WIOA Youth Program Updates and Resources

The implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) creates several ways for refugee clients to access the mainstream workforce system and offers young adults in particular some valuable resources. (If you are new to the WIOA program, check out this previous Higher blog for 5 easy first steps to connect with WIOA opportunities.)

The Youth Services Team within the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration recently launched “Our Journey Together: The WIOA Youth Program Technical Assistance (TA) Series” with four webinars in October. Whether you are new to the world of WIOA or consistently refer clients for WIOA services, here are some updates and resources shared in the webinar series worth knowing.

Resources

  • The WIOA Youth Program Fact Sheet gives an overview of available services and outlines eligibility requirements, which you may find helpful in making appropriate referrals to your local American Job Center.
  • The WIOA Youth Program Element Resources web-page covers 14 key topics related to youth education and employment, such as Paid and Unpaid Work Experience, Occupational Skills Training, and Leadership Development Opportunities. You can access a wide range of topic-specific resources from here, such as links to workforce training materials, toolkits, and webinars.

Focus on Out-of-School Youth

There has been a shift toward primarily serving out-of-school youth (OSY) with the passage of WIOA. To review out-of-school eligibility requirements, you can watch this brief 5-minute video presentation.

What’s Ahead

Stay tuned for upcoming WIOA Youth Program TA resources relevant to your work with refugee youth employment, including topics such as: Job Corps, Mentoring, Financial Literacy, Trauma-Informed Care, Summer Employment, Career Pathways, Entrepreneurship, and Apprenticeship. Enroll in the Workforce GPS system here to receive notifications about future webinars and resources.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

 

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Support for Refugee and Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens[1]. A community initiative in Silicon Valley is now engaging the immigrant and refugee entrepreneurial spirit through a program focused on supporting potential new business founders.

The Pars Equality Center created the Pars Entrepreneurship Program as a response to a forum that it held; where newly-arrived refugees were invited to hear the stories of successful Iranian-Americans. Participants began asking for more tools, mentors, and practical advice on starting businesses.

Just a couple of years after it started, the Pars Entrepreneurship Program has already become wildly popular, shared Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at the Pars Equality Center. Shortly after creating an Entrepreneurship Program page on Facebook, the page had more than 3,000 followers. “That by itself is an indication of what a huge need there is for a program like this,” said Ellie.

“We sat down and brainstormed with aspiring entrepreneurs for about three months to find out what their needs were,” said Ellie.

The outcome is that Pars Equality Center now hosts bi-weekly meetings featuring experts and business founders who lead roundtable discussions about particular entrepreneurship topics. Topics range from how to incorporate a company to sales planning and fundraising. The group is currently at capacity, with some 50 refugees and immigrants who have been in the U.S. for 3 – 7 years in regular attendance. In addition, a group of mentors is available for individual questions outside of the larger group meetings. Pars Equality Center staff have been successful in finding subject experts and mentors through their personal networks and LinkedIn searches.

Although the group is diverse in age and professional background, one commonality is that “they all have an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Ellie. “They came to Silicon Valley with the hope of starting their own company.”

Twelve entrepreneurial initiatives, all tech-based, have blossomed since the program began. Participants practiced describing their business concepts at a recent Pitch Day event, where investors and advisors were invited to provide feedback. From there, eight participants were selected to take part in a meeting with a capital venture firm and three vendors. Ellie said that although investors expected young refugees and immigrants would need a lot of guidance, they were “in awe of their talent” and also learned new ideas from the entrepreneurs.

The Pars Equality Center is a community-based social and legal organization that focuses on integration of Iranian-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-are-immigrants-more-entrepreneurial

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Hospitality Training Programs in Minnesota

Employment in the hospitality field is one of the top three industries for newly arrived refugees in the United States. However, housekeeping can be more than just a refugee’s first job, it can also be a career. The International Institute of Minnesota knows that refugees can grow into a variety of positions in this field with the assistance of their Hospitality Careers Pathway Program (HCPP). The HCPP provides three different courses; Hotel Housekeeping, Supervisor Training and College Readiness in Hospitality. Hotel Housekeeping is a 6 week course focused on training hotel housekeepers on the basics of job. Supervisor Training is a 6 week course that helps people currently working in the industry to move into supervisory positions with a focus on managing employees, data entry and personal development plans. College Readiness in Hospitality is a 16 week course to prepare students for the Hospitality Pathways Program at Normandale Community College. The course accompanies students through a career-focused college hospitality management course, helping students to earn 8 free college credits.

HCPP uses an empowerment-focused model that draws on student experiences, allowing students to shape the classroom leadership curriculum and provide advice to each other about navigating the American workplace.  In addition, all participants are able to practice customer service industry-specific English and soft skills.

In order to register for the Hotel Housekeeping class, students need to be motivated to work in the hospitality industry and read and write in English. Hospitality experience is required for the supervisory or college readiness courses. All courses are free and include a 1-month bus pass to offset transportation costs. Program costs are primarily funded by Women United under the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

A Success Story

Dorcas is an asylee from Liberia who came to the US in 2013. After completing Hotel Housekeeping at IIM, she obtained her first job. Dorcas continued to take Supervisory Training after starting her job and she now works as the Director of Housekeeping at a hotel. She is also enrolled in Hospitality Pathways Program at Normandale Community College, pursuing a certificate in Hotel Operations. Read her entire story here.

For more information regarding the Hospitality Careers Pathway Program, contact Julie Rawe at jrawe@iimn.org or Najma Mohamud at nmohamud@iimn.org.

 

Does your office have a great career pathway program you want to share? If so, please write to us at informaton@higheradvantage.org

 

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Jobs for the Future Seeks Session Proposals

Jobs for the Future is accepting proposals for its biannual national summit, Horizons 2018: A Vision for Economic Advancement, is June 13-14, 2018 in New Orleans, LA. Jobs for the Future’s mission is that all lower-income young people and workers have the skills and credentials needed to succeed in our economy.

Proposals should be in one of the following topics to represent refugee employment successes and challenges at the summit in June:

  • The Equity Imperative: Sessions will examine persistent disparities in outcomes for groups that our education and workforce systems are currently leaving behind. Presenters will elevate strategies that provide more equitable opportunities for workers to gain the skills, credentials, and experiences to meet employer needs and their potential.
  • Skills for the Future: Sessions will explore innovative approaches to build and assess these skills, including competency-based education to accelerate learning, and strategies for creating stronger, more agile feedback loops between employers and educators about skill needs. Presenters will highlight promising solutions for ensuring that youth and adults complete high school and postsecondary programs of high value to regional economies.
  • Solutions at Work: Presenters will showcase proven innovations and breakthrough ideas that foster more powerful practice, successful programs, and improved systems.

The deadline for proposal submissions is Dec. 31, 2017. You can read more about the conference and download the session proposal application here.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

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Employment Authorization Document Delays Affecting Cuban Entrants

Higher has received several reports that the Employment Authorization Documents or EAD cards are processing slowly in Florida and other states that see Cuban entrants. The current delay is about six months or more, impacting self-sufficiency and enrollment in employment programs.

If you have Cuban clients that have been waiting more than 75 days for their EAD, you may want to inform your National Headquarters (if applicable) and the State Refugee Coordinator, and you may choose to file a report with USCIS. To file a USCIS report, follow the information below.

If your EAD application has been pending for 75 days or more (25 or more if initial asylum), you may create an e-request online, or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. For customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or have speech disabilities which require accommodation: TTY)/ASCII: (800) 877-8339, Voice: (866) 377-8642, Video Relay Service (VRS): (877) 709-5798, to request creation of a service request. Either method will send the inquiry to the USCIS office where your case is pending so that it can be flagged for priority processing.

USCIS offers the advice here, for applicants experiencing delays in the processing of I-765s.

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