Holiday Outreach Strategy + Holiday Graphic!

Showing appreciation for your employer partners is easier than ever before.

We designed this holiday graphic to provide you with an easy and quick way to send a thank you email to employers and community partners. 

You can do it in three easy steps:

1. Download a high resolution JPEG by right clicking on the below image and selecting “Save As”.

higher-holiday-card 2016

(or Download a PDF here)

2. Add your agency logo and message to an email.

3. Hit send.

Do you have a holiday outreach strategy that works? Please share in the comments below or contact us with the details!  

The Refugee Olympic Team

The world is cheering for the Refugee Olympic Team as they compete for the gold in Rio this month.  Literally.

To learn more about these ten athletes, check out the UNHCR Refugee Olympic Team page.

Visa, the team’s first corporate sponsor, captured the significance of these games with this short commercial:

The schedule is posted here. Be sure to tune in today as three athletes represent #RefugeeOlympicTeam in the quest for the gold!

Here are a few tips to watch the games for free. Be sure to follow #RefugeeOlympicTeam on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook for live updates.

A documentary about the team will be completed after the Games have taken place. Here’s a sneak peak:

(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.)

Working with Congolese Clients – Video

We’re sharing this video with your mainstream workforce peers today, and we thought you might like to see it too!  Thank you, James Kalunga, for sharing your expertise and client-centered approach with us.

Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 2

transportationAt 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 next few weeks, we’ll share some of these insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement!  Last week we focused on tips for overcoming childcare challenges.  This week we’ll share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of transportation challenges.

Tips for Overcoming Transportation Challenges:

  • Cover transportation options into job readiness training.  Include orientations about public transportation, including information about weekly or monthly bus passes, using smart phone applications to get around, perhaps even information about obtaining driver’s licenses.
  • Develop partnerships with public and private transportation organizations.
  • Be strategic about resettling families closer to job location and/or public transportation hubs.
  • Work with local DMV offices to improve accessibility for speakers of other languages.
  • Encourage your clients to work with you on this challenge, asking them to network within their community to explore solutions.

For more on transportation solutions, click here.

Stay tuned for more tips from MD refugee employment programs and stakeholders. Future barriers will include limited English proficiency, limited computer skills, and unrealistic client expectations.

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

August Webinars with E-Verify

everifyU.S. Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS) regularly offers free webinars for clients and employers about completing I-9 forms and other questions related to E-Verify. Some are in Spanish.

Check out the August Schedule here. Many of us can “verify” the value in attending.

Think you already know how this all works?  Click here to take a 5 question quiz. It’s quick and fun.  Your results might surprise you.  Mine did.

American Job Center Overview

Department of Labor Fact Sheets

  • American Job Center Overview – With nearly 2,800 delivery points nationwide, American Job Centers, also known as One-Stop Career Centers, provide a vast network to address the human resource and employment needs of both job seekers and business in every community.
  • Workforce System Overview – Provides a general overview of how funding flows from the Department of Labor to the local level.

Hidden Agendas: Stereotypes and Cultural Barriers to Corporate-Community Partnerships

African Community Center of Denver’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program

During our last webinar (click here to view the slideshow), Donna Kapp, Training Programs Manager for
ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, shared a little bit about how she uses labor market information to inform employer outreach. Afterward, we caught up with Donna to learn a little more about the ACC’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program.

Can you share any successes of the program?DSC02822[2]
CFaSST graduates are often better prepared for work in a commercial kitchen than most Americans! At the beginning of the course, CFaSST participants take a pre-test to determine their familiarity with food safety and to set a benchmark from which to measure their learning. The average pre-test score is 39%. After several weeks of learning in the classroom, field trips, special speakers and applying their learning in a commercial kitchen, every student has passed the post test. In fact, the average score on the posttest is 87% and two participants have scored 100%!

What is the program? What do refugees learn?
CFaSST, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training, is a 100 hour, highly accessible and interactive course on the rules and regulations of commercial food preparation and service in America. It includes information on the importance of food safety, the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them. Participants learn how to prevent foodborne illness by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination, preparing and holding food at the correct temperatures, storing food correctly and cleaning and sanitizing in the commercial kitchen.

They also learn the basics of customer service, how to handle a knife, English vocabulary related to the commercial food industry, and the soft skills employers are looking for in their newly hired employees. Through a dynamic partnership with the University of Denver, the course is offered in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management building on campus. CFaSST participants are able to learn course content in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the event center kitchen.

This partnership also makes possible unique learning opportunities for both students and staff who interact with the CFaSST program on campus. Undergraduate students enrolled in the “Human Capital Management” course develop very close relationships with CFaSST participants. Each CFaSST participant is mentored by one or two university undergrads to learn more about the hospitality industry and how to find and interview for food service positions. For many, this “assignment” becomes a gateway to new friendships as CFaSST participants and university undergrads get to know each other and move forward toward the common goal of employment in the hospitality industry.

While CFaSST participants benefit a great deal from the experience, university students also learn how to interact with and train someone who may be older than they, who might not speak much English and comes from a very diverse cultural background. Students graduating from the university have described this mentoring relationship as one of their most significant learning experiences during their four years at the university.

Check out this article to learn about the program from the perspective of the students and faculty.

How many refugees have completed the program?
Since the program began in the spring of 2012, 46 adult refugees have graduated from the course with certificates of completion, safe food handler cards and their own bimetallic stemmed thermometers.

DSC00370[1][4]Of those that have completed the program, how many have been hired in the hospitality industry?
Since last year, 76% of those enrolled in CFaSST found employment within 90 days of completing the course. Most of those placements occurred within the first 30 days after graduation. 81% of those employed are working in food service related positions such as cook, prep cook, kitchen utility worker, dishwasher, steward and concession stand worker.

We have worked hard to build relationships with various employers in the Denver metro area. CFaSST graduates are working in many different businesses including Chili’s Restaurants, the Sheraton Hotel, Coors Field (where the Rockies, Colorado’s professional baseball team, play), the University of Denver, and many other local commercial food businesses.

What are some of the challenges of the program?
Through experience, we’ve learned that food service jobs are difficult to find right before the holidays. Consequently, we’ve reorganized the schedule so that this fall participants will complete the course and be ready for employment in mid-October rather than late November.  Employment placements are high in Denver right now so it is sometimes difficult to get enough referrals from Volag staff. Fortunately, CFaSST enjoys an excellent reputation within the community and many individuals refer themselves to the program.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone that would like to start a program like this?
Training programs for adult refugees should be closely tied to the American workplace in order to prepare them for employment. That means programs should instruct in the hard and soft skills employers are looking for while building participants’ workplace English vocabulary. Look for employer partners who understand and value the opportunity such programs offer them to contribute to the training content and then hire well prepared employees.

In the classroom, instructors should not be afraid to challenge their students with difficult material while creating a positive and safe environment that encourages learning through a variety of methods and activities. CFaSST participants are always respected as mature and capable learners who, through hard work, rise to the expectations of the instructors.

To learn more about CFaSST, please contact Donna Kapp, donna@acc-den.org or 303-399-4500 x331.

Training Program Gives Refugees Work Experience

Training program gives refugees work experience
Written By Jessica Opoien, Oshkosh Northwestern Media
May 23, 2013

Refugees resettling in the Oshkosh area now have an opportunity to gain work experience, English skills and job references thanks to a partnership between World Relief Fox Valley and Habitat for Humanity. photo (3)

The Habitat Employment Training Program places refugees resettling through World Relief into what amounts to an unpaid internship while they look for jobs. The eight-week program puts refugees to work in the Habitat ReStore and on construction sites.

“Our main goal is to advance their communication skills, in a workplace rather than just a classroom, as well as provide them with a working reference — just kind of an initiation to the American job culture,” said Keri Ewing, Americorps VISTA volunteer coordinator with Habitat for Humanity.

Fourteen refugees participated in a pilot program, with seven completing it. Since then, five have found full-time employment. The program began as a partnership between Habitat and World Relief, a humanitarian organization that helps refugees resettle in the United States. An Oshkosh office opened in January 2012.

The collaboration expanded to include the Workforce Development Center, the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Winnebago Literacy CouncilCity of Oshkosh, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, ADVOCAP and the Wisconsin Works program. The program’s funding currently comes from Americorps and a Community Foundation grant.

Last year, World Relief assisted in placing 86 refugees in the Oshkosh area, most of whom were Burmese. Others hailed from Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Darfur. About three-fourths of those refugees were adults. The office expects to resettle about 100 refugees per year.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) resettlement handbook, the United States was projected to resettle 52,500 refugees from around the world in fiscal year 2011. The word “refugee” refers to people who have crossed international borders for actual or feared risk of persecution for political, religious or ethnic reasons.

When refugees flee their country, they have three options. They can stay in a resettlement camp in a second country, and return to their home when conditions have stabilized. If their country remains unstable, sometimes they can integrate into the country of asylum — an option that’s very rare. The third, and also rare, option is to resettle in a third country like the U.S.

Upon being resettled, refugees receive 30-90 days of direct assistance from organizations like World Relief, as well as language training and a short orientation. After three months, they still receive some assistance but are expected to have found a job.

However, with little to no English skills and no work experience in the U.S., finding a job is often easier said than done. That’s where employment training program comes in.

“We have people from different countries either with no work experience or work experience that is not recognized,” said Myriam Mwizerwa, office director at World Relief Fox Valley. “Anything they can do here in the U.S. and have that reference helps.”

Refugees come from a wide variety of circumstances and have a broad range of professional experiences. Some have worked as doctors and lawyers, others as carpenters. Some have worked recently and others have spent the last several years in refugee camps. The number one goal for all refugees, regardless of professional experience, is economic self-sufficiency, Mwizerwa said.

The two biggest barriers to self-sufficiency are language barriers and transportation, said Christy Hillebrand, World Relief’s employment specialist. English classes are helpful, but often, being in a work environment helps improves language skills more than learning in a classroom.

photo (4)Jay Barrientes, project manager for Habitat for Humanity, works directly with refugees on the construction sites. Currently, he is working with three refugees from Myanmar: Ruata Ialrem, Sum Hran and Vum Iian, on a house on Winnebago Avenue that is expected to be finished by Aug. 6. Hran said someday he would like to have a job making furniture.

Barrientes said language is the biggest challenge, but they work through it by going slowly and using hand signals. Safety is also a major challenge, he said, adding that regulations vary significantly from country to country. Much of the skills and knowledge he passes on are things he takes for granted.

“They’re getting American job skills in an industry that many of them could probably leave here and go work in … at least they know basic measuring skills and operating power tools … and then to be able to feel more comfortable with the language and interacting with people,” Barrientes said. “These guys want to help, and I think they want to be part of our community.”

Mwizerwa and Hillebrand said World Relief is still trying to make connections with employers and find job possibilities for refugees, as well as professional mentors. Since the organization is relatively new to the area, it’s still working on making itself known. In the meantime, while refugees search for full-time employment, the Habitat program allows them to become more comfortable in the American workplace.

“The refugees are able to help out with something that’s going on in the community and give back, too,” Hillebrand said. “So it’s a win-win.”

To learn more about World Relief Fox Valley, please contact Myriam Mwizerwa, mmwizerwa@wr.org or 920-891-7961.