Models for Integrating Language and Workforce Development Skills

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a 1-day conference at Johns Hopkins University’s American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington D.C. The theme of the conference was “Integrating Migrants into the Workforce” and focused on immigrant integration efforts in both Germany and the U.S.

One of the most interesting presentations I heard was by Dr. Heidi Wrigley from Literacy Work International. The Presentation focused on models in the U.S. that are leading the way in offering both English instruction and vocational training.

Here are four models that Dr. Wrigley highlighted:

McDonald’s: English Under the Arches

English Under the Arches (EUA) is one of four Archways to Opportunities programs designed to help employees grow professionally.

The program launched in 2007 with the mission to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that teach managers and crew the English they need to communicate effectively and confidently with customers, staff and in their lives outside of McDonald’s.

These classes are free for employees and they are also paid their hourly wage while they are in class. Helping non-native speakers learn English allows them to break down barriers and feel comfortable when communicating effectively with fellow team members, customers, and, most importantly, in their everyday life.

Proficiency in English is often a prerequisite for most jobs in the U.S. and provides mobility for individuals to pursue higher education opportunities, which in turn leads to increased earning power. To learn more about this program, visit the EUA webpage or read the most recent Archways to Opportunity Progress Report.

Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs: Ready to Work

Ready to Work (RTW) is a workforce development program in Seattle, WA designed for immigrants and refugees who face barriers to gaining employment.

The program combines English as a Second Language (ESL) classes with computer literacy instruction and case management to help immigrants gain job readiness skills and take steps toward economic self-sufficiency.

RTW was created as a prototype model of English language acquisition offered in a community-based setting, and focused on career development, and employment. Classes meet four days a week, three hours a day, for a total of 12 hours per week.

Instruction is provided by two Seattle Colleges and Literacy Source (a community-based adult education provider). Unlike many other programs, RTW tracks participants’ progress over a longer time frame than conventional funding streams typically allow.

For more details, see National Skills Coalition’s Amanda Bergson-Shilcock’s blog post from June 2016: Ready to work: Seattle creates new on-ramp for immigrant English learners.

Washington State: I-BEST

Washington’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST) quickly teaches students literacy, work, and college-readiness skills so they can move through school and into living wage jobs faster.

Pioneered by Washington’s community and technical colleges, I-BEST uses a team-teaching approach.

Students work with two teachers in the classroom: one teacher provides job-training and the other teaches basic skills in reading, math or English language.

Students get the help they need while studying in the career field of their choice. The I-BEST program offers several career pathways including Hospitality, Manufacturing and Nursing.

I-BEST challenges the traditional notion that students must move through a pre-determined sequence of basic education or pre-college (remedial) courses before they can start working on certificates or degrees.

The combined teaching method allows students to work on college-level studies right away, clearing multiple levels with one leap.

Check out this video, which features three students sharing their experience with the I-BEST model:

OneAmerica’s English Innovations

English Innovations (EI) is a blended social learning model that integrates English language learning and combines a collaborative, supportive classroom environment with online tools that enable self-paced, independent learning.

Offered as an alternative approach to conventional systems of language instruction which often do not provide the flexibility and resources that adult immigrants need, the EI program includes:

  • Tailored curriculum framework integrating digital literacy skills & language development
  • Blended model for in-class and self-paced learning through online tools and game-based learning
  • A collaborative classroom environment which facilitates cognitive, social and emotional engagement
  • Tutor-facilitated activities, volunteer involvement, and peer support
  • A model grounded in communities, engaging immigrants and immigrant-serving organizations in advocacy for effective English learning and immigrant integration

How do you see ESL and Vocational Training intersecting in your area? Are you aware of an innovative model that we should highlight? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Note: Some language in this post was pulled directly from program websites for the purpose of accurately describing these programs.

 

Understanding a Paycheck Resource

Understanding Your Paycheck eLearning

Meet Amal, who tells her story to help other refugees thrive in the U.S. workforce.

Looking for a great tool on how to understand a paycheck? Higher has developed the perfect tool for you and your clients. Our eLearning module Understanding Your Paycheck, is available through Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

Here are five reasons to check out this resource, according to your peers:

  1. It takes less than six minutes to complete the course.

“The module is really well developed and covers all the aspects of the paycheck in a very short duration of the time.”  Bidur Dahal, Education Trainer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains

2. It’s a great addition to any job readiness class.

“This module was a great tool. I thought it was very user friendly and clear. We will use this in our first job readiness class in April.”  Lauren Brockett, Director of Employment Services at Friends of Refugees – Cafe Clarkston

3. Or maybe to employment orientation.

“It clarifies the paycheck, pay stub and deductions very well. I am really excited about this module and will be very happy to present it to my clients. I will try to make it part of my employment orientation.”  Kawa Hawari, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

4. It feels more like a story than a training.

“I thought it was excellent! I definitely see this as a great job readiness workshop resource. We talk to our clients about understanding pay stubs in detail, but I like this module so much because there’s a story to it—it makes it so much more relatable. Looking forward to being able to use this for our clients! ” Tawni Floyd, Employment Manager at World Relief Tri-Cities

5. It covers more than just the basics.

“I just viewed the paycheck module. It is great! It is short, so that will make it easy to show in class with interpreters. I also like the emphasis on respectfully talking to your boss if you think there is a problem with your paycheck. I love these modules.”  Jessica Ploen, Employment Training Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

 

An eLearning Resource: Interview Behavior Videos

Ever wanted to be able to show clients what a bad interview looks like? Well you are in luck, check out Higher’s Online Learning Institute. You can access the complete module right now with your username and password.  If you aren’t already taking advantage of our 13 eLearning courses, sign up here for instant access to these videos and the other eLearning courses.

Here are 4 things to know about this exciting new resource:

  1. There are two short videos with examples of good and bad interview behaviors.
  2. You can also get transcripts and suggestions for using the module with clients in the companion resource section.
  3. More than 20 resettlement programs across the country are using our eLearning courses in their job readiness activities.
  4.  The job seekers in the videos are refugees. Thanks to them and to African Community Center (ACC), Denver, CO for helping out.

Here’s a sneak peek at Interview Behavior Videos. 

Email Higher at information@higheradvantage.org to let us know what you think, how you’re using our latest eLearning resource and what else would be helpful.

5 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

Aside from language, literacy, and cultural adjustment issues, transportation is one of the most significant barriers to employment that our clients face. While not always possible, finding employment that is easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transportation is ideal. Here are a few mapping strategies that you can use to help your clients overcome this employment barrier:

1. Explore the area immediately surrounding your client’s home. Type your client’s address into Google Maps and zoom in and out to look for grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, factories, etc. that would be easily accessible for clients. After familiarizing yourself with a neighborhood through Google maps, it’s a good idea to visit the neighborhood, since there are things you will notice in person that you wouldn’t see just by looking at a map on a computer screen.

2. Use a map of your city’s public transportation system to inform your employer outreach efforts. Start by looking at a paper map or maps that may be available on your city’s public transportation website. Then go to Google Maps, and find transportation lines near where your clients live and follow them to see what businesses are along these routes. Another fun thing to do is to drive public transportation routes as you are doing employer outreach. Sometimes you will see businesses that may not be listed on Google Maps.

A sample of results for Google Maps search: “manufacturing near Chicago”

3. Search for target industries or major employers in the neighborhood, city or region where your clients live. For example you could search for “manufacturing near Pittsburgh, PA” or “Hotels in New Orleans.” Research the largest employers are in your area to see how accessible these employers are for your clients. Where Are the Jobs? is a very helpful website that you can use to obtain labor market information for your area.

4. Start with areas of the city your clients are already familiar with. Take a look at a map with your client or just have a conversation to find out which areas of the city they travel to on a regular basis. If a job opportunity were to open up in an area they are already familiar with and comfortable traveling to, chances are they will be positive about that job and will be likely to be successful there.

5. Use maps to advocate for your clients. Maps can come in handy as visuals in conversations with employers or with your R&P (Reception and Placement) department. With employers, you can use maps to prove that transportation will not be a problem, pointing out the exact transportation lines that your clients will use, and that the transportation schedule will coordinate with the work schedule. With your R&P colleagues, you can use maps to show which neighborhoods are best situated for easy access to employment opportunities. Employment departments and R&P departments may want to consider doing strategy 1 (above) together as a strategy for increasing collaboration on housing and employment.

One rule of thumb for public transportation: Try to keep commute times to an hour or less and avoid having clients take more than two modes of transportation (e.g. switching buses). When the commute is longer than an hour and clients have to take more than 2 modes of transportation, it is almost inevitable that they will struggle to make it to work on time or that they will end up quitting their jobs because the commute is just too overwhelming.

Hopefully, these tips will help you find jobs closer to home for your clients, as well as improve job satisfaction and retention. Let us know if you have other innovative mapping strategies at information@higheradvantage.org!

Creative, Participatory Employment Plans that Work

fish-copyA guest blog post by Cassie Smith, former Employment Specialist for Caritas of Austin, TX

Refugee employment programs often require clients to create an employment plan for short-term and long-term success. Being newly exposed to American culture and the local job market, clients often find themselves bewildered by the process.

When Cassie Smith was an Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin in Texas, she noticed that clients fell into two categories: those with no career aspirations and those with unrealistic expectations.In an effort to help both types of clients understand and buy in to the goals set in the employment plan, Cassie developed a tool to help clients map their way to success.

Continue reading below to hear Cassie explain the strategy she developed.

Moving Beyond Survival Mode

First, I worked with clients who had no expectations about possible careers in the United States. Their focus had been about survival for so long that they did not have dreams of doing a job that was interesting or even one where they could prosper. Unlike Americans who are asked from a young age about what they want to be when they grow up, these clients simply had no exposure or did not dare to think about what could be.

Developing Attainable Goals

I also had clients whose expectations were blown out of proportion by ideas of the United States as the land milk and honey—a place where they could become wealthy by trading in on their education from their home countries.

These individuals often tried to fast forward their employment plan by applying for jobs that were out of reach because of the lack of language skills, professional experience in the United States, or lack of the necessary certifications, licensures, and degrees. These clients’ focus was often so out of touch with their economic reality that they were passing up money-making survival jobs in order to pursue unattainable goals.

Both types of clients lacked basic knowledge about the steps to achieve employment success in the context of U.S. work culture. I needed a way to talk about the process of getting a survival job, keeping it (the most difficult part), and achieving long-term employment in a field that they might enjoy.

Given that my clients ranged in age, gender, experience, language skills, literacy and education, I also needed a format that could address any number of barriers and skill sets.

I decided on a tailored visual and collaborative method as a way to teach clients about the employment process to create a unique plan who them their own possibilities.

The Employment House:  A Step by Step Process You Can Replicate

I quickly thought of the idea of a house as a model for the plan. The image of a house was one all of my clients could relate to and it had all of the right elements for demonstrating the whys and wherefores of the steps in the process and how to overcome possible obstacles.

I would typically build the house step by step with clients in their second appointment. I liked to do this in conjunction with completing their budget together to demonstrate the urgency of obtaining employment. I used markers and a blank piece of paper as seen in the images below to draw the house in real time, taking clients through the process both visually and verbally.

House one

The Foundation

The Foundation

1. Ask your clients the following questions: “Have you ever built a house before?” and “If you were going to build a house would you start with the roof?” It’s normal to get a few laughs during this stage—this is good as it breaks the ice. Most will answer” “No, you would start building a house with the foundation.”

2. Explain to your clients that you need to do the same thing with your employment plan. The foundation of their career will be the foundational courses provided by your agency or a partner organization (job readiness, ESL or cultural orientation).

3. Finally, it is important to ensure your clients understand and obtain the proper documentation to work in the United States. This documentation needed for the I-9 form will be the floor to the employment house.

The Base: Walls, Windows and Doors
house middle

Walls, Windows and Doors

4. The next step in building the house is to install walls, windows, and door that make the body of the house. Ask clients if they know the process of applying to a job. Depending on their answer, either affirm them, or, explain the stages in the next steps.

5. The window to the house is the resume because it allows us to see inside the house to your skills and abilities.

6. One of the walls of the house is the application process. You can explain in as much detail as you think appropriate.

7. The next step in the process, and another wall, is the interview.

8. Another window to the house can be added here for clients who have not yet obtained a high school diploma or a GED.

9. Finally, you have your first job or the ceiling of our house. This survival employment will help you gain both experience and references (the stairs), which will help you to reach your long-term goals.

The Roof
house complete

The Roof

10. The roof was always my favorite part of the employment plan. Here, clients get to choose a long-term goal. Some will have ready answers. Others will need encouragement to think about what they might like to do. Once the clients have selected a goal, this goes at the pinnacle of the roof.

11. Next, we need to add in the supports for the roof including steps that are specific to the client’s long-term goal. For example, the clients may need advanced English, additional trainings or certifications, or degree evaluations. Depending on the career choice you may need to do additional research with the client to see what requirements are necessary for the job.

12. Once you have completed the plan, make a copy of it and attach it to the clients budget for the clients to keep as a reminder of why they need to work and how they are going to make their goals a reality.

Exponential Benefits of the Employment Plan

To some in our field it may seem easy to call up a partner employer about a prospective new hire, convince them you have a great candidate for the job, and complete all the application for your client. The client gets the job rather quickly and is working the next week.

However, in this abbreviated job placement, important parts of the process are missing. The clients missed out entirely on the employment process. They will be starting at zero should they lose the job and you will have to start the process all over again. If we teach clients how to understand and navigate the employment process, they will advance to greater levels of self-sufficiency and also to their long-term goals more quickly.

By allowing them to participate in making the plan and applying for jobs, your clients will be more likely to take responsibility for their own employment.

cassie pic 1Cassie Smith is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. She worked as a Refugee Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin in Austin, Texas from 2010 until 2014.

 

Body Language Tips for Job Developers – Infographic

In most cases, as a Job Developer, you essentially do the first interview for your clients. If you make a good impression, that employer will want to meet your clients. If not, it’s game over.

We often focus on content rather than form, preparing our clients for job interview questions or preparing our “elevator pitch” for employers, but we sometimes forget that most communication is actually non-verbal (about 80% according to this Businesstopia article).

So the next time you focus on interview prep in job readiness class or get ready to walk into an appointment with an employer, keep these 27 body language tips in mind:

body-language-tricks-to-be-instantly-likeable-infographic-2

Want to see a couple more cool info-graphics related to body language for job interviews and business interactions? Check out The Basics of Business Body Language and 7 Body Language Interview Mistakes.

We’d love to highlight your success story about a recent exchange you’ve had with an employer. Get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

Catching Up on Consultative Selling

DTG-EMP Webinar + New Higher Resource Pack

 

Mark your calendars for an upcoming FREE webinar from our friends at DTG-EMP/Kenfield Consulting. The Employment Outcomes Fundamentals webinar will take place on Tuesday, January 31st, from 9-10 AM Pacific Standard Time and will give an overview of the basics of the Consultative Selling model- a job development model designed for those assisting job seekers with significant barriers to employment. To read the full description and register for the webinar, visit www.dtg-emp.com.

 

For those of you who may be new to the Consultative Selling model, we have created a Consultative Selling Resource Pack, located in the Downloadable Resources section of our website. This resource pack includes links to our 4-part Consultative Selling blog series as well as video recordings of 3 presentations from refugee employment peers who participated in Higher’s 2016 Job Development Community of Practice (CoP), which focused on Consultative Selling.

 

*Note: Illustration on front page by Gary Phelps / EMM Wichita, KS

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.

 

Consultative Selling Resource Pack

In the past couple years Higher has introduced our network to a job development model known as Consultative Selling. In addition to providing training on Consultative Selling at various Higher training events, we also published a four-part blog series and facilitated a 1-year online Community of Practice (CoP) group focused on adapting this model for refugee employment.

In order to continue helping our network learn and practice this approach to job development, we put together this resource pack, including our intitial Consultative Selling blog series and recordings of all 3 CoP calls.

Consultative Selling Blog Series

Click on the links below to read Higher’s 4-part blog series on the four primary aspects of the Consultative Selling model: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling, and Follow-up:

Illustration by Gary Phelps / EMM Wichita

Part One:Hitting the Target: Prospecting Techniques That Work

Part Two:Understanding Employers’ Needs and Providing Solutions

Part Three:Providing and Selling Workforce Solutions

Part Four:Strengthening Employer Relationships Through Effective Follow-up


2016 Job Development Community of Practice (3 Presentations)

In 2016 Higher facilitated a Community of Practice (CoP) for refugee employment staff who had attended the one day training put on by Allen Anderson at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop in November 2015 in Omaha, NE (to hear a little bit from Allen, check out the Innovations and Opportunities panel discussion from our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop page).

Over time the CoP expanded to include coworkers of the original members, and other refugee employment staff who received Consultative Selling training from Higher at separate events. You can access video recordings of these three online events below:

 

  

   

For more on Consultative Selling, click here.

If you are using this model, we would love to hear about your experience. Please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

New Mapping Tool from IMPRINT

Looking for resources and partners that can help you serve highly skilled refugees? Our friends at IMPRINT recently released an interactive map that allows you to see what organizations and resources are available for skilled immigrants in your area and nationally.

The tool also provides state-by-state data about college educated foreign-born individuals, based on 2015 American Community Survey data.

Explore this awesome tool by clicking on the map below: