A Focused Approach on Job Upgrades and Skills Certifications

Bu* started as a counter and sorter at a laundry service company and over time earned a promotion within the company to reach a job that he loves in maintenance. Amal* came to the U.S. with an engineering degree from Iraq and is currently studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam while working as a Civil Engineering Inspector.

These are just two of many client success stories from Laura Honeycutt, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in North Carolina (USCRI-NC) Employment Specialist. Laura helped launch a Career Enhancement Opportunities (CEO) program last year at USCRI-NC with funding from ORR’s Targeted Assistance Grant and private funders.  The CEO program provides targeted employment support for clients with professional experience and clients seeking job upgrades.

The CEO program has now been in operation for about a year, serving approximately 40 clients during that time. The program focuses on:

  • Job upgrades and raises: When clients have established a job history in the United States, USCRI-NC works with employers to see if clients are eligible for a promotion or wage increase at that company.
  • Career pathways to new certifications, re-certifications, and higher education opportunities: Some clients come to USCRI-NC with a specific training goal in mind and others learn about the opportunity as they talk through their career options.

Having a dedicated employment specialist to focus on job upgrades and highly skilled clients has provided additional one-on-one attention for a group of clients that can sometimes be overlooked.

Clients in the CEO program have seen successes, ranging from certification and placement in security guard positions to a promotion at Panera Bread. Another client is working at Cisco after earning recertification in Cisco Certified Network Associate and Cisco Certified Network Professional. Some CEO participants are becoming registered with the state as HVAC technicians, and several clients have earned their commercial driver’s licenses and are now work with trucking companies.

How does your team go above and beyond in seeking out job upgrades and serving highly-skilled clients? We’d love to hear at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Names changed to protect client privacy.

Post written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele

Three Critical Factors for Developing Occupational Training Programs

How do you decide which refugee occupational training programs to develop when there are countless options?

Huda Muhammed, IRC Baltimore Program coordinator

Maryland has found a winning strategy that includes labor market evaluation, employer input, and consideration of client interests and past experience. ORR’s Targeted Assistance Program (TAP/TAG) grant is given by Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) to Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MIMA).

MIMA works with training program providers to ensure contextualized Vocational English language training (VELT)and industry-recognized credentials (where required by employers) are part of each program.

MIMA chose to subcontract a portion of its funding to the International Rescue Committee to provide industry recognized training programs, in addition to placement and case management services. The IRC is using the funding to partner with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and different vendors to provide medical front office, welding, and forklift training programs, all adapted for the refugee community.

The focus areas for these short-term occupational programs were chosen very carefully. Huda Muhammed, Program Coordinator at IRC, says, “The first thing I do when thinking about training in the Baltimore area is go to O*NET and research occupational growth projections, average salaries, and for potential employers in the area.”  The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration and is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Muhammed then validates her data with local employers, she shares ideas on training programs, and she gauges employers’ interest in hiring training program graduates. This ensures training programs respond to real workforce needs.

A final step in the selection of trainings to develop is to “always look at the background of your clients and the jobs they’ve had before,” said Huda. Many of her clients have welding experience and were very interested in obtaining a welding program certification in the U.S., confirming that it was a solid training focus.

The process has paid off – the average wage for graduates of any of the training programs was more than $13 per hour in July 2017.

We’d love to hear about short-term occupational programs in your state. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

Guest post by Carrie Thiele.

Webinar Alert: Post-Employment Services and Strategies for TANF Programs

August 2, 2017, 1:00 – 2:00 PM EST 

Post-employment services that align with individual’s interests, strengths, and abilities are necessary to ensure they can maintain or advance in employment. Unfortunately, many TANF participants tend to obtain low-skill/low-wage jobs with little room for advancement and can experience difficulty retaining jobs.

TANF programs strive to address this issue by offering a variety of post-employment education, training, and supportive services designed to help TANF families sustain long-term livable wage employment and occupational advancement. Given the significant flexibility TANF programs have in the type of post-employment support offered, these services vary across states and programs, depending on the needs of TANF participants.

This interactive webinar will highlight how TANF programs continue to support TANF participants post-employment through a variety of approaches.

Register here.

Webinar Reminder!

Don’t forget to attend our webinar tomorrow! If you missed the initial announcement a few weeks ago, here is the description and registration link:

Short to Long Term Economic Integration for Refugee Employment: Using Theory of Change to Implement a Career Advancement Program

July 11, 1:00 PM EST

Supporting clients in obtaining early employment, often referred to as “survival jobs”, is no longer enough. Join Higher, META, and the IRC on July 11th at 1:00 p.m. EST in a discussion of steps you can take to develop new, evidence-based, data-driven programs that meet the longer-term employment goals of your clients:

  • Higher’s Program Manager, Nicole Redford, will discuss the importance of seizing the opportunity to evolve employment programs to address both the short-term and longer-term employment goals of new clients, as well as those who have been here awhile
  • META’s Technical Advisor, Jaime Costigan, will walk through how to use a theory of change to thoughtfully evolve your employment programs
  • IRC’s Technical Advisor for Economic Empowerment Programs, Erica Bouris, will provide an example of a career advancement program with impressive evidence-based outcomes.

To register, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2260690847922998018 

Webinar Alert!

Short to Long Term Economic Integration for Refugee Employment: Using Theory of Change to Implement a Career Advancement Program

July 11, 1:00 PM EST

Supporting clients in obtaining early employment, often referred to as “survival jobs”, is no longer enough. Join Higher, META, and the IRC on July 11th at 1:00 p.m. EST in a discussion of steps you can take to develop new, evidence-based, data-driven programs that meet the longer-term employment goals of your clients:

  • Higher’s Program Manager, Nicole Redford, will discuss the importance of seizing the opportunity to evolve employment programs to address both the short-term and longer-term employment goals of new clients, as well as those who have been here awhile
  • META’s Technical Advisor, Jaime Costigan, will walk through how to use a theory of change to thoughtfully evolve your employment programs
  • IRC’s Technical Advisor for Economic Empowerment Programs, Erica Bouris, will provide an example of a career advancement program with impressive evidence-based outcomes.

To register, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2260690847922998018 

10 Tips to Turn an Entry Level Job into a Better Opportunity

career-progress-graphic-23844825Talking Points to Build Job Retention and Advancement

Helping clients keep their jobs and even position themselves for internal advancement is important. That client conversation often gets overshadowed by the thrill (and relief) of that first placement.

Here are 10 talking points you can use with clients.  They are collected from employers, peer experience and social media guru Guy Kawasaki.

1. Get the basics right. Know your job and do it well. Ask questions to learn and show that you care about doing well. U.S. employers expect you to take responsibility for your own success and job training. 

2. Dress the part – for the job you want, not the one you have.  This is a bit difficult when the job requires a uniform. Practicing excellent hygiene and grooming is a good first step.  If you come in out of uniform to pick up your check or attend a meeting, dress up a little.

3.  Know the leaders and decision-makers in the company.  Remember faces and names and use them in greetings.  This should include your colleagues, the “big bosses” and important or frequent customers.

4.  Be on time.  Always.  And don’t forget that on time in U.S. work culture means be early.

5.  Let people get to know you.  You’re on trial when you’re new. Be courteous and friendly and build relationships slowly. Speak in a calm tone of voice that people can hear. Use your English.

6.  Self Start.  When you know what to do in your job, do it without waiting for someone to tell you. If you see a problem or some work to be done, take the initiative to propose a solution or just do it.

7.  Say “Yes”.  When your boss asks you to do something you understand and can do, tell them, “yes, I will do it.” Accept any opportunity to learn and show that you are ready to work hard and learn how to do new things.

8.  No Social Media.  Do not check your phone, accept calls, text or type on your phone during your work time. If you have a specific family emergency or important call, you can inform your boss and get special permission. This should not happen often.

9.  Improve your English.  Practice with your colleagues. Make time to learn more in a class or on-line. Be sure your boss knows and can hear that you are committed to learning. Employers site lack of English as the number one reason refugees are not promoted.

10. Tell them you are interested.  Your boss will not know that you want to learn, grow and get a promotion unless you tell them. Tell them and also show them through your performance.

How do you coach clients to encourage job retention and career success in their first job? Comment on this post or write us at information@higheradvantage.org with your tips for clients.

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.

Why Job Development Should Speed Up When Hiring Slows Down

Snow tracks

Source: http://i.imgur.com/D8i0n.jpg

If you’ve worked in employment services for awhile, you know that December and January are the slowest hiring months of the year. If there is one time of year when you feel like you’re terrible at your job, it’s probably during this so called “most wonderful time of the year!”

But before you give up and resort to reckless consumption of eggnog or chocolate, let me offer another perspective: December and January may be the best time in the year to begin cultivating strategic relationships with brand new employers that will benefit your clients in the long term.

Yes, some people will be on vacation, but with less hiring going on, employers probably actually have time to talk to you! Believe me, it is worth it to brave the cold and get out there for some meetings. The effort that you put in now will have a direct influence on which employers are calling you several months from now- If you want to have a good March, June, or September make it a good December.

As you think about which employers to target, consider prioritizing employers that have a strong record of providing in-house training programs that help employees “climb the ladder” within the organization. Last month at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop, Dr. Faith Nibbs of the Forced Migration Upward Mobility Project (FMUMP) shared that refugees who found long term career success often did so through these types of training programs.

A great place to start identifying companies that provide training is Training Magazine’s annual “Top 125” list of organizations that excel at employee development. While some companies may be out of reach for your clients, there are many on the list that offer realistic career entry points including Jiffy Lube, Dollar General, Walgreens, ConAgra Foods, McDonalds, Choice Hotels International, MGM Resorts International, PetSmart, and Enterprise Rent A Car.

For a wonderful example of this kind of career laddering check out this video story from FMUMP about an Ethiopian refugee who has opened more than 20 Domino’s Pizza franchises!

 

 

 

Job Upgrade Strategies for Employment Professionals

ladderRecent advice from hrbartender.com about career advancement strategies in a small organization with little room for promotion resonated for me.  We think about job upgrades for clients every day, but what about us?

In the relatively small refugee resettlement network where we all work with limited resources, it’s often hard to advance without having to consider leaving the work you’re passionate about, the agencies you know make a difference and the communities where you have strong connections.

When I reflect on successful career paths I see in our network, they all have changing employers and/or geographic locations in common. That can also mean overseas experience, working with refugees in camps, urban environments or resettlement processing centers.

How can you build skills to achieve career advancement for yourself, until you’re ready to make a big move?

Build your Educational Credentials

For example, hrbartender says “look for opportunities to learn something new. Your community partners can help you with that.  Here are two examples:

  1.  Human service agencies often required Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for social workers to maintain their professional credentials. Consider how to access courses offered through the agencies you already collaborate with for client referrals.  Ask your social worker colleagues about training resources made available to members of the National Association of Social Work (NASW).
  2. HR professionals are all about training and you have lots of those in your job development contacts, right? Ask them for advice. Or, find contact information for the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Read hrbartender’s post for more smart suggestions for continuing to grow professionally without switching jobs (or while building your skills for the next career move).

Great Advice from Three Employer Partners

omaha employers

Thanks to the three HR Director panelists: Laurie Marco, Salon Centric; Laura Nelson, Quality Pork International and Leandra Collins, Embassy Suites.

Lutheran Family Services, Nebraska (LFSNeb) recently put together the best employer panel Higher has ever seen for the recent LIRS resettlement affiliate conference – and we’ve organized a number of them ourselves.

The strong and carefully tended relationships between these three employers and LFSNeb’s Job Developer, Carol Tucker, is one of the main success factors.

Here are the highlights of what we learned.

 “Make my life easier.”

All three employers and refugee advocates agree that this is THE most important thing we offer to employers. New hire paperwork. Pre-screened candidates. Eliminating transportation barriers. Checking in frequently during the first few weeks of a new hire’s tenure. Providing daylight savings time signage or volunteer-baked cookies during the holidays. Whatever you do to achieve this goal is a win-win.

Reasons for Strong Job Retention Rates

We can all be proud of job retention rates that are higher than the national norm. When asked their opinions about the factors that contribute to this success, panelists agreed on three factors:

  1. Client cultural values – the specifics may be different, but refugees offer motivation, commitment and other strong “soft skill” success factors.
  2. Job Readiness Preparation – this is definitely a part of the mix. Refugee clients benefit from all of the work we do to help them adjust their skills, attitudes and behaviors for the U.S. workplace.
  3. Job Developer’s role – Employment programs are structured differently. The relationship, trust and reliable presence of a person supporting each employer consistently over time is invaluable. Higher continued to identify some intentional focus on job development as a national best practice.
Pre-employment training is worth the effort.

Anything that reduces turnover – and even better, preempts turnover – is welcomed. Job shadowing, short term vocational training and any other strategies that build applicant skills are seen as a benefit and a service. You aren’t asking for a favor. You’re adding value.

Job development persistence pays off.

“When Carol first got in touch, we didn’t have any problems filling our pipeline. When my situation changed suddenly we lost 90% of our workforce at once, I called Carol.” She left a packet and kept in touch. Not too often to be a pest, but enough that the services she offered weren’t forgotten.

On Internal Promotion Potential

We asked for advice for refugees to position themselves for career advancement with their current employer (in addition to learning English).

Here’s how the panelists, all of whom have promoted refugee employees, answered:

  1. Be on time and show up every day. Strong attendance records count a lot.
  2. Demonstrate engagement. Ask questions. Always be ready and able to learn new things.
  3. Express an interest in career advancement. Assertive communication and promote-ability go together.
  4. Help others. Peer leadership from within a team is essential. For example, help others finish their work in addition to completing assigned tasks early and correctly.
  5. Most difficult transition they’ve seen among refugees they have already promoted: Making the transition beyond a friend or advocate role. It’s important to be neutral and comfortable enforcing company policies. (This is difficult for all workers, not just refugees.)
  6. If you are recognized as Employee of the Week or another employee performance strategy we already offer, you’re on our radar screen.  That never hurts.
 “Don’t be offended if I don’t call you back.”

Your employer contacts are busy. They appreciate the attention and the information you might leave in a brief message. If the matter is time sensitive, say that or pre-arrange emergency procedures so neither of you have to wait if the matter is urgent.