New Year, New Focus

As the refugee resettlement world starts a new fiscal year, you may be wondering how to refocus some of your energy, particularly if you are seeing a smaller case load. The Refugee Employment Services (RES) team at the YMCA International Services Center in Houston, TX, has started refining their services and refocusing goals for the upcoming year after experiencing a significant decline in the number of clients. Joanne Pantaleon Torres, Employment Services Director, shares several ways they are customizing and strengthening their employment services and community partnerships, including:  

  1. Providing higher-quality job placements. Joanne’s team is applying more time and energy to find individual solutions to client barriers. Fewer clients mean employment case managers spend more time getting to know each client, understanding their unique situation and goals, and making better job matches.

YMCA International Services Refugee Employment Services Team

The YMCA International Services Center is also implementing a more assertive approach to employer prospecting. Engaging a front desk volunteer who doesn’t mind making cold calls to new businesses is resulting in higher-paying job leads. Employment specialists are researching online job openings with current employers to find positions that require additional skills, pay better, or have more advancement opportunities that go beyond “typical” placements.

  1. Rethinking vocational training. In FY2016, YMCA International Services Center moved the Vocational Training Program in-house by hiring a full-time Vocational Training Liaison who screens potential training participants, reviews their background experience, and makes recommendations for trainings. Previously, the RES team referred clients to a refugee services office at partnering organization Houston Community College (HCC). HCC continues to be a preferred vocational training partner for YMCA, and together they are working on solutions to provide continued learning opportunities that accommodate clients’ work schedules. For example, they recently piloted bilingual HVAC and welding classes on the weekends for Spanish-speaking clients. It’s been successful so far—there was a 100% successful completion rate among their first weekend welding cohort!

 

  1. Connecting with more Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) opportunities. Referring clients to a new Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) program has been a highlight of the past year, and the RES team is looking for ways to expand these resources. The Bilingual Education Institute, a network partner of the YMCA, is offering VESL classes onsite at two hotels where several YMCA clients work. The RES team is also exploring a new partnership with Houston Center for Literacy’s “English at Work” program in upcoming months to incorporate into services offered to employed clients. YMCA International Services has observed an increased commitment from clients in these classes vs. traditional ESL classes. In addition being conveniently located and scheduled, Joanne points out that, “participants are more likely to stay in the class and learn when it’s connected to their job.”

What are your team’s priorities for the coming year? We’d love to hear your thoughts at information@higheradvantage.org.

Donated Bikes Pave the Way to Jobs in Tucson

Cars, bikes and buses – oh my! Transportation is a common challenge for newly-arrived refugees, but you might find some inspiration from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) and their strategy for using donated bikes to help clients get to work.

LSS-SW provides 1-2 bicycles per client household with employable adults, thanks to partnerships with Wheels for Kids and local Boy Scout drives. Both partnering organizations have provided donated, refurbished adult and child bikes.

“We’ve seen clients who are able to work that might not have otherwise been able to.” Since several of Tucson’s bus lines have limited hours of operation, “many of our clients working at hotels have to find another way to get home,” says Kyle Dignoti, LSS-SW Resource and Pre-arrival Coordinator. “Having the opportunity to use a bike has really impacted their mobility.”

Bikes are never given to clients without appropriate safety equipment, including a helmet, rope lock, and brake lights. Safety information is reviewed one-on- one with each recipient, and bicycle safety classes are available through Pima County.

Once a client has a bike, maintenance can be a challenge, but BICAS (Bicycle Inter Community Art and Salvage) in Tucson helps overcome that hurdle by training clients how to fix their bicycles. Clients are able to keep their bikes running and know how to perform basic fixes on their own.

If you have a car or bike donation program in place, we’d love to hear about at it at information@higheradvantage.org. Haven’t found a community partner to help develop these resources yet? Start by googling terms like “donated bikes” or “bike classes” and see who is in your area – you might be surprised how easy it is to find great local partners!

 

 

Identifying Job-Getting Personal Qualities

Refugees looking for their first job in America often underestimate the value of informing potential employers about personal character qualities that bolster their employability.  The following exercise helps job search clients identify their own employment-worthy character traits and develop greater confidence in their own ability to get a job in the United States.

Introduction:  In order to ‘sell’ oneself in the job market, it is necessary to know exactly what it is that one has to offer.  In this exercise, participants will identify their own positive personality traits valued by American employers.

Time: 5 – 10 minutes

Materials: Copy of “My Personal Qualities” (below) for each participant.

Procedure:

  • Distribute a copy of the handout to each job search client. It may be helpful to provide a bi-lingual version to help clients learn the meanings of the English terms.
  • Ask participants to check off all the personality traits that they possess.
  • Once they are done, ask them to identify the top 5 traits that they possess and that relate to the job they hope to do (e.g. if one hopes to be a truck driver, then “dependable” may be a more important personal quality than “cheerful”).  Ask clients to think of a time when they successfully used each of these 5 traits (on the job or otherwise), and to be prepared to talk about it.
  • Ask participants which 5 personality traits they think most employers most look for when hiring a new employee. There is no one right answer to this question, but for the following are qualities that many employers look for when considering to hire someone:  positive attitude, punctual, works well with others, self-starter, adaptable, and self-managed learner.

For a variation on this discussion ask participants which top qualities they would look for in an employee if they were the business owner.

My Personal Qualities

Put a check beside the words that are true regarding you…

___  Well-organized                                         ___   Hard-working

___  Ambitious                                                   ___  Active

___  Flexible                                                      ___  Energetic

___  Cooperative                                               ___  Responsible

___  Punctual                                                     ___  Neat

___  Alert                                                            ___  Friendly

___  Motivated                                                   ___  Polite

___  Honest                                                        ___  Independent

___  Efficient                                                     ___   Relaxed

___  Confident                                                   ___  Intelligent

___  Dependable                                              ___  Competent

___  Knowledgeable                                        ___  Thorough

___  Adaptable                                                   __  Curious

___  Disciplined                                                ___  Helpful

___  Mature                                                        ___ Caring

___  Creative                                                    ___  Open-minded

___  Funny                                                        ___  Patient

___  Careful                                                      ___  Respectful

___  Reliable                                                     ___  Willing to learn

___  Positive Attitude                                       ___  Works well with others

___  Self-starter                                                ___  Self-managed learner

Now, list your 5 top personality strengths and think of an example of a time when you successfully used each one.

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Do you have any creative games you use in Job Readiness class? If yes, please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org

This post was written by guest blogger Daryl Morrissey, Cultural Orientation Coordinator at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Webinar Announcement from DOL: Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Successes

Registration for this event is limited and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis; please register today.

Higher Network, let the great work you are doing in employment speak for itself through the art of storytelling. 

Tell a person a fact, they may remember it for a day or two.  Tell them a memorable story, they are likely to remember it for a lifetime.
Whether you are recruiting participants, engaging employers, or seeking financial support for your project, story-telling is one of the most powerful tools you can use to achieve your objectives.

This webinar will provide you with practical tips and guidance for telling a story that will evoke emotion, get your message across, and win support for your efforts.

You will learn how to:

  • Help your audience visualize your story.
  • Draw people into your story through the absence of information.
  • Get your audience to sit up and take notice.
  • Get your message across in a way that “sticks.”

If your seeking to improve the stories you tell your customers and the public, please join us for this informative webinar.

Presenter(s):

John Rakis, REO Technical Assistance Coach, Coffey Consulting LLC

Lenora Thompson, REO Technical Assistance Coach, Coffey Consulting LLC

Moderator(s):

Richard Morris, Program Analyst, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

 

When: Thursday, October 05, 2017

Time: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM ET

Register here to attend

Please note that to register, participants will have to create a DOL account, if they don’t already have one.

Want a well-paying job with benefits for your clients? Consider apprenticeships!

According to experts on National Public Radio’s (WAMU 88.5) program that originally aired on June 12th titled How To Earn Six Figures Without A Four-Year Degree, by 2025 there will be two million jobs needing skilled labor that will go unfilled if today’s labor market conditions hold. The program featured four experts from different backgrounds who discussed the merits of apprenticeship job training over more traditional forms of education.

The takeaway for you:

  • Many jobs do not require four year college degrees and pay middle income wages, including some in the six figures
  • Many positions are most easily accessed via apprenticeships

What is an apprenticeship?

  1. It is typically a three to four year training program where you are learning the building blocks of a specific job, leading to mastery in an occupational area and professional certification that travels with you. Some apprenticeships are for a set amount of time, while others are competency-based, allowing apprentices to complete their training as fast as their aptitude allows.
  2. You are working and getting paid while also completing academic coursework that is tailored to the position and provides a foundational and conceptual framework.
  3. You are learning under direct supervision of a skilled expert.
  4. You are training to take an available job with that same company.

Apprenticeships have been around for centuries but in the last century they lost favor as the four-year college experience was increasingly sought after and promoted by parents and school guidance counselors. This trend appears to be reversing however. Factors including an aging American workforce, the career preferences of younger American workers, and the emergence of new technologies requiring specialized skills have all contributed to an ever-increasing gap between available jobs and good candidates for those jobs. As a result, there is a renewed interest in apprenticeships as a strategy for incentivizing workers and filling labor shortages.

Panelist Robert Lerman, a Fellow at the Urban Institute and a founder of the American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship, discussed the difficulty of the school-based-only approach for some young people.  Courses in a four-year degree program do not always feature relevant, skill-based learning, so why spend the time and money? To illustrate this point the program spoke with Cory McCray, a current Delegate in the Maryland House of Representatives and former electrician who completed an apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. As an apprentice in the construction trade McCray did not assume the levels of debt accrued by his peers who went to four-year colleges because he had fewer classes and completed paid work as part of his training. He argues that the academic coursework he did have was motivating because it led to a quality performance on the job.

Other panelists spoke about the challenges of making an informed decision about a career path without some significant exposure in the workplace. For example, businesses in the tech industry find that hands-on workplace learning is essential to helping staff gain mastery in their field. Ken Hitchcock, Director of the Pickens County Career and Technology Center in Liberty, South Carolina stated that many apprenticeships provide additional support to those that believe they have poor math abilities or those that need English language support by providing remedial classes.

In what industries are apprenticeships located?

According to guest Nicholas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, there are lots of opportunities in a variety of industries: manufacturing, IT (including cyber security), health, finance, aeronautics, mechanics, electronics, culinary arts, and construction.

Finding national and state registered apprenticeship programs in your area.

Check with your Workforce Development Board for the resources in your community. As an example, check out this great resource produced by the Oakland County Workforce Development agency in Michigan and provided by Jennifer Llewellyn, Manager of the agency.

You will find general and location-specific information on apprenticeships here at the Department of Labor Apprenticeship USA website.

So let’s get to work for our clients of all ages!

Additional Resources                                                      

See previous blog post on apprenticeships from Higher:

http://www.higheradvantage.org/workforce-resource-registered-apprenticeship/

National Apprenticeship Week is November 13-19

https://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/NAW/

This post is written by Guest Blogger Alicia Wrenn, Assistant Director of Integration at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Does your agency utilize apprenticeships for clients? If, yes please let Higher know by writing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Training Shortens Entry Path into U.S. Financial Field

We’ve all learned that having overseas financial services experience doesn’t guarantee quick entry into the U.S. banking industry. Fortunately that traditionally long journey toward entering the U.S. financial sector has been shortened for some refugees, thanks to industry training initiatives.

Pictured is Baktash Muhammadi

Baktash Muhammadi, for example, resettled from Afghanistan to the U.S. in the summer of 2017,  started Goodwill’s BankWork$ financial services training program within three weeks of arrival. Upon completion of the free, eight-week training program, Baktash was quickly employed as a relationship banker at Bank of the West and is on a career path he loves!

BankWork$ provides training for young adults from low income and minority communities to prepare them for jobs as bank tellers, customer service representatives, and personal bankers. Graduates are supported not only in their initial job searches, but receive continued mentoring to help with future job upgrades as well. Last year, BankWork$ placed 75% of its graduates with partner banks, including Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. Click here to see their upcoming class schedule as well as application information. If your city isn’t currently included, check out other Federal Employment Training Program options in your state and stay tuned for future updates from BankWork$ as they continue to add new sites around the country.

Written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele.

3 Tools to Help Identify Your Clients’ Skills

The urgent need for qualified employees in fast-growing fields is shifting employer’s priorities from requiring specific credentials toward identifying in-demand skills. This is beneficial for our clients, who often have the skills required for jobs but do not have U.S. credentials upon arrival. Here are three tools that can help you identify your clients’ skills:

These resources are all linked under the job seekers’ page at Skillful, a web-based initiative that aims to align people looking for work, training programs, and career coaches with the specific skills heavily needed by employers.

This post was written by Guest Blogger, Carrie Thiele.

Reminder: Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Leveraging First Placements: How to be Strategic with Entry Level Jobs

Refugees arriving in the U.S. need to begin working as soon as possible. Our job as refugee employment professionals is to make that happen. While a refugee’s first job will rarely be their “dream job”, there are ways to leverage the first placement so that it becomes the first step on a career ladder, rather than a “dead-end job. There are also ways to ensure employers see refugees as employees worthy of long-term investment, rather than short-term labor solutions.

Join Higher’ s Nicole Redford and front-line refugee employment practitioners for a webinar that will present strategies for finding and landing employers who will offer not just a first job but a first step on a career-ladder.  Guest speakers include Hilary Lucas of Catholic Charities of Cleveland and Lindsey Saultz of Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains.

To register please click here.

Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Leveraging First Placements: How to be Strategic with Entry Level Jobs

Refugees arriving in the U.S. need to begin working as soon as possible. Our job as refugee employment professionals is to make that happen. While a refugee’s first job will rarely be their “dream job”, there are ways to leverage the first placement so that it becomes the first step on a career ladder, rather than a “dead-end job. There are also ways to ensure employers see refugees as employees worthy of long-term investment, rather than short-term labor solutions.

Join Higher’ s Nicole Redford and front-line refugee employment practitioners for a webinar that will present strategies for finding and landing employers who will offer not just a first job but a first step on a career-ladder.  Guest speakers include Hilary Lucas of Catholic Charities of Cleveland and Lindsey Saultz of Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains.

To register please click here.

 

Workforce Collaborative Brings Together Local Service Providers to Enhance Refugee Work Readiness

When looking at ways to enhance your job readiness training or employment placement, has your agency tried looking into existing community organizations doing similar work?

Local collaboration can mean more than working with other refugee agencies. Collaboration and partnership with other nonprofits in your community doing similar work can maximize the benefits of your employment programs. Like using a bank to teach your financial literacy courses. Looking to other nonprofits who are doing job development or job readiness courses is a great way to further develop opportunities for your clients.

This week, guest blogger Elizabeth Ringler shares an example from Pennsylvania.

A workforce collaborative in Pittsburgh, Pa has launched a new initiative to enhance refugee work readiness through targeted training. The collaborative includes the Career Development Center at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which is a resettlement agency, and the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.  Together, the two organizations serve large numbers of refugees and immigrants in Allegheny County, Pa. This collaboration was made possible through the All for All Immigrant Workforce Initiative organized by the City of Pittsburgh.

Refugees participating in the program meet twice a week to learn job readiness skills including how to look for a job, resume writing, interview preparation, and networking skills. The program also offers opportunities to enhance participants’ computer literacy and workforce specific English language skills. Additionally, the program offers on-site childcare for participants.

“This program aims to teach immigrants about the American job search process and work culture, and supports each individual in developing a job search strategy that meets their needs and leads to long term career success. By working with regional employers, we hope to showcase the important role and economic value immigrants have in Pittsburgh,” says Career Development Center Director Sarah Welch.

To learn more about the All for All Immigrant Workforce Initiative, contact Iris Valanti, Public Relations Associate, Jewish Family & Children’s Service Email: ivalanti@jfcspgh.org

If your agency does a similar event please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.