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.

Celebrating a Client’s First Job

The way you respond to a client’s first job can make all the difference in their success in the workplace.  Celebrating a client’s first job sets the tone for the client making them more positive about what they have accomplished. Refugees spend months or years waiting to reenter the workforce. The words “You’re hired” can come as an enormous relief. A job gives clients a sense of being in control of their own lives again. Though a client may often feel disappointment in accepting an entry-level position, celebrating that job can encourage them to see this as an accomplishment and not a step-down.

Celebrating a client’s first job might be part of your regular routine and does not need to be time consuming or costly.  It’s also a great way to engage the community. Community donations for first jobs and volunteer hours might be counted towards your match for Matching Grant programs. For example, community members might donate items needed like bus cards, nonslip shoes, and hygiene products, or they might donate hours toward tasks such as mock interviews or helping clients navigate their bus route to work.

Client at USCRI North Carolina

Helping clients see their situation through a positive lens can also help with job retention. It won’t make their job easier but it does help them refocus on the positive steps that they are taking rather than the negative aspects of their new job. At all milestones in our clients’ lives here it’s important to be proud and supportive of them.

Here are two great examples from the field:

Job bags: At USCRI North Carolina’s office, employment staff use a combination of education and celebration. After obtaining a first job, a job bag is awarded to the client by employment staff. As staff hand out the bag they applaud and congratulate the client in front of their peers during job club. The contents of the bag include hygiene products, a water bottle to make sure clients remember to stay hydrated, a lunch bag to remind clients to bring food to work, a pen and notepad, an umbrella, some breath mints and a travel toothbrush and paste.

All the items for the bags are donated and put together by volunteers. The staff take the client’s photo with their bag and the photos decorate the walls of the office.

A Celebrity Walk: At the IRC of Tucson, actual cheers of joy erupt from the entire office staff any time a client gets a job. This type of celebration can make a client feel like a celebrity and is a positive influence on all other clients in the office working towards their first job.

Do you have a unique way of celebrating clients? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org and share your story.

7 Tips if You’re New To Job Development

If you’re new to refugee job development, welcome to what is sure to be one of the most challenging and rewarding chapters of your career!

Maybe you’re fresh out of college or perhaps you’re a career changer looking for more meaningful work. You are likely very excited about your new position but you’ve probably also had a few moments of wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.

You have a long and growing list of clients that you need to place and many of them have significant barriers to employment. You’re beginning to think that your title should be Miracle Worker instead of Job Developer. Well guess what? We’ve all been there!

Here are 7 tips to get you through your first few crazy months as a Job Developer:

1. Breathe! What you are experiencing is normal. The work that we do is not easy, but it is rewarding! Murphy’s Law (“whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”) will summarize many of your days as a Job Developer, but there will also be many days where you will celebrate amazing successes with clients and coworkers.

2. Realize that there is a seasonal nature to the work that we do. Ask your coworkers or a supervisor to help you know what to expect at different times in the year. There are times in the year that will be slow and times that will be insane, both in terms of employer hiring and refugee arrivals. October and November will be crazier because of the recent bulge in refugee arrivals and also because employers do a lot of hiring in the fall. December and January are typically slow months in terms of employer hiring.

3. Get a mentor. Mentors are good for your clients, and they are good for you. Find a coworker who is more experienced and ask if they can share what has worked for them, and how they’ve dealt with the challenges of the job. Find an opportunity to “shadow” them as they do employer outreach. After watching them make their pitch to a few employers, try taking the lead on the next few employer visits, and ask your mentor for feedback.

4. Get out of the office! After going out to do employer outreach with your mentor once or twice, get out there and do it yourself. It will be scary. You’ll stumble over your words. You’ll get strange stares and doors slammed in your face. But you’ll get better. Success will come through practice and through getting out there and building relationships with employers. These relationships will not happen by looking at craigslist or doing online job applications; they will happen by you getting out there and “pounding the pavement.”

5. Focus on the Needs of Employers. While there is a humanitarian aspect to the work that we do, focusing on the difficult circumstances of our clients when we speak to employers is not likely to lead to long term partnerships. Employers become partners when they see that you understand the needs and challenges of their business, and can offer them consistent and effective solutions (i.e. motivated, reliable and dependable employees). Over time they may become passionate about helping refugees, but your job is to help them take the first step by convincing them that hiring a refugee is good for their business.

6. Have balanced expectations of your clients. Never underestimate your clients. Don’t be too pessimistic. Refugees are survivors and some of the most resilient people on the planet. You will feel like it’s impossible for some of your clients to get and keep jobs. Many of your clients will prove you wrong. On the other hand, be careful about being overly-optimistic about your clients with higher levels of English and literacy. Starting over in a new culture is a huge challenge for all refugees. Higher skilled clients have their own share of challenges, whether those be unrealistic expectations, trauma, or cultural adjustment issues. Regardless of skill level, the key is to identify barriers to employment early and work with your clients to develop an employment strategy that helps them overcome these challenges.

7. Sign up for Higher’s Online Learning Institute. Our eLearning modules will get you up to speed on best practices in the field ranging from conducting employability assessments, to communicating with employers, to writing effective case notes. Learn more about Higher’s Online Learning Institute here.

 

10 Tips for Newly Hired Employment Managers

Congratulations! After all the long and hard hours you’ve worked building innovative and successful employment programs, you are now a manager. This new role is important and well-deserved but comes with a whole new set of goals and demands. New managers need just as much guidance in their role so here are a few helpful tips to all the new managers out there:

1) Address the shift immediately: If you find yourself managing your former peers you must address the new dynamics immediately. Have a meeting with the staff and your supervisor. Have your supervisor explain the shift and your new role so everyone is clear about the new team dynamic. Whereas you may have gone out with co-workers after work before, that friendship dynamic may no longer be possible. Please keep in mind that some colleagues may be resentful of your promotions but just be professional and focus on running a great program.

2)  Communication- It’s a two way street: A great manager knows how to listen effectively and does not talk down to their employees. Take the time to understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings of your staff. Have a weekly team meeting where you give a few updates but also allow time for the staff to give updates. A few ideas to get staff talking: have your staff come prepared to discuss a difficult client story, a successful client story, and an issue they need advice on. Then talk through each situation as a team.

3) Effective and Efficient Meetings: In the refugee resettlement world everyone is working at such a fast pace. In order to get your staff to slow down and take the time to comprehend what you need them to learn, be wise about when and how often you schedule meetings. If you don’t have enough information to fill up an agenda, don’t call a meeting. Decide what and when new information needs to be shared. For example ORR changes to programs or problems with TANF are going to lead your agenda. Try to focus on 3 to 5 key issues in each meeting, and try not to meet more than once a week as a team.

4) Delegation: A great manager knows the strengths and weaknesses of their staff. It’s your job now to make sure the workload is divided. A manager does not take on all the work themselves; rather they know what needs to be accomplished and can identify which team member is best suited to accomplish the task. You are there to oversee and guide your staff, not to do their work for them. 

5) Accept Responsibility: Problems arise. Accept responsibility for your own actions, and accept responsibility for your team’s actions. Failure to accept responsibility makes a manager look weak to both superiors and subordinates.

6) One-on-one meetings: These meetings are a great way to learn what your employees need. Employees can sometimes be shy to share in a large groups. Here you will want to focus these meetings on the employee’s: needs, strengths, problems with clients. Ask if they want additional training and how are they managing their time. Some people need help managing their workload and this may mean helping them create a strict weekly schedule. These meetings should also be a chance for employees to hear from you. Positive feedback is always going to be better received. Try to make plans to help employee improve their performance instead of just pointing out their weaknesses. 

7) Continued Professional Development: A manager is someone who is constantly learning and growing. There are tons of great seminars out there on how to be an effective manager, but there are also lots of webinars and resources that can help you advance and grow your employment programs. At the end of this article are a few resources.

8) Find a Mentor: Find someone who is an inspiring manager and ask them if they might become a mentor to you. Advice from someone you respect will go a long way. A mentor can also be a great resource and sounding board for your ideas and problems. Be open about how you are feeling in your new role and what support you need in order to continue growing as a manager. 

9) Passion for the Mission: As a manager you will be asked to address many stakeholders in your community, including employers, funders, and government officials. Public speaking may not be your forte but it will improve over time if you can passionately convey your work. Passion for the clients and your organization’s mission will go a long way in the success of your work and will keep you coming to work with a smile on your face and set a great example for your staff.

10 )Lead by Example: Don’t just tell your staff what to do; show them. A great manager knows how to do the work, not just teach it. Instead of asking new staff to teach job club, give them the opportunity to observe you or another seasoned staff member so that they can learn by example. Offer to sit with them if they have a difficult client, or need support with tasks such as intake paperwork or a food stamp re-certification. Staying engaged in the work of your staff will also give you a chance to exercise and refresh your skills. Above all, inspire others to want to help you accomplish desired goals. People who want to do something are far more effective than people who have to do something.

Additional Tools and Resources for Supervisors and Managers:

17 Sources of Job Leads

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Image credit: bradtraverse.com

No need to explain why this list will boost your job development success.  More employer partners and client job options are worth stretching beyond your comfort zone.

Share other job lead ideas that are working for you at information@higheradvantage.org. Let’s get the list up to 25!

Thanks to the USCRI affiliate network for helping me generate this list at their annual conference last week.

  1. Career Centers – Think mainstream workforce centers, community colleges, Goodwill or trade schools.
  2. Job Fairs – Major construction projects or growth industries often collaborate when recruiting for a big job or new facility.
  3. Your affiliate network colleagues – Generate a list of the top 20 employers in our network with your Matching Grant database.
  4. Cold call geographic targetting – Target businesses along a bus line or near client housing.
  5. Google searches –Narrow the field by cross referencing a bus route map
  6. Employer partner referrals – they’re your best advertisement
  7. Your friends, family and personal connections – Don’t forget the businesses you frequent and even random party guests.
  8. Colleagues, board members and volunteers – Every lead might not work out, but you’ll get lots of options to explore.
  9. Your agency suppliers and contractors – They value your business. Let them contribute to your success.
  10. Clients – Their networks are powerful. Why not build on a successful self-placement?
  11. Social media – It works.  Learn more by searching Higher’s website for tons of practical tips.
  12. Placement Records – Spot trends or reconnect with employers with whom you lost touch.
  13. Business Journal Annual Book of Lists – Your fundraising colleagues likely receive these already. They’ll be happy to share.
  14. Want ads – Don’t forget Spanish language and other community papers.
  15. Craigslist and other job boards – Beyond current openings, look for new employer targets.
  16. Community group presentations – Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs or local HR societies can offer other good learning opportunities at the same time. Efficient!
  17. Employer websites – Major area employer job opportunities might not be advertised elsewhere.

How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

linkedinSome of the most successful job developers in our refugee employment network have a strong presence on LinkedIn.

Coincidence?  I think not.  Their great networks and content help me find blog post inspiration and examples that benefit all of us.

A strong profile summary is a win-win for your own professional development and to boost LinkedIn’s value for your job development efforts.

Click here for practical tips for improving your LinkedIn profile. Thanks to Chris Hogg, Employment Counselor with CRIS, Columbus Ohio who first spotted the article.

Ready to up your LinkedIn presence?  Here are some past posts to make it easier.

Connect with Higher, Chris Hogg, Kelly Rice, Bonni Cutler and other star job developers on LinkedIn.  See you there!

 

Apologies for the Technical Difficulties

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Where’s the Muscles from Brussels when you need him?

Higher’s week day blog feed has been fighting technical difficulties. Apologies for letting down almost 800 refugee employment pros across the country. The battle will be won by the end of the week. Stay tuned for our eLearning contest winner, WIOA news and a big announcement about Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop coming this fall in Omaha, NE!

 

You Can Still Enter to Win an iPad Air

AAA ipad photoHigher’s Online Learning Institute Spring Contest

Our spring contest ends at the end of the work day on Friday, May 8th.

Employment Service Providers enrolled in Higher’s Online Learning Institute have two more days to enter to win.

Just hearing about this contest? Need to enroll in Higher’s Online Learning Institute? Click here to sign up for your free username and password.

Contest rules can be found here. Please contact us with any questions at information@higheradvantage.org.

Stay tuned to learn who won a sleek, new iPad Air!

 

 

Friday Feature: Flavors from Home by Aimee Zaring

Flavors Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, combines client stories in their own words with a recipe that remind them of home.

Across cultures, few things create more powerful connections than telling stories and sharing food.  Click here to read one story from a Cuban political asylee and get his family recipe for comfort food Cuban style.

As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

(On occasional Fridays we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Higher’s Online Learning Institute Spring Contest

contest oneEnter to Win an iPad Air!

Our spring eLearning contest kicked off yesterday. Employment Service Providers are eligible to win by completing courses at Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

Here are two easy ways to start:

  1. If you already have a username and password,  log in and complete our Intro to eLearning training.  Then, you’ll find out how to get additional chances to win.
  2. If you’re not signed up yet, click here to sign up for your free username and password so you can enter to win, too.

The contest ends on Friday, May 8th. Contest rules can be found here.

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

Good luck!

(Many of you noticed that our website and blog were missing in action last week.  Hackers attacked our site.  The damage took several days to fix.  All is well now.  Apologies for the disappearing act.)