Raleigh Immigrant Community: A Refugee Community-Based Program

Community organizations led by former refugees have a unique perspective for working with refugee populations. In Raleigh, NC, Raleigh Immigrant Community (RIC) capitalizes on this unique perspective to provide complimentary resettlement services to refugees for up to five years after arrival in the U.S. RIC provides employment services, cultural orientation, case management, interpretation services, community referrals, and English conversation round tables. Elias Njiru, Program Director of RIC, spoke with Higher about their services and how they support refugees beyond initial resettlement.

Like most new organizations, RIC was formed to respond to perceived gaps in services. RIC received initial assistance to address the mental health needs of refugees from a group of University of North Carolina (UNC) students and Refugee Wellness, a UNC Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative.  Now with the support of a grant from ORR’s Ethnic Community Self-Help Program RIC is able to focus on key areas of effective integration, such as employment, language proficiency, and cultural orientation, in addition to mental health. As a refugee led and focused organization, refugees comprise over 60% of their board of directors and their staff is primarily refugees and immigrants. RIC’s client recruitment occurs directly in the Raleigh-Durham community through collaboration with the local resettlement agencies.

  • Client Success: RIC enrolled a refugee with substance abuse challenges who was homeless and on the verge of losing their employment. RIC provided a referral to treatment and rehabilitation, a connection to transitional housing, and an employer intervention. Today, the client is working full time and maintaining sobriety.

By offering free interpretation services to employers who hire refugees, RIC forges successful partnerships with businesses. Interpretation is available in Swahili, Lingala, Chiluba, Sango, French, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashtu.

  • Employer Success: One local employer has hired over 30 refugees through RIC. Due to the needs of their new employees, the employer modified their orientation process. The employer also uses the RIC interpretation services to communicate pertinent employment information to their new employees.

Partnering with community-based organizations like RIC benefits refugees throughout the integration process.

For more information on RIC, email raleighimmigrant@gmail.com.

How do you partner with community organizations like RIC? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Higher’s Guide to Labor Market Information: Occupational Profiles Tool

Labor Market Information (LMI) enables refugee employment teams to utilize data to enhance their career counseling, job development, and job readiness classes.  In this post, Higher will highlight one aspect of Higher’s A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment Programs, the Occupational Profile tool, which is available on CareerOneStop, an LMI database.

LMI is data provided by the US Department of Labor that incorporates statistics from employers across the nation. Within LMI, the Occupational Profile is a tool that gathers industry information on various fields and positions and provides data to the public.

How to Use the Occupational Profile – Example

Imagine you are in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, meeting with a client who has returned for long term career planning. The client has experience in crane operation from her country and is interested in returning to that field. You are unfamiliar with that position or industry and need to understand the client’s experience and how to assist the client in crafting an industry specific resume and long term career plan. To start, you open the Occupational Profile and search for the position. After clicking search, the occupational profile opens up with a description of job duties, responsibilities, and a career video. (For more details on the job duties and responsibilities, you may also use O*NET, the second LMI database, which holds similar information as CareerOneStop but in a different format.)

The Occupational Profile also provides details on national and state-specific employment projections. For example, Crane and Tower Operators projections show that job growth in this filed is slower in Alabama, than the United States as a whole. Based on the information provided you could select “Compare Projected Employment button to what other states will have more potential positions in the future. Select View Chart or View Map to compare. The information from the profile also indicates if the field is shrinking. Since the example highlights less potential growth, there could be other positions in the same industry that have more openings in the future. The Occupational Profile includes a list of related occupations for any selected position.

Another component of the Occupational Profile is Education and Experience: to get started as well as Typical Education. The Education and Experience box highlights what credentials people starting in this career often possess and some programs that can prepare a potential worker. Typical Education allows viewers to learn about the average educational level for workers in the field. For the example of Crane and Tower Operators, the diagram shows that 50% have a high school diploma or equivalent, and 24% have some college, but no degree. This information suggests that pursuing higher education for this field is unnecessary.

The Occupational Profile also provides wage information, required certifications and training, and skills and abilities of people in that field.

Accessing the Occupational Profile allows any employment professional to gather data to respect their client’s experience to benefit their future career.

Considerations

It is important to remember that as LMI data is gathered nationally every two years. Utilizing local sources like American Job Centers that collect real-time, local employer, or training information, might help to provide the most concrete information to refugee job seekers.

Of course, LMI databases or toolkits are not meant to replace local relationships and partnerships. To run reports, ask questions, or learn more about your state or local area, contact your state’s LMI expert.

The Occupational Profile is just one of many tools found on CareerOneStop; Higher also recommends discovering local businesses on the Business Finder, using Comparing Local Wages, and Local Training Finder.  For more information on Labor Market Information, check out Higher’s A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment Programs.

How do you use labor market information to help inform client’s career pathways? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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USCIS Announces Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Opportunities

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today it is now accepting applications for two funding opportunities under the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program that will provide up to $10 million in grants for citizenship preparation programs in communities across the country.

These competitive grant opportunities are for organizations that prepare lawful permanent residents for naturalization and promote civic assimilation through increased knowledge of English, U.S. history and civics.

USCIS seeks to expand availability of high-quality citizenship preparation services throughout the country with these two grant opportunities:

  • Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services. This grant opportunity will fund up to 36 organizations that offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to lawful permanent residents. Applications are due by Aug. 8, 2018.
  • The Refugee and Asylee Assimilation Program. This grant opportunity will fund up to four organizations to provide individualized services to lawful permanent residents who entered the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program or were granted asylum. These services will help them to obtain the skills and knowledge required for successful citizenship and to foster a sense of belonging and attachment to the United States. This grant strives to promote long term civic assimilation of those lawful permanent residents who have identified naturalization as a goal, yet may need additional information, instruction and services to attain it. Applications are due by Aug. 15, 2018.

USCIS will take into account various program and organizational factors, including past grantee performance and whether an applicant and any sub-awardees are enrolled in E-Verify, when making final award decisions.

USCIS expects to announce award recipients in September.

Since 2009, USCIS has awarded approximately $73 million through 353 grants to immigrant-serving organizations. These organizations have provided citizenship preparation services to more than 200,000 lawful permanent residents in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The funding of these grant opportunities is supported by fee funds.

To apply for one of these funding opportunities, visit grants.gov. For additional information on the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program for fiscal year 2018, visit uscis.gov/grants or email the USCIS Office of Citizenship at citizenshipgrantprogram@uscis.dhs.gov.

For more information on USCIS and our programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and Facebook (/uscis).

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Showing Appreciation to Employer Partners

Maintaining long-lasting employer partnerships is vital to any resettlement employment program. Higher presents a guest post by Ellie White with World Relief Seattle on how to show appreciation and stay connected to employer partners.

Years ago, our team at World Relief Seattle threw an Employer Appreciation Party for our employer partners. We thought it was such a great idea – an opportunity to show our appreciation, connect or reconnect with employers, and find out about new job leads or updates.

We sent out invitations, prepared food, and hung a thank you banner. Our employer partners, however, were either too busy, or uninterested. Only one or two came to the event. We tried again the next year, and got the same response.

We still wanted to appreciate and connect with our employers beyond an email or card, and realized the only way to do so was not to invite them to us, but to go to them!

Ever since, our team has hosted an annual Employer Appreciation Event that involves a visit and a small gift. Our team divides into small groups, armed with thank you mugs or small desk plants, and travels throughout the region visiting our employer partners to say thank you and connect.

This past year, our team visited over 30 employer partners. We chose them based on the amount of interaction our team had with them over the past year, and if we anticipated an ongoing relationship with them. We cannot visit all of our employer partners, therefore we send thank you cards to the employers that we do not visit, but who have recently hired our participants.

We are greeted with smiles, updates, and the opportunity to connect beyond our typical day-to-day correspondence. Some of our employers have had the gifted plants on their desk for years, and have started to expect the annual visit from World Relief with a new thank you gift. Sometimes we learn about current openings that we can take back to our job seekers.

It’s a low-budget, low-time commitment way to stay connected with employer partners, and to take just a few minutes to recognize the important role they play in the welcome and integration of our job seekers. Especially if we have not recently had any candidates for the employer, this visit provides a way to stay connected and continue to develop a healthy and on-going relationship with the employer.

 

What are some ways that you stay in touch with employers? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education: WIOA II Funding and Training for English Learners

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was established to provide support in removing barriers to employment for the American public through training and education. The goal is to move participants into high-quality jobs and careers while helping employers hire and retain skilled workers. Recently, WIOA added Integrated English Literacy & Civics Education (IELCE) to WIOA Title II to address barriers that English language learners face.

Under section 243 of WIOA law, IELCE is defined as: “education services provided to English language learners who are adults, including professionals with degrees and credentials in their native countries that enable such adults to achieve competency in the English language and acquire the basic and more advanced skills needed to function effectively as parents, workers, and citizens in the United States. Such services shall include instruction in literacy and English language acquisition and instruction on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic participation, and may include workforce training.” Services must be offered in combination with integrated education and training activities.

IELCE is a welcome addition to current services available to assist English language learners in achieving their employment or post-secondary education goals. It is crucial to note that clients with low English proficiency, or pre-literate individuals, must first attend bridge programs to meet the requirements for IELCE. A bridge program could be an existing ESL class focused on getting clients to an IELCE eligible English level or refugee employment programming that targets immediate needs and job readiness.

One potential model of IELCE programming is the iBest Program in Washington State. The iBest Program pairs two instructors in the classroom, one to teach professional and technical subject matter and the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or English language. This allows students to gain the workforce training alongside education to obtain certifications or credentials faster than traditional programs.

Important Considerations

IELCE is a new addition to the WIOA law and implementation is currently just beginning. As activities and programming are incorporated or created, it is essential for those working one-on-one with English language learners, like refugees, to advocate for their clients during the application of these programs.

Increasing English learners access to WIOA through IELCE offer opportunities to obtain certifications in local high demand fields. Increased access to opportunities likely means increasing wages, higher-skilled positions, new employer relationships, and more.

Each state is different and can design and implement IELCE differently, to learn more about your state’s plans for implementation of IELCE and advocate for refugee access, contact your state director of adult education.

For Technical Assistance regarding IELCE, contact the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

For more information regarding your state’s WIOA plan, see the WIOA State Plans

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Scholarships for Refugees: University of the People

With restrictive schedules and finances, one way for refugees to pursue post-secondary education is through online programs. One example is the University of the People, a non-profit, tuition-free, online accredited university, which allows students to learn on their own time through a variety of courses leading towards two- or four-year degrees in business administration, computer science, or health science.

Regardless of the program choice, the cost is a $100 assessment fee at the end of each course, with scholarships available. Scholarships are available for refugees: the Emergency Refugee Scholarship, the Small Giants Refugees fund, and the Myanmar Scholarship fund. Those interested can apply after completion of the student application and admission.

Questions regarding scholarships can be emailed to financial.aid@uopeople.edu.

Read more about University of the People in this recent VOA article.

For other online programs available to refugees, see Higher’s previous post on Coursera.

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World Refugee Day

On June 20, World Refugee Day, we honour the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence. But it’s also a moment to recognize those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces and their societies.”  — Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Refugees that make a home in the United States have the opportunity to work and learn the skills necessary to reestablish themselves and make positive contributions in their new communities, because of the work of refugee resettlement staff and supporters, like you. Thank you.

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Building Professional Online Networking for Refugee Clients

Higher presents a guest post from Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFSN), on their partnership with LinkedIn to provide training for highly skilled refugees.

In today’s professional landscape networking is one of the best ways to secure a job and a professional online profile amplifies your reach. Limited personal connections in the US and narrow exposure to online professional systems present a barrier for newly arrived refugees. Developing a high-quality LinkedIn profile helps clients overcome this barrier and increase confidence by showcasing their skills, education, and experience.

In February 2018, LFSN partnered with LinkedIn to provide refugee clients with a training on creating and updating their LinkedIn profiles, including profile pictures. Guidance on how to utilize LinkedIn profiles in the job search process was also provided.

This partnership was inspired by a Higher blog post describing a jointly produced job fair for immigrants and refugees where participants received guidance from LinkedIn staff. LFSN proposed a similar idea to LinkedIn and was connected with “LinkedIn for Good,” a program promoting access to economic opportunity for underserved communities including youth, veterans, and refugees. LinkedIn for Good helps participants build networks and acquire needed skills for advancement in their fields of interest.

A total of 14 LFSN clients and 2 mentors attended the event on February 17th, 2018. After presenting on how to build a great LinkedIn profile, a LinkedIn Product Education Consultant and three volunteer LinkedIn staff created professional profile photographs for attendees.

Participants had the opportunity to interact with other refugees facing similar challenges in building online and professional networks. With their new profiles, participants report feeling empowered to expand their network and more hopeful of advancing in former or new career pathways. LFSN staff members also gained skills in assisting other clients with creating LinkedIn profiles.

Encouraging and supporting refugees to pursue their career goals is critical to promoting long-term professional development, economic self-sufficiency, and community integration.

For more information on the partnership and event, email Jessica at jploen@lfsneb.org.

How do you incorporate partners to help your clients along their career pathway? Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Webinar Alert: Financial Literacy Training Resources

Financial Literacy training is a required resettlement service. On Thursday, June 21st, CORE, the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange, is providing a 30-minute Money Management webinar on how to engage refugees around key messages on budgeting, financing, and self-sufficiency. The session will draw on CORE’s new resources on Money Management, including a supplemental lesson plan, and also feature additional resources as well as an opportunity to engage with peers on the subject.

To accommodate a range of time zones, the webinar is being offered at 8:00 AM EDT and 1:00 PM EDT on June 21. Note that each webinar will feature the same content.

To select your preferred session time and register, click here.

Other financial literacy resources, such as courses like Understanding Your Paycheck, can be found on Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

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Three Steps to Consider Before Crafting a Resume

Resumes are vital to the job search process, whether it is for a first job or a job upgrade. Generally, resumes should be one page and include a detailed history of the applicant’s ability to meet the needs of the employer. The skill set of the job seeker should match the job description. Resume writing is a critical topic that should receive ample coverage in your interactions with clients.

Recently, Higher presented posts on Cover Letters and Resume Writing for Entry-Level Positions. Today, Chris Hogg, an employment counselor and job-readiness instructor at Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) in Columbus, Ohio, offers his advice on how to prepare for a client resume writing session in three steps:

Step One: The Interview

Personalization of a resume for each refugee can be challenging when working with the number refugee clients that employment staff are assigned. To add individualization to each resume, there needs to be a thorough and far-ranging interview with every client. While it may seem that employment staff can use a resume template, fill in the blanks, and crank out several bullet points to create a complete resume, such an approach defeats the purpose of a resume and ultimately does the client a disservice. The client needs to understand and articulate what an ideal job (or three) looks like for him or her before staff can even think of putting pen to paper.

Step Two: Skills and Limitations

Identify the client’s skills, experience, and knowledge as they apply to a particular job objective. Identification of soft (transferable) skills is essential because in most cases, and certainly, for the first job, soft skills (teamwork) almost always supersede hard skills (sewing). For example, a refugee may have excellent communication skills (the ability to listen, read body language, to ask questions, give feedback) even though they may have minimal English ability.

Further, discover the client’s barriers and limitations before preparation of a resume. A client may have the physical strength to work in a fast-paced distribution center, for example, but may be easily distracted or become confused if the job requires a wide variety of functions in a short period. Religious and cultural factors also must be identified and resolved.

Step Three: Uniqueness

Resumes should be crafted individually for each client to support the client’s job goals. Thus one could be working with two clients who are very similar (say, civil engineers), and yet craft two resumes that are significantly different in form and content. Resumes can be written in a “human” voice using, when appropriate, the pronoun “I” and including wording such as, “I am seeking my first paid employment ever (I am 21-years-old) – I want to work, I want to do good work, and I want to help my employer be successful.”

Now you’re prepared to craft a focused client-specific resume that will be more likely to result in a client in finding and obtaining a meaningful job.

 

Does your agency have a unique approach to writing resumes with clients? If so, please share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Continue to follow Higher’s blog, for another post on resumes for advanced positions.

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