Group Workshops Improve Refugee Employment Outcomes

Group workshops are an effective way to review information provided to a family post resettlement and to provide employment programming.  Several positive aspects can be achieved if the right atmosphere is developed.  First, participants can learn from one another as well as from the facilitator or caseworker leading the group.  Second, the organization can reinforce key concepts multiple times with several participants at once, thus increasing their likelihood of  understanding.  Third, major issues or concerns will be discovered quickly and addressed..

JFCS PittsburghIn addition, group workshops are a familiar format to most refugees, since they are used in the refugee camps to instruct refugee families before their arrival.  They can be used again once the families are here  to reinforce concepts for Cultural Orientation, Acculturation, and Job Readiness or Employment Programs.  The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) has posted resources for organizations that work with refugees, so curriculum is already available and simply needs to be tailored to a specific city and or local region.

Three distinct approaches to job readiness group workshops are used in Pittsburgh:

  1. Weekly Orientation to the Workplace, hosted by Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Pittsburgh (JF&CS)
  2. English Language Training by Northern Area Multi-Service Center (NAMS)
  3. The Refugee Career Mentoring Program (RCMP); a collaborative effort with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services that focuses on assisting refugees with advanced degrees and professional backgrounds.

JF&CS provides a weekly workshop for participants, reviewing topics most critical to job acquisition and retention.  Subjects covered include the job placement process, completing an application, interview skills, hygiene, safety at the workplace, and the proper way to call in sick and/or terminate employment.  All workshops are interpreted and PowerPoint presentations are translated into the primary language of the major population group to ensure understanding.

NAMS partnered with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Adult ESL School to provide Basic ESL and job readiness preparation on-site. The Job Readiness Program follows a set curriculum and was taught from an ESL/Adult Education framework. Each class is devoted to a special topic related to job readiness, with basic ‘soft skills’ such as time and attendance, embedded in the curriculum.

RCMP focuses on providing support to refugees with advanced degrees, and they work in collaboration with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Three Rivers Workforce Development Board, Vibrant Pittsburgh, ESL providers, and the refugee resettlement agencies in Pittsburgh.

RCMP links a refugee with a mentor in his/her field. Workshops focus on professional resume writing, networking, and job search that is specific to specific areas of professional expertise. This program provides clients a better understanding of the processes required to gain employment in their field. It also gives professionals in the Pittsburgh area an opportunity to give back to their community and to learn more about the refugee community.

Success Story contributed by Dawn Brubaker, Refugee Employment Coordinator, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh and Elizabeth Ringler, MPIA, Refugee Social Services, Job Developer, Northern Area Multi-Service Center

For more information on this promising practice, contact Elizabeth Ringler: elizabeth.ringler@namsc.com

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