligibility and enrollment process, refugee employment service providers cannot simply direct their clients to AJCs, cross their fingers, and hope for successful outcomes. Developing a clear understanding of the AJC process and setting clear expectations for communication between the two organizations was essential for the REEP team in order to ensure that they were providing adequate support to clients they would refer to the AJC.

Going through this process of mutual learning was critical in building trust and developing effective ways to collaborate, including working together to address barriers preventing LFS clients from accessing AJC resources.

Benefits of the Collaboration

Both the REEP program and the AJC benefited from this collaboration. The REEP program successfully enrolled 12 clients into WIOA-funded programs through the AJC. Three of these clients were enrolled in On-the-job Training, five clients received skills training, and 5 clients received other supportive services through the AJC.

refugee-at-workSeveral of these clients have been successful in retaining the high-paying jobs that they obtained through participating in these mainstream workforce development programs. Afghan SIV recipients, for example, proved to be a great fit for apprenticeships in the construction field because of their previous work experience with the U.S. military.

The AJC also experienced many benefits from this collaboration, including a link to a pre-screened and motivated talent pool that does not typically access mainstream workforce development services, ongoing wrap-around support from the REEP team for refugee participants, and higher success rates (successful outcomes for refugee clients were double that of the general population in the first two years of the collaboration).

Challenges and Collaborative Solutions

While much progress has been made in accessing WIOA-funded programs for refugees, this endeavor has not been without its challenges. Below is a summary of the five most significant challenges faced during this collaboration and the solutions that the REEP team and the AJC developed to overcome these barriers:

Challenge #1: WIOA program enrollment process delays: The WIOA program enrollment process has historically required a significant amount of time. The complexity and time demands inherent to the current enrollment process directly impacts the clients’ ability to take advantage of employment opportunities and fails to meet the staffing needs of employers offering “living wage jobs.”

Solution: Effective communication and collaboration between the REEP team and the AJC was the best strategy in overcoming these systemic barriers. REEP staff work with AJC staff to streamline the process and provide support where needed

Challenge #2: Scheduling Problems: Scheduling conflicts often resulted in significant delays between Orientation and completion of the TABE test (a math and literacy test participants must pass in many states to qualify for training programs). This was primarily due to the fact that both TABE tests and Orientations were only offered once a week and only during scheduled work hours. Even for the unemployed, the schedule was problematic because it conflicted with the beginning and ending of their children’s school day.

Solution: After the REEP team brought these issues to the attention of AJC management, they agreed to make adjustments to the schedule that resulted in adding more orientation options that could better accommodate the schedules of clients. The AJC also allowed for individual orientations or specially scheduled testing to meet the needs of clients.

Challenge #3: Selective Service Registration Eligibility Requirement: Selective Service registration requirement for males has often been a barrier even though most of the refugees enrolling in WIOA-funded programs are not required by to register since they arrived in the US after their 26th birthday. In order  to receive federal education and training assistance, males under 56 years of age are required to obtain a Status Information Letter from Selective Services verifying they are not required to register with the SSA. SSA processing and procedural complexity often results in significant delays in obtaining the requisite Status confirmation.

Solution: Collaborative efforts between the AJC and the REEP team helped reduce the impact of this issue. The AJC agreed to accept a copy of the Status Information Letter, along with the certified mail receipt from sending the Status Information Letter to SSA through certified mail in cases where participation could not move forward.

Challenge #4: Income Eligibility Problems: Verification of income can be a challenge even though the AJC and federal authorities accept that anyone receiving SNAP or food stamp benefits as meeting the qualification to receive WIOA benefits.  Problems can occur when the client presents DHHS verification documentation that is unfamiliar to WIOA staff and therefore may not be accepted as verification of income. A related issue is determining the actual start date for receipt of benefits. It is often not clear what date is to be used as the client’s application to WIOA date or what effect their post SNAP/TANF earning will have on their eligibility and enrollment delays exacerbate this problem.

Solution: Ongoing collaborative efforts of AJC staff and REEP program staff to mitigate response delays by key outside entities can help to reduce some of the delays in the overall verification process.

Challenge #5: Jobs obtained during the enrollment process: Jobs obtained prior to finishing enrollment can make clients ineligible for WIOA programs. Often during a protracted enrollment process clients are found to be ineligible if they receive a promotion or wage increase. Significant delays in enrollment processing can affect a client’s ability to meet regulatory compliance and ultimately impact their eligibility for needed resource assistance.

Solution: Close communication and cooperation between the AJC and the REEP team helped to mitigate the impact of enrollment processing delays and address this challenge.

Tips for Collaboration with AJCs

The LFS REEP team has learned a lot from their experience collaborating with an American Job Center, and suggests the following tips for refugee employment programs around the country who may be considering similar collaborations:

  • Always have a liaison or navigator who can dedicate time to cultivating the relationship with the AJC and provide support to refugees and AJC staff during the complicated enrollment process. This can be an employment team member, an intern, or a volunteer—anyone who can take the time to learn the process and provide the needed support.
  • Job Developers can play an important role in opening up On-the-job Training and Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for refugee clients by making employer partners aware of these federal programs and connecting them to appropriate staff at the AJC. The subsidies that employers can receive through these programs can serve as a great incentive for taking a chance on hiring a refugee.
  • Invest the time to become familiar with how WIOA is administered and its requirements in your local Workforce Development region through research and look at labor market information to identify the high demand jobs in your area.
  • Be prepared to articulate the benefits of working with refugees and also to provide ongoing support to mainstream workforce development partners, just as you would with employers.
  • Keep up with changes in WIOA policies and meet regularly with AJC leadership to share updates and address challenges.

Many thanks to the staff at Lutheran Family Services Nebraska (especially Ryan Overfield, Carol Tucker, and Rich Surber) as well as the staff at Heartland Workforce Solutions for contributing this case study!

Have you collaborated with an American Job Center or other mainstream workforce development partner in your area? Share your success story by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

Higher’s Holiday Gift Guide

Earlier this month, when we asked for suggestions to inform our annual gift guide, we hoped to learn about one or two new businesses or products that help refugees earn more than minimum wage in jobs that offer dignity, training opportunities and supportive work environments. Thanks to the incredible response from across the refugee employment network, we received more recommendations than we can list, so here are the top 12. Enjoy!

anchor-of-hopeAnchor of Hope – A subscription service to receive monthly or quarterly boxes filled with items lovingly handmade by refugees, survivors of human trafficking and others in vulnerable situations, most living right here in the United States.

1470407423994

Beautiful Day Granola – Tastes great. Employs and trains refugees. They have several flavors to choose from, but if you’re new to Beautiful Day, try Keith’s Originala – it’s so good!

blb3Better Life Bags – Located in Detroit, Better Life Bags employs workers with barriers to employment including refugees/asylees.

broadwick-fibersBroadwick Fibers – We work with ACC here in Denver to employ refugees (well, just one right now but plans for more in the near future) who have come here from East Africa.    -Camille McMurry, owner of Broadwick Fibers

 

edEkata Designs – A Memphis based Jewelry business that exists to provide employment, income and training to refugees as they transition to a new life in America.

 

Kei & Molly Textiles A small, women owned and run business who has hired two of our Congolese clients!   -Kiri Mathsen, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services of Rocky Mountains in Albuquerque, NM  

 

15056691_1142776845843269_4146344282048954368_nGAIA Empowered Women – Through a living wage and continued training and development, the goal of this Dallas-based social enterprise is to lead the women to financial independence and self-sufficiency.

 

knotty-tie-co-2Knotty Tie Co. – This company hires refugees who graduate from ECDC’s African Community Center of Denver’s “We Made This sewing program and teaches them to make beautiful, high quality ties and scarves.

 

artisan_candle_compactProsperity Candle – Refugee women help select the scents and make the gorgeous candles in collaboration with their artisan colleagues in Iraq.  Read more in a previous Higher blog post.

 

Threadies – Threadies are hand-sewn by a team of women in the West Bank who receive a living wage and valuable job training. When you purchase a Thready teddy bear, its twin goes to a child refugee, along with tools vital to help them cope with trauma.

 

usful-glassŪsful Glassworks – A Denver-based nonprofit with a mission to help people with employment barriers find jobs by providing on-the-job and vocational training to those in the community who need help, including refugees. 

 

wornWorn – A socially-conscious business of Catholic Charities Fort Worth with a mission to provide refugee women living in the United States a supplemental source of income, empowering them to rise above poverty. All products are hand-knit in the U.S. by women who have survived the afflictions of their war-torn and poverty-stricken homelands.

Greetings from the new Program Manager of Higher!

Hello everyone! Last Monday, (November 14, 2016) I became the new Program Manager for Higher. I’ve received a wonderful welcome from my co-workers Sarah and Daniel, as well as from the blog comments and network at large. Thank you for making me feel so welcome!

nicole-headshotPrior to coming to Higher, I worked in employment for a number of years with USCRI in their North Carolina field office. When I began with USCRI, my first project was to revitalize a Match Grant (MG) program with an 11% self-sufficiency rate (out of a 200 slot program). I worked as a job developer to establish new employer relationships and to design a job readiness curriculum that would lead my clients on a path to success. My network of peers, headquarters staff and the Higher team helped support me with the resources and connections I needed to build successful programs.

For four years I worked hard to secure funding to increase our capacity, while designing effective programs that would better serve our clients. I’m happy to say that when I left USCRI, we had four successful job programs and a job upgrade program that I established and saw funded before I left. The site now has a 96% self-sufficiency rate, a seven week job readiness curriculum, four programs and six staff.

I’m excited to take my work to the national level. I look forward to learning from all of you as well. At times employment staff can be both loved and hated by clients because our job links clients to their financial, social, and permanent success in the U.S. I know how hard the work that you do is, but I also know how talented and passionate every one of you is about the clients you serve. I hope that each of you will reach out to me at any time. I would like to hear your success stories so that I can celebrate you at a higher level.

Have a wonderful holiday and thank you for your service and partnership with refugees and immigrants!

Please keep in touch,

Nicole

nredford@lirs.org

Holiday Gift Guide – Any Recommendations?

Do you know of any businesses or products that should be featured in Higher’s annual holiday gift guide?  We have a great list started for this year’s guide, but it can always be better!  

Stay tuned for our annual holiday gift guide blog post. We’ll put all of your recommendations into one post to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible.  

Please submit your recommendations by commenting below or by contacting us.

Welcome Nicole Redford, Program Manager for Higher

Today is Nicole’s first day! Nicole Redford joins us from Raleigh, North Carolina. Nicole has spent the last few years with USCRI as the Employment Coordinator overseeing six staff working in four programs: Matching Grant, Refugee Assistance Program, Targeted Assistance Grant, and the Cuban Haitian programs. She started the agency’s first job upgrade program securing grants and private donations. She has also worked with refugees across the spectrum of service areas as the Youth Coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in NYC, and as the Program Manager for Art for Refugees in Transition (A.R.T.) for three years. Nicole has a Master’s in Global Affairs from NYU where she focused on Human Rights.

Please join us in welcoming Nicole!

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