Need Professional Development? Job Readiness Training Courses? Check out Higher’s Online Learning Institute!

Higher’s Online Learning Institute is a free online system with courses designed for refugee employment staff and job readiness instructors. Once you register, you will find yourself on the welcome page. Click on My Courses to take a tour of the course system. Then click on courses to access sessions such as:  Adult Learning Principles, 6 W’s of Good Case Notes, Communicating with Employers: Initial Contact, and Employability Assessment, just to name a few! There are also courses to share with your clients and enhance your Job Readiness Training, such as Introduction to Computer Technology, How to Complete a Job Application, Understanding your Paycheck, and Interview Behavior.

All of Higher’s past webinars are also available in the Learning Institute. To access, click on Webinars from the My Courses page.

Higher’s Online Learning Institute can be used for professional development or, if used in job readiness classes, training for your client.

Sign up and learn more with Higher!

Are there courses you would like to see? Let us know! Email suggestions to information@higheradvantage.org.

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Self-Care Strategies: Three Steps to Change Irrational Beliefs

“This shouldn’t be happening!” “This is unfair!” “I do not deserve for this to happen to me.” Have you ever said something along these lines in a moment of exasperation?

According to an article in The Week titled “Changing these 4 beliefs will make you surprisingly happy,” people often hold irrational beliefs reflected in sentiments like these without even realizing it. Renowned psychologist Albert Ellis points out that “beliefs are what cause the majority of unhappiness, anger, and anxiety you experience.” The number one irrational belief is that life is fair, and when things don’t go as we would like, we have the right to be extremely angry. You’ve likely encountered this irrational belief without realizing it at work or in daily life.

The author of the article suggests three steps to battle an irrational belief—identify the underlying belief, dispute that belief, and replace the belief. In other words,

  1. Pause with the issue and identify the root problem. If you are having trouble identifying the root problem, discuss these issues with a partner, spouse, friend or family member.
  2. Dispute the interpretation of the problem as being irrational. Is there any way that your belief is rational?
  3. Then replace the irrational belief with a reasonable stance. Everyone would prefer to be treated fairly in all ways, but things are not always going to work out that way. Are there are other steps you could take to prevent the problem or your reaction to a problem?

The overall message should be, don’t be surprised when life does not go the way you want it to go. By replacing an irrational belief such as “This shouldn’t be happening!” it can decrease your stress levels and improve their decision-making.

To learn about the other three irrational beliefs in the article, click here.

How do you mentally prepare refugees for the U.S. workplace? Share your ideas with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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National Financial Literacy Month 2018

April is National Financial Literacy Month and a reminder to all of us of just how important financial literacy is in the United States. Teaching financial literacy to every newly arriving refugee family member is a crucial part of resettlement process.

Financial literacy should cover, at minimum, physical money, checks, debit and credit cards, loans (including the travel loan, if appropriate), how to open and operate bank accounts, how to read a paycheck, taxes, and personal budgeting.

In order to give your clients a 360 degree education of the US financial system, Higher recommends partnering with a local financial institution or nonprofit organization to help educate your clients with an in-depth look at financial literacy. Another recommendation is that financial literacy should be taught as a separate breakout session in job readiness classes.

For more resources on teaching financial literacy:

What are you doing to teach financial literacy to clients? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Tips from the Field: Safety Training – Workplace Signs

In a previous blog post we examined safety gear, today we will discuss how safety training is crucial in job readiness and ESL classes.  Understanding the importance of workplace safety signs provides refugees with the communication tools necessary to navigate employer rules. Not following safety rules and regulations can lead to workplace injuries and/or termination. Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist from LFS of Nebraska, shares a job safety activity and strategy that she uses in work-focused ESL classes to prepare refugees for their new workplaces.

  • Job Safety and Warning Signs Memory Game: The picture above provides the basis of the memory game. Print, duplicate and detach each sign. Lay the cards out upside-down and give each participant a turn to flip over and match two cards. Each card is explained and considered as they are matched. The memory game gives job readiness providers a way to select specific signs or highlight key vocabulary to increase a refugee’s knowledge of on the job safety. Jessica also suggests using signs that are common among your employer partners and asking the employers to share their safety orientation presentations or handbooks with you. In that way, you will know what workplace specific safety aspects to teach and reinforce during the game. “I took photos at different companies and showed them in class. I find the “Smoke-Free Workplace” sign especially helpful, as many students incorrectly believe that the sign designates an area where you are free to smoke,” says Jessica.

A knowledge of common workplace signs is useful as refugees learn how U.S. workplaces function. Providing workplace sign safety training in job readiness and ESL classes sets clients up to follow safety rules and guidelines successfully.

What are some ways that you incorporate safety training in your job readiness curriculum? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Tips from the Field: Safety Training – Safety Gear

Having an understanding of the importance of workplace safety rules and gear helps prepare refugees for work in the United States. Below are two activities, provided by network agencies, which may help you to incorporate safety training into your job readiness or ESL classes.

World Relief DuPage/Aurora

Dan Peterson, Higher Peer Advisor and Early Employment Specialist, says that World Relief DuPage/Aurora developed several lessons that includes safety as a part of their six-week job readiness training course. Each lesson is taught by an ESL teacher in the daily sessions and reinforced with a once a week workshop taught by Employment Counselors.  Dan shares one of the safety gear activities here:

  • Safety Gear Review: “We bring in lots of safety gear and have an interactive lesson where clients examine the gear, guess its use. Participants also learn what equipment might be required and supplied by various companies and which equipment is often required, but must be purchased, by the employee.” The picture of safety gear on the left shows the types of equipment that might be included in this activity.

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, says that she has incorporated safety training into Vocational and work-related ESL classes because a majority of clients will encounter it on the job and need to understand what it is and why it is important. Here is one of the safety gear activities Jessica uses:

  • Safety Gear Race: “I put clients into two groups, and they pick one person to put the safety gear on, and the group labels each piece. The team that finishes first, wearing and labeling the gear correctly, is the winner.” Clients not only practice vocabulary for safety gear in this activity, it also ensures they know how to correctly wear the gear.

Safety gear is an important aspect of safety training that may be highlighted in job readiness or ESL classes. Providing opportunities to see, wear, or touch real safety items will assist refugees in understanding how United States workplaces function.

Follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for more information on safety gear standards for various workplaces.

Look for our next blog post where we will discuss how teaching specifics on workplace safety can continue to prepare refugees for new positions that have specific regulations and rules on safety.

What are some ways that you incorporate safety training in your job readiness curriculum? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Women Centered Employment Programming

Across the country, employment programs are engaging more women in their programs. Both PRM and ORR emphasize the need to provide full services to all adult case members. In addition to the usual barriers most refugees face, women may disproportionately face barriers such as access to childcare, lower levels of formal education, and cultural expectations regarding their role in the workplace. Still, there are powerful examples from across the country that highlight women being empowered through employment. For example, a group of women entrepreneurs in Phoenix, AZ are tackling obstacles they face and gaining new skills by selling homemade art, candles, body products, jewelry and more. Their pop-up store allows them to make short-term income and learn valuable business skills.

In Maryland, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) implements a program to provide women additional access to employment services.  IRC’s method is to increase access to classes through gender-specific services and continuing support beyond the initial employment services period.

“It’s not that women don’t want to be employed, it’s that the traditional [employment services] model may not fit their needs,” said Neisha Washington, IRC Maryland Youth and Women’s Employment Coordinator. “We wanted to design something that takes into account the challenges that families are finding as well as the specific barriers that women are facing.”

Neisha and her colleagues surveyed the agency’s female clients and found that nearly 100% want to work. However, many women need additional support and flexibility to balance work, education, and home life. The resulting IRC program is the Youth and Women’s Employment Program (YWEP), serving women in individual and group sessions as needed.

One way in which YWEP addresses self-sufficiency barriers while managing the resettlement process is by providing additional childcare support and long-term case management.

An additional training opportunity offered through YWEP is a women’s only class focused on career coaching, increasing confidence in self-promoting, and creating new social connections. YWEP encourages the women in the class to invite friends to expand social circles and provide grassroots support for those with limited English and work experience. IRC has found that the women’s class gives participants the opportunity to engage in more meaningful ways than in a general employment class.

Providing supplementary training programs centered on women like YWEP in Maryland and the women entrepreneurs group in Arizona can be significant to the long-term success of refugee women.

How does your agency ensure employment success for refugee women? Share your thoughts by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Refugees in America: Employment Skills Training

As part of their ORR funded refugee employment program efforts, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) of Dayton, Ohio has explored a variety of employer partnerships. For example, CSSMV forged a partnership with a staffing agency that works with local clothing manufacturers in need of skilled sewers, and a volunteer sewing teacher to create vocational sewing classes. Together, this partnership serves to prepare refugees with the skills required for employment as Industrial Sewers. With Dayton being the home of several niche market clothing manufacturers, the classes have played a significant role in preparing a trained workforce for this market.

Class Set-up

The vocational sewing classes started in spring of 2012 when a staffing agency approached CSSMV refugee employment staff about the need for skilled sewers. The staffing agency reported needing a large number of experienced sewers for a new employer they had recently contracted. Thus, a program intern who had sewing experience was tasked with providing one-on-one training to clients in the basement of the CSSMV office using donated materials and sewing machines. The demand of refugee trainees and employers quickly outgrew this informal arrangement and the Employment Coordinator approached Pam, a local schoolteacher and ESL volunteer about teaching sewing to clients in a more structured setting. Pam a dedicated, compassionate advocate for refugees agreed and began working with a few clients. Pam and the Employment Coordinator worked together to build a program focusing on sewing skills and job-specific vocabulary. The sewing classes quickly filled up with clients recruited by the refugee employment program, with Pam teaching 6-8 students at a time, two evenings a week.

Refugees in the CSSMV classes are now taught on basic sewing machines and industrial equipment donated by community partners and a local employer. The entire CSSMV training process usually takes eight weeks, but varies depending on the individual’s ability to master the necessary skills. Once participants pass employer skill tests, continued training takes place at the job site, and if necessary, clients can return to CSSMV classes for additional training.

A Partnership that Benefits Everyone

Since its inception in 2012, more than 200 refugees (men and women) primarily from Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo and Sudan) have completed the CSSMV training with most transitioning to full-time company employment and some participants being promoted to team lead and supervisory positions leading to increasing wages and opportunities over time.

Do you have any volunteer-led vocational training in your community? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org

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Worker Rights Review

At Higher, we frequently receive inquiries about the rights of refugee workers. To address those past and future inquiries we have compiled a list of worker’s rights and associated websites.  These rights are important topics for job readiness classes and may enable refugees to recognize instances of discrimination and unsafe working conditions.

Right to be paid – in most instances, workers have the right to be paid federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and to receive overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week. If workers do not receive all of the wages for the time they actually worked, they can take action to recover those wages. Note that many states have minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage.

Right to be free of discrimination – it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against or harass workers based on race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin or sex.

Right to organize – in most workplaces, it is illegal for an employer to punish or threaten workers for organizing with others to improve their working conditions.

Right to be safe on the job – workers are protected by workplace health and safety laws at their worksites.

Right to benefits if injured on the job – in most states, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to the protections of state workers’ compensation laws.

Right to unemployment payments – in most states workers who are fully or partially unemployed, looking for work, and have valid work documentation are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Right to choose which documents to show your employer for employment eligibility verification (I-9) – for example, your employer cannot demand that you show them a green card. If you do not have a green card yet, you may show your employer your driver’s license or ID and Social Security Card (SSC).

Right to begin work – if you do not have your Social Security card but can provide other documentation of status such as an I-94, you can still begin working unless e-verify is required, in which case a SS number or card is needed at time of employment.

Right to a work environment free of harassment – if you encounter harassment in the form of sexual aggravation, taunting and bullying, or hazing, you may file a report with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel.

Right to report unfair hiring or work practices – you can report any offenses to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel by calling their hotline at 1-800-255-7688.

For more information, check out these resources:

How do you teach refugees in your job readiness classes about their rights in the workplace? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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A Collaborative Approach to Career Development

Higher presents a guest post from the Refugee Career Hub, operated by Friends of Refugees in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. RCH employment staff share their best practices for helping clients find immediate income while encouraging long-term career growth and fulfillment.

Refugees have limited time after arriving to the U.S. to become self-sufficient. Clients often have limited time to complete job readiness courses before starting work. Here are our team’s tips on how to maximize short- and long-term career planning in just a few visits:

Partner with Refugees in Career Development

Refugees arrive in the U.S. with varying expectations, dreams, and previous experience. During the first employment meeting with a client, it is essential to honor a client’s work history and input in designing a career pathway. Staff should not assume that clients understand the refugee employment process, such as accepting entry-level employment or needing to have their education evaluated. Likewise, staff should not expect that clients will seek out a job upgrade on their own to move out of an entry-level position. Creating a career pathway plan that addresses both short- and long-term goals may help to solidify the relationship between employment staff and the client. Check out an example of an employment plan strategy on Higher’s blog.

It is vital to explain procedures, process, and systems to help answer client questions like, “Why am I being referred to a different job than my neighbor? Why is my friend taking a computer class, and I wasn’t referred? Why is someone else having their credentials evaluated when my career counselor told me it is not the best use of money?” For some clients, the differences behind career specific development steps can be elusive. With greater programmatic transparency, clients will have an easier time staying motivated as they navigate through the job market.

Know the Field

The best way to properly advise and connect clients with their next career steps is to know the employment outlook for local industries. Because clients’ backgrounds vary, employment staff must be familiar with employers in a variety of industries and fields. Researching industry information, such as labor market statistics and publications from professional organizations and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as anecdotal information, helps staff understand the specific training, education, and skills needed to move clients forward in particular careers.

 

Promote Personal Responsibility

Very few people are able to reach a fulfilling career by having someone else do the legwork. An easy way to determine if a client is ready for the next stage of his or her career pathway is to see whether or not the client is willing to put in the necessary effort. At RCH, every client goes home with homework. For example, RCH may give a client an employment manager’s business card and encourage them to email their resume to the employer. This allows RCH to see if the client has the motivation to follow through on the assignment and if they are comfortable sending an email with basic professional courtesies and an attachment. If the client returns to RCH and has not sent the email, RCH staff follow up with the client to determine if the issue is a lack of skills or motivation.

Promoting client responsibility and empowerment helps clients take ownership of their own job search and career pathway.

Explain Networking

While clients are incredibly resourceful in making connections, they often do not leverage these relationships in their job search or long-term career pathway. Taking the time to explain career networking and its benefits is highly productive. Clients often say that they feel alone and disconnected when looking for employment, so RCH created a professional networking activity for clients to identify and leverage relationships with friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers. RCH challenges clients to contact their connections and learn where they work and if their employers are hiring. This is another way for clients to take ownership of their career pathway.

RHC hopes that these suggestions will be helpful for other refugee employment programs in their efforts to help clients move from survival jobs to career fulfillment.

Tirzah Brown is the interim employment services manager at Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, GA. She is currently earning her Aaster’s of Public Administration and plans to work on anti-trafficking policy and survivor rights.

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Webinar Reminder! Higher Presents: A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment

Higher is excited to announce the publication of a guide to understanding and utilizing Labor Market Information to maximize refugee employment outcomes.  Whether you are a seasoned refugee employment professional or new to the field, labor market information (LMI) is a valuable tool for counseling refugees on employment options and matching clients with quality job placements. For job development, LMI can arm you with the information to elevate job placements that are low-skill entry-level jobs to a higher quality first job placement. For job readiness training, LMI helps you tailor curricula to meet the skills employers require for specific jobs.

Join Higher tomorrow, Tuesday, March 27 at 3 PM for a webinar on LMI and the official release of the LMI guidebook. The webinar will include a review of the guide and a discussion with a refugee employment manager on strategies for utilizing LMI in the field.

REGISTER HERE

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