A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

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

 

Volunteer Engagement

8 Ways Volunteers Can Support Refugee Employment 

hs-245-laura-1Guest post by Laura Griffin, Program Coordinator for Volunteerism at LIRS 

We all know the feeling of not having enough hours in the day. One way to stretch your ability to serve refugee clients is to make volunteer support a core part of your employment program. 

A few weeks ago, I sat down with dozens of people from refugee employment programs around the country to ask: How do volunteers and interns support your work?

Here are 8 Ways to Leverage Volunteer Support for Refugee Employment:

1. One-on-One Job Readiness Support 

Volunteers can sit down with individual clients to practice for interviews, edit resumes, fill out job applications, and/or practice skills like how to use the computer to search for jobs.

2. Guest Speakers and Experts

Bring in volunteers as guest speakers from relevant fields (like IT) to talk with clients about the skills employers in their industry look for in job applicants.

3. Support for Highly Skilled Clients

Volunteers can provide individualized job readiness and placement assistance to highly skilled refugee clients.

4. Mentoringmentoring

Mentoring can focus on advanced job readiness training or industry-specific mentoring. If you are interested in designing a mentoring program to assist refugees with long-term career planning, see the free LIRS Guide for Employment Mentoring.

5. Assist with Job Development

Volunteers can help establish employer leads through community outreach, targeted calling and online searching. One participant shared that they have volunteers research job opportunities and send initial emails to potential employers to start the conversation.

6. Increase Access to Service

Volunteers can help enable clients to access employment services by providing rides or offering child care during job readiness classes.

7. Career Fairs 

Have volunteers take clients to career fairs and help them follow up with potential job leads

8. Case Support and Service Plans 

While it can seem a bit daunting, many participants shared success stories of having interns and star volunteers manage cases and design service plans.

How do you leverage volunteers and interns?  Leave a comment below or contact us if you use volunteers and interns to support your refugee employment programs.

Related: Additional Employment Volunteer Resources, New Collection of Employment Volunteer Resources

Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 5

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

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

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

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been sharing insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement!

So far, we’ve shared tips for overcoming challenges including transportationchildcare, limited English proficiency (LEP), and challenges related to digital literacy/computer access.  Today we’ll wrap up this series and share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of unrealistic client expectations.

Tips for Managing Expectations:

  • Educate yourself on the information clients receive during pre-arrival cultural orientation (CO) so that you can reinforce important points and/or present new information that may not have been covered in the overseas CO (See Adjusting Expectations: The Cultural Orientation Connection, a recent Higher post by Daryl Morrissey, Cultural Orientation Coordinator at LIRS).
  • Collaborate with R&P cultural orientation staff to make sure that messaging around employment is consistent.
  • Consistent messaging with within office among staff- have a team strategy for how you will handle client expectations.
  • Connect with community leaders to encourage consistent messaging within communities.
  • Set expectations early- have honest conversations about appropriate expectations.
  • Highlight the benefits of two-income households and ensure equality of services to both spouses.
  • Walk the line of hopeful realism. Emphasize the importance of taking that initial survival job while also recognizing the skills, experience and education, your clients bring, and laying out a path and timeline for how they can pursue a fulfilling career over time. Develop short, medium, and long term goals with clients.
  • Mobilize mentors (including former refugees) who will help support clients by giving them realistic expectations and a sense of hope.
  • Educate clients about training programs and career development options.

For more on managing expectations see:

Managing Expectations: When Will You Find Me a Job?

Creative, Participatory Employment Plans that Work

Help Highly Skilled Refugees Look Out the Windshield

Feel free to participate in the conversation by leaving a comment below or sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Co-location at Two American Job Centers

Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington, VA (CCMRS) stations two Employment Specialists part time at two American Job Centers.  This strategy delivers expanded refugee access to mainstream workforce resources and illustrates success factors that make colocation beneficial for clients, American Job Centers and CCMRS.

Read the case study online or download a PDF version if you prefer. You will learn

  • the advantages of locating Employment Specialists in an American Job Center;
  • how one CCMRS client accessed entrepreneurship training and, as a result, was able to open his own small business;
  • some of the program details and service access that can be adjusted for seamless client service access; and
  • the American Job Center perpective on this successful collaboration strategy.
About Higher’s Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series

This case study, written by professional writer and former CCMRS Job Developer Erin Voorheis, is one of five that Higher will make available over the coming months to help us all learn from each other about successful strategies for strengthening our collaboration with the mainstream workforce system so that refugees can better access workforce services provided across the country for all U.S. job seekers.

If you are collaborating with the workforce system in your community and want to share what you’re learning with peers across the country, get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

New Collection of Employment Volunteer Resources

volunteersRemember last week’s Reader Question from Jenny Barischoff, who is starting a refugee resettlement program in Salem, OR?  You contributed so many helpful resources to support her important employment volunteer strategy that they deserve their own post.

Click here for all of the curriculums, forms and resources to help employment volunteers and mentors you contributed for Jenny.

In addition, also consider the employment volunteer program structure from Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, GA and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) employment mentoring guide.

Resources Beyond Volunteer Programs

Several resources give volunteers information to help clients prepare for interviews or complete job applications and online personality assessments. Others are designed to encourage volunteers to reinforce important messages clients hear from others in your agency.  This collection is well worth investigating to support other aspects of our work.

Thanks to World Relief DuPage/Aurora, Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, CA, New American Pathways in Atlanta, GA, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), New Haven, CT and African Community Center of Denver, CO for helping Jenny – and all of us!

 

 

 

 

Congolese Resettlement Success in Knoxville

Congo

Photo Credit: Saul Young

When it comes to the long-term integration of refugee families into US communities, the importance of volunteers and mentors cannot be overstated.

While resettlement agencies and employment programs do a great job at providing core services that help refugees become self-sufficient in the most basic sense, it can be difficult for refugees to know where to go from there.

Ongoing relationships with American families or career mentors can be a significant encouragement to new refugees, helping them feel more connected to their new community and more hopeful about their future.

For a moving example of what this can look like, check out this recent article published in the Knoxville News Sentinel about the relationship between a Congolese refugee family and an American family in Knoxville, TN. The article does a great job at showing the complimentary relationship that can exist between a refugee resettlement agency and local volunteers.

The article also provides helpful background on the history of the Congolese refugee crisis, the trauma that many of these refugees have faced, and the difficulties of family reunification when families are separated.

Higher has done several post in the past on both Congolese refugees and career mentoring. Explore these topics further and share your success stories with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Upwardly Global Services for Highly Skilled Refugees

upgloAnnouncing a July 28 (1PM EST) webinar introduction for refugees and refugee employment programs

Everyone should already be aware of Upwardly Global programs and resources.  UpGlo exists to help highly skilled professional refugees and other immigrants achieve career success and contribute their motivation, training and expertise to U.S. economic growth.

Here are three ways to make sure you are making full use of UpGlo resources to better serve refugee professionals.

1.  Register to attend an UpGlo webinar.  Include your clients, too!
Upglo 3 step program

Three simple steps you’ll learn more about in the July 28 webinar

Attend a one hour UpGlo webinar on July 28, offered especially for the refugee employment network.  You’ll learn about eligibility criteria and program services available nationally.  There will be plenty of time for questions, too.

Your highly skilled refugee clients would benefit from attending themselves.  The information is substantive and accessible for high-intermediate levels of English language proficiency.

2.  Help medical professionals explore career options in their fields.

Learn more about another excellent FREE web-based resource presenting alternative career pathways for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists  in a previous Higher blog post.

3.  Hear how UpGlo programs have made a difference for immigrants and mentors

Watch the Youtube video in this post, which shares the impact of UpGlo’s model in the voices of immigrant professionals and volunteer career mentors who have participated and benefitted.

If you’re trying to establish an employer partnership or employment mentor program with a hospital or care facility, sharing this video would strengthen your pitch!

Skill Training, Mentors and Community College Partnership

Photo Credit:  TaRhonda Thomas
Photo Credit: TaRhonda Thomas
a success story from the African Community Center’s Commercial Food and Safety Service Training Program.

Higher featured this innovative Denver, CO program in a 2013 postClick here for an update and get some great ideas you can consider in your own programs, including:

  • how mentors can help clients learn more, explore career paths and deepen community connections, and
  • the value in forging relationships with community colleges.

Think food service means dead end dishwasher jobs?  Reconsider with this story, and a previous Higher blog post with suprising industry stats about upward mobility in the restaurant field.

What We Can Learn From Canadian Immigrant Employment Programs

imprint webinar post graphicLast week’s Imprint webinar highlighting Canadian models for supporting skilled immigrant employment was just as valuable as I had hoped.

There is so much we can learn from the Canadian experience that I’m still processing how to share it in Higher’s blog.

To get started, I will share the impressions of three readers who attended.  Stay tuned for more takeaway’s from the Canadian experience.

 US refugee employment networks can pick and choose parts of the webinar that are beneficial to refugees.  I plan to incorporate ALLIES Creating Impact Locally model with our skilled refugee professionals.

Here in Portland, Maine our refugee employment networks already utilize the Inter-governmental Roundtable model. The City of Portland, the Department of Labor, Adult Education, Community Colleges, the Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Hotel/Inn Keepers Association have been working together for the past 6 months about training and hiring skilled refugees to work in that sector.

Catherine S. Yomoah, Maine State Refugee Coordinator

Several points resonated with me as an employer.

I like the mind set of moving the employer toward the culture of the refugee versus only making the refugee more Canadian.  In my experience, hiring refugees is definitely a two way learning curve.

I like the concept and terminology of an Employer mentoring program as opposed to volunteer mentoring programs.  Employers will be sold on the benefits for them,  including identifying hidden talent and developing cultural competencies in their staff.

I’m going to think more about the term “artificial poverty” describing poverty that is driven by the system.

Harry Brigham, Former Subway franchise owner and employer of 70+ refugees in Baltimore, MD

The presenter mentioned employers as successful spokespersons for the value of our clients in the work place.  That’s something we are doing a bit through our refugee forum that creates networking opportunities between refugees and employers.

Sadly, I got pulled away right in the middle to follow-up on an unexpected job opportunity, so I’m looking forward to learning more from Higher.

Bonni Cutler, Employment Supervisor, Catholic Charities, San Diego, CA