Happy National Welcoming Week! From September 12-20, communities all over the nation are celebrating the cultures and contributions of immigrants and refugees. In honor of this nationwide initiative, Higher is exploring the idea of cultivating welcoming communities, especially as it relates to refugee employment.
There is a strong connection between local attitudes towards immigrants and refugees and successful employment outcomes for our clients. This may not be a comforting thought because it is a factor that seems out of our control. We can provide solid job readiness training for our clients, and we can hone our sales techniques as we speak to employers, but what can we really do about indifferent or negative attitudes that may be prevalent in our communities? Perhaps more than you think.
In order to get some insight on this question Higher spoke to Rachel Peric, Deputy Director at Welcoming America, who shared the following 3 strategies from Welcoming America’s Model:
- Engage local leaders. Local government and other faith and community leaders can be invaluable partners in cultivating a welcoming community. For more on this check out Welcoming America’s “Welcoming Cities and Counties” initiative. Additionally, speaking at your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a great strategy for building awareness and making connections in your community.
- Develop strategic communications that highlight the strengths and contributions of immigrants and refugees. Welcoming America’s Welcoming Refugees project provides a helpful toolkit entitled “Reframing Refugees” that is a great starting point for developing positive messaging about refugees and the work that you do. Also check out the “Stronger Together” toolkit, which focuses on immigrants as a force for economic growth.
- Create opportunities for relational connections between refugees and receiving communities. One of the most powerful ways to break down stereotypes and prejudice is by getting people in the same room and simply allowing them to interact. Be creative. Find ways to facilitate mutual learning and networking between refugees and employers, mentors and other community members. There are many ways that this can happen, but one possible strategy could be to plan an event that targets prospective employers and features success stories from both refugees and employers who have successfully employed refugees.
When discussing refugee employment strategies we often focus on our approach to individual employers. While these interactions are essential, it is also important for the long term success of our clients to develop strategies that focus on the wider community. The practical steps above are a great way to get started. Many thanks to Rachel Peric for sharing these insights!
To find a National Welcoming Week event near you check out Welcoming America’s “Find an Event” page.