Sleep and Self Care. Both Important for Our Work.

Cross-cultural communication. Driving all over the place. Difficult conversations with employers. Frantic calls from clients. Training clients on public transportation. Long meetings. Cold-calling. Working in refugee employment is rewarding AND exhausting!

Most of the time we look to techniques, best-practices and strategies to make us successful in our work, but we often forget about the importance of self-care. If we burn out, our clients won’t get the services they deserve.

Effective self-care requires discipline and means forming new habits. Developing a new rhythm won’t happen overnight. But one thing that can happen overnight is you getting enough sleep! Here’s a video from Fast Company to inspire you to take this first small step towards being healthier and more productive at work.

Start with this “baby step” and then spend some time exploring other self-care strategies. The University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work has developed a “Self-Care Starter Kit” that provides many helpful suggestions and resources.

Immigrant Integration Report

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While much of our work focuses on the immediate survival and basic self-sufficiency of refugee families, the importance of long-term immigrant integration cannot be understated.

A new report, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, takes a very thorough look (400+ pages!) at the issue of integration, and has found that despite the many challenges of integration, the overall picture is positive.

You can download a PDF version of the full report for free. Or, if you’re like most of us, and don’t anticipate having the time to read a 400 page report anytime soon, here is a quick overview of the report’s findings from a recent New York Times article:

 

  • The newest generations of immigrants are assimilating into American society as fast and broadly as the previous ones, with their integration increasing over time “across all measurable outcomes.”
  • The desire on the part of immigrants to learn English is very high and immigrants are acquiring English proficiency as rapidly or faster now than earlier waves of mainly European immigrants in the 20th century.
  • Immigrants’ education levels, the diversity of their jobs, their wages and their mastery of English improved as they lived for more time in the United States, and the gains were even greater for their American-born children.
  • About 50 percent of the foreign-born say they speak English “very well” or “well,” and almost one quarter of immigrants have college degrees.
  • The study found that first generation immigrant men ages 18 to 39 were incarcerated at about one-fourth the rate of American men in that group. Additionally, cities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have much lower rates of crime and violence than similar places without immigrants.

While studies like these are interesting from a sociological perspective, they can also provide useful talking points for those times when you need to be just a little more persuasive to win over a hesitant employer.

 

 

 

 

New Research Identifies Essential Steps for Skilled Immigrants’ Success

cover_steps_for_success_195x250Last December, we informed our readers that World Education Services (WES) and IMPRINT were conducting a survey of college-educated immigrants in 6 U.S. cities (Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose and Seattle) and we encouraged you to invite clients to participate. The results are out in Steps to Success: Integrating Immigrant Professionals in the United States.

Based on more than 4,000 responses from college-educated immigrants in the U.S., the report identifies factors that correlate with their successful integration into American life and offers recommendations for communities to better integrate these skilled workers, and take advantage of their many talents.

To give you a brief preview, here are a few of the key findings of the report:

1. Social capital is powerful: The survey showed that there is a remarkably strong correlation between the size of an immigrant’s social network and his or her likelihood of success.

2. English really matters: Across the board, stronger English language skills were correlated with virtually every possible measure of immigrant success.

3. Immigrants take enterprising approaches: Numerous self-improvement strategies were reported, including academic credential evaluation, English language classes, and additional education in the United States.

Take advantage of this cutting edge information as you develop strategies to help highly skilled clients succeed!

 

It’s Time to Think about Income Taxes?

taxesIt’s time to think about income taxes.   Never thought you’d agree with this statement, right?

Taxes.  Hard to explain.  Harder to understand. There’s never a good time to talk to refugees about why taxes are so important.

Many of our clients can get sizable tax returns, especially if they go to a Community Tax Center for tax preparation services.  Staffed by volunteers, Community Tax Centers mission is to put money into the pockets of low income tax payers and into the economies of their communities.

Scammers and predatory commercial tax preparers start marketing their services early.  A savvy former client and proud U.S. citizen told me he paid someone “only $250” to get an early advance on his tax return at a very low interest rate. The next year, my colleagues at several refugee service agencies partnered with a community tax center to make sure that didn’t happen again. It was a lot of work to organize, but we were really glad we did it.

Fall is a busy time, even without the arrival surge.  If you begin planning now, you can fit this really important client service into your workloads in time to make a difference for client budgets and family self-sufficiency.

Here are five ideas to consider:

  1. Start telling clients about tax filing now so they don’t make important decisions before they know all the facts.
  2. Consider partnering with a Community Tax Center in your area.  Start discussing agency plans and contact community partners early.
  3. Get a jump on translating announcements about whatever you decide to do NOW, so they’re ready in time for the word to spread.
  4. Don’t forget employers. They might offer employee assistance already or be thrilled to partner with you to host an information session.
  5. Explore the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income people who cannot prepare their own taxes. Refugee service organizations can partner with already establish VITA sites or even become an official VITA site.

For more on this topic check out Higher’s post from earlier this year: Tax Season: Resources and Talking Points.

As always, we’d love to hear your success stories about how you’ve assisted refugees with tax-related issues. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Looking for Arabic Language Job Readiness Resources?

Source: http://www.accuform.com/safety-sign/caution-eye-protection-required-wgraphic-MTAA605

Source: www.accuform.com

In case you didn’t know, YOU are our greatest resource! After receiving several requests for Arabic language resources, we put out a call for resources earlier this month, and sure enough, our network responded.

Our friends Ali Abid and Brittani Mcleod from Catholic Community Services of Utah submitted a helpful English/Arabic version of the Walmart job interview, and Carol Tucker from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska provided us with several other Arabic/English Job Readiness materials.

Visit our Downloadable Resources section to check out these great resources! You may also want to check out a post we published in 2014 that links to picture vocabulary guides in several languages, including Arabic.

As we continue to serve Iraqi refugees and SIV recipients and anticipate increasing numbers of Syrian arrivals, these resources will continue to be a “must have” for your Cultural Orientation and Job Readiness tool box. If you have other Arabic language resources that you would like to share please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Employment Strategies Webinar: Wednesday, (9/30) 1:00 – 2:30 pm

930webinarJoin ORR and the Office of Family Assistance at a free webinar highlighting successful strategies for Equipping Refugees with Skills for the Workforce

Higher is honored to be among the presenters representing some of the innovations that are working across our network to partner with employers, support higher skilled refugees and offer ESL and other skill-building opportunities.

Click here to learn more and register to attend.  It’s a good way to end this fiscal year looking toward even more success in the next.

 

3 Ways You Can Cultivate a Welcoming Culture in Your Community

W07-Welcome-ColorOnBlack-bannerHappy National Welcoming Week! From September 12-20, communities all over the nation are celebrating the cultures and contributions of immigrants and refugees. In honor of this nationwide initiative, Higher is exploring the idea of cultivating welcoming communities, especially as it relates to refugee employment.

There is a strong connection between local attitudes towards immigrants and refugees and successful employment outcomes for our clients. This may not be a comforting thought because it is a factor that seems out of our control. We can provide solid job readiness training for our clients, and we can hone our sales techniques as we speak to employers, but what can we really do about indifferent or negative attitudes that may be prevalent in our communities? Perhaps more than you think.

In order to get some insight on this question Higher spoke to Rachel Peric, Deputy Director at Welcoming America, who shared the following 3 strategies from Welcoming America’s Model:

  1. Engage local leaders. Local government and other faith and community leaders can be invaluable partners in cultivating a welcoming community. For more on this check out Welcoming America’s “Welcoming Cities and Counties” initiative. Additionally, speaking at your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a great strategy for building awareness and making connections in your community.
  1. Develop strategic communications that highlight the strengths and contributions of immigrants and refugees. Welcoming America’s Welcoming Refugees project provides a helpful toolkit entitled “Reframing Refugees” that is a great starting point for developing positive messaging about refugees and the work that you do. Also check out the “Stronger Together” toolkit, which focuses on immigrants as a force for economic growth.
  1. Create opportunities for relational connections between refugees and receiving communities. One of the most powerful ways to break down stereotypes and prejudice is by getting people in the same room and simply allowing them to interact. Be creative. Find ways to facilitate mutual learning and networking between refugees and employers, mentors and other community members. There are many ways that this can happen, but one possible strategy could be to plan an event that targets prospective employers and features success stories from both refugees and employers who have successfully employed refugees.

When discussing refugee employment strategies we often focus on our approach to individual employers. While these interactions are essential, it is also important for the long term success of our clients to develop strategies that focus on the wider community. The practical steps above are a great way to get started. Many thanks to Rachel Peric for sharing these insights!

To find a National Welcoming Week event near you check out Welcoming America’s “Find an Event” page.

 

7 Ways to Prepare for the Surge in Refugee Arrivals

avalancheClose to 70,000 refugees are projected to be resettled this fiscal year. Arrivals are estimated at 6,000 in July, 7,500 in August and 10,300 in September.

Wait. What? That’s more than 22,000 arrivals in three months. All of those arrivals won’t be employment clients, but still. That’s a heavy lift for all of us.

What are your concerns and how are you preparing? How can Higher help?

Here are seven of the ideas we’ve heard. Share your strategies and make your requests for additional assistance from Higher at information@higheradvantage.org.

 1. Recruit and train a cadre of volunteers to assist with 24 hour home visits. This is a requirement and an important first step to identifying and eliminating barriers to employment. While this isn’t strictly a part of our work as employment professionals, a stable foundation is important for work readiness and job retention.

2. Alert key partners about a potential high volume of client referrals. We aren’t the only ones who will struggle to serve a significant increase in refugees. Don’t let your community partners be surprised. They might offer possible solutions and additional assistance.

3. Check in with your own team. With this many arrivals, close coordination between case managers and employment specialists is even more important to identify potential barriers and priority cases earlier than usual. Strenghten mechanisms for working together now. With this many arrivals, doing this will help prevent clients from “falling through the cracks”.

4. Begin identifying employers and possible job opportunities that will be available when you need them. It’s likely that you’ll have heavy employment case-loads through the end of this year and into next. Seasonal hiring for the holidays starts now. For the hospitality industry, layoffs or unpaid leave is more common than hiring from Thanksgiving until spring. Long hard winters often mean less consumer spending, more staying at home by the fire and less employment opportunities. Our clients can’t wait until spring to find jobs.

5. See this as an opportunity to add strong class-based job readiness activities. Smaller or newer sites don’t always have enough clients at one time to justify class-based orientations or job readiness preparations. It’s challenging to innovate in the midst of serving so many new arrivals. The potential short and long term payoffs could offset the effort required.

6. Explore holiday giving events as a way to bring in more resources and raise community awareness. Many resettlement agencies already participate in angel trees, gift and food donation drives and other well-established ways to channel the spirit of the holidays. Now is the time to consider ways to expand how refugees benefit from those opportunities.

7.  Take care of yourself.  As numbers rise, so will stress levels.  Try to avoid going into this surge already stressed and burned out. On-going self care is important.  You can’t help your clients if you aren’t rested, centered and performing at full capacity.  This should have been the first point on the list.  Make it first in the strategies you put into place!

Free Resource: Online Paycheck Calculator

freeClick here to access a simple online tool from QuickBooks that you can use to make your life easier in all kinds of ways.  Use it to quickly determine net (or take-home) pay after taxes and other withholdings.

R&P, Matching Grant and other refugee cash support programs require a number of assessment, planning and client self-sufficiency documents that are important and not always easy to complete.

This tool can deliver net pay information quickly so you have more time to help clients understand their budgets.

(Since we had some problems with our blog feed last week, we’re reposting this since most of you missed it during our technical difficulties.  Apologies)

 

 

Another Chance to Win an iPad Air

contest collageHigher’s Online Learning Institute Spring Contest

Following the success of our last contest, we decided to start spring off with another chance to win an iPad Air.

From April 20 – May 9, all Employment Service providers enrolled in our Online Learning Institute will have several chances to win, starting with completing our new Intro to eLearning course. 

  1. Click here to sign up for your free username and password if you don’t already have yours. 
  2. Forward this post to your colleagues so they have a chance to win, too.
  3. View all the contest rules here and stay tuned for a contest launch reminder on April 20. 

Please contact us with any questions at information@higheradvantage.org.  Good luck!