Three Critical Factors for Developing Occupational Training Programs

How do you decide which refugee occupational training programs to develop when there are countless options?

Huda Muhammed, IRC Baltimore Program coordinator

Maryland has found a winning strategy that includes labor market evaluation, employer input, and consideration of client interests and past experience. ORR’s Targeted Assistance Program (TAP/TAG) grant is given by Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) to Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MIMA).

MIMA works with training program providers to ensure contextualized Vocational English language training (VELT)and industry-recognized credentials (where required by employers) are part of each program.

MIMA chose to subcontract a portion of its funding to the International Rescue Committee to provide industry recognized training programs, in addition to placement and case management services. The IRC is using the funding to partner with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and different vendors to provide medical front office, welding, and forklift training programs, all adapted for the refugee community.

The focus areas for these short-term occupational programs were chosen very carefully. Huda Muhammed, Program Coordinator at IRC, says, “The first thing I do when thinking about training in the Baltimore area is go to O*NET and research occupational growth projections, average salaries, and for potential employers in the area.”  The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration and is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Muhammed then validates her data with local employers, she shares ideas on training programs, and she gauges employers’ interest in hiring training program graduates. This ensures training programs respond to real workforce needs.

A final step in the selection of trainings to develop is to “always look at the background of your clients and the jobs they’ve had before,” said Huda. Many of her clients have welding experience and were very interested in obtaining a welding program certification in the U.S., confirming that it was a solid training focus.

The process has paid off – the average wage for graduates of any of the training programs was more than $13 per hour in July 2017.

We’d love to hear about short-term occupational programs in your state. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

Guest post by Carrie Thiele.

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. Take time this month to ensure you understand the resources available to your clients with disabilities.

The United States Committee for Refugee and Immigrants (USCRI) Resource Guide for Serving Refugees with Disabilities includes an overview of cultural differences in perceptions of disabilities and a chapter on employment, covering topics like promoting employment among clients eligible for SSA benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) sponsors these technical assistance resources:

  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers guidance on disability employment issues. Search for accommodation information by disability for an overview of specific impairments along with accommodation ideas you can share with employers.

 

 

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Building a Story Bank to Support Your Program’s Success

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. –Robert McKee

The recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Workforce GPS webinar, Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Success, provided some great ideas for collecting stories that can inspire our clients, encourage employers, and inform the community.

Why are personal stories important? Research indicates that people remember information better when it’s delivered through a story. Potential employers learning about refugee employment services may be more likely to connect with you by hearing a story about a client overcoming barriers to reach their career goals rather than hearing just the facts about your team’s outstanding placement numbers and retention rates. Most importantly, make sure you obtain every client’s consent on a document that they sign. Without a client’s consent their story cannot be shared.

Sharing stories requires having them available. Presenters Lenora Thompson and John Rakis of Coffey Consulting LLC shared these tips for building and maintaining a story bank:

  • Have a variety of stories ready to meet a variety of audiences. Save your stories by theme or by audience for ease in locating the right one.
  • Ensure your materials are high-quality, whether the story is delivered verbally, in written format, through photographs or by video.
  • Protect your client’s identity as needed by using a completely different first name.
  • Have accompanying media releases on hand.
  • Keep your story bank up to date so that it’s relevant to any current issues occurring in the news.
  • Enlist volunteers to build your story bank – journalism students, retirees or videographers would make great candidates!
  • Share the stories far and wide in your agency’s newsletters, website and social media pages, as well as in community presentations, job readiness classes and in one-on-one conversations with employers and clients.

Interested in learning more about crafting an effective story? Check out the complete power point presentation and a downloadable list of additional storytelling resources on the DOL’s Workforce GPS website. You can also visit the National Storytelling Network’s website to find story collections, additional resources, and for information on small grants that could be used to help build your agency’s story bank.

Do you have an example of an effective employer or client story? We’d love to share it! Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Circle of Support Opens Doors to Employment for Refugee Women

A Women’s Empowerment Group at Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) brings refugee participants, including single moms, together for classes on children’s safety, nutrition, and sewing. LSS-SW has found that the social connections made through these classes are a positive factor on participants’ employment readiness, combined with support from case management, Intensive Case Management, and employment services programs.

“These women inspire each other,” says Jeanine Balezi, LSS-SW Intensive Case Manager. She tells how women see their friends start working, and then they want to find a job, too.

Photo of a 12-week Kith and Kin class offered by LSS-SW in partnership with the Association of Supportive Child Care. Classes focus on in-home childcare safety and early-childhood development games and activities.

One example is an LSS-SW client with five children who spoke very limited English when she arrived. She was terrified to start working and was upset when Jeanine told her to take responsibility for getting her children to daycare as a first step to independence. When she started attending the women’s group, the client showed interest in getting a job for the first time.

“She said she wasn’t depressed anymore,” tells Jeanine. “She had gained another family.”

The client was placed in a job at a hotel, but started having back pain after some time working. One of her friends from the women’s support group helped her apply for a different job at a school, where the work was physically less demanding. She started working there, obtained her driver’s license, and bought a car—now she’s independent.

The Women’s Empowerment Group sessions are conducted in partnership with a local university and are led by qualified volunteers. Babysitting is also provided, and the last class had 24 women in attendance. Jeanine stays in close touch with the employment team at her agency to coordinate services and let them know when participants express interest in finding a job.

Supporting single parents as they prepare for employment is a team effort. What supportive services does your agency offer? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

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New Year, New Focus

As the refugee resettlement world starts a new fiscal year, you may be wondering how to refocus some of your energy, particularly if you are seeing a smaller case load. The Refugee Employment Services (RES) team at the YMCA International Services Center in Houston, TX, has started refining their services and refocusing goals for the upcoming year after experiencing a significant decline in the number of clients. Joanne Pantaleon Torres, Employment Services Director, shares several ways they are customizing and strengthening their employment services and community partnerships, including:  

  1. Providing higher-quality job placements. Joanne’s team is applying more time and energy to find individual solutions to client barriers. Fewer clients mean employment case managers spend more time getting to know each client, understanding their unique situation and goals, and making better job matches.

YMCA International Services Refugee Employment Services Team

The YMCA International Services Center is also implementing a more assertive approach to employer prospecting. Engaging a front desk volunteer who doesn’t mind making cold calls to new businesses is resulting in higher-paying job leads. Employment specialists are researching online job openings with current employers to find positions that require additional skills, pay better, or have more advancement opportunities that go beyond “typical” placements.

  1. Rethinking vocational training. In FY2016, YMCA International Services Center moved the Vocational Training Program in-house by hiring a full-time Vocational Training Liaison who screens potential training participants, reviews their background experience, and makes recommendations for trainings. Previously, the RES team referred clients to a refugee services office at partnering organization Houston Community College (HCC). HCC continues to be a preferred vocational training partner for YMCA, and together they are working on solutions to provide continued learning opportunities that accommodate clients’ work schedules. For example, they recently piloted bilingual HVAC and welding classes on the weekends for Spanish-speaking clients. It’s been successful so far—there was a 100% successful completion rate among their first weekend welding cohort!

 

  1. Connecting with more Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) opportunities. Referring clients to a new Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) program has been a highlight of the past year, and the RES team is looking for ways to expand these resources. The Bilingual Education Institute, a network partner of the YMCA, is offering VESL classes onsite at two hotels where several YMCA clients work. The RES team is also exploring a new partnership with Houston Center for Literacy’s “English at Work” program in upcoming months to incorporate into services offered to employed clients. YMCA International Services has observed an increased commitment from clients in these classes vs. traditional ESL classes. In addition being conveniently located and scheduled, Joanne points out that, “participants are more likely to stay in the class and learn when it’s connected to their job.”

What are your team’s priorities for the coming year? We’d love to hear your thoughts at information@higheradvantage.org.

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DOL Training Announcement: WIOA Youth Eligibility Live Question and Answer Session

Register Now

The Department of Labor presents the “Our Journey Together TA Series.” This training will include a review of the eligibility portion of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Final Rule webinar and a live questions and answers session on WIOA youth eligibility through the webinar platform chat feature.

One of the most common topics which we receive questions on is WIOA youth eligibility.  This is not surprising as the eligibility requirements are fairly complex. We will replay the WIOA youth eligibility portion of the WIOA Youth Final rule previously recorded webinar as a refresher on WIOA youth eligibility and will provide an opportunity for live questions and answers on all issues related to WIOA youth eligibility.  Come prepared with all of your eligibility questions.

WIOA Youth Eligibility Live Question and Answer Session

Presenter(s): Evan Rosenberg, Division of Youth Services, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

Moderator(s): Sara Hastings, Division of Youth Services, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Time: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM ET

**Registration for this event is limited and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis; please register today.**

Register Now

 

 

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Donated Bikes Pave the Way to Jobs in Tucson

Cars, bikes and buses – oh my! Transportation is a common challenge for newly-arrived refugees, but you might find some inspiration from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) and their strategy for using donated bikes to help clients get to work.

LSS-SW provides 1-2 bicycles per client household with employable adults, thanks to partnerships with Wheels for Kids and local Boy Scout drives. Both partnering organizations have provided donated, refurbished adult and child bikes.

“We’ve seen clients who are able to work that might not have otherwise been able to.” Since several of Tucson’s bus lines have limited hours of operation, “many of our clients working at hotels have to find another way to get home,” says Kyle Dignoti, LSS-SW Resource and Pre-arrival Coordinator. “Having the opportunity to use a bike has really impacted their mobility.”

Bikes are never given to clients without appropriate safety equipment, including a helmet, rope lock, and brake lights. Safety information is reviewed one-on- one with each recipient, and bicycle safety classes are available through Pima County.

Once a client has a bike, maintenance can be a challenge, but BICAS (Bicycle Inter Community Art and Salvage) in Tucson helps overcome that hurdle by training clients how to fix their bicycles. Clients are able to keep their bikes running and know how to perform basic fixes on their own.

If you have a car or bike donation program in place, we’d love to hear about at it at information@higheradvantage.org. Haven’t found a community partner to help develop these resources yet? Start by googling terms like “donated bikes” or “bike classes” and see who is in your area – you might be surprised how easy it is to find great local partners!

 

 

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Higher is Hiring

Are you someone who is extremely passionate about refugee employment? Higher is seeking to fill its Network Engagement Specialist (NES) position. The position is ORR funded through the Higher technical assistance grant.

The NES will develop high quality technical assistance materials on promising practices in refugee employment to be disseminated through multiple channels. This position is a critical role in supporting and fully engaging the nationwide network of resettlement agencies, other refugee serving organizations, and employers.  This includes working on strategies for the initial refugee employment and on longer term economic integration.  The NES will have the opportunity to develop Innovative strategies for refugee employment and self- sufficiency.

The NES will be responsible for all areas of online engagement including the metrics for each platform. The candidate must be strong writer. The position assists the Program Manager of Higher in developing technical assistance priorities based on information gathered during in-person trainings, webinars, TA requests, and other interactions with the Higher network.

To read the full job description and apply please click here. Please share this link with your network.

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Identifying Job-Getting Personal Qualities

Refugees looking for their first job in America often underestimate the value of informing potential employers about personal character qualities that bolster their employability.  The following exercise helps job search clients identify their own employment-worthy character traits and develop greater confidence in their own ability to get a job in the United States.

Introduction:  In order to ‘sell’ oneself in the job market, it is necessary to know exactly what it is that one has to offer.  In this exercise, participants will identify their own positive personality traits valued by American employers.

Time: 5 – 10 minutes

Materials: Copy of “My Personal Qualities” (below) for each participant.

Procedure:

  • Distribute a copy of the handout to each job search client. It may be helpful to provide a bi-lingual version to help clients learn the meanings of the English terms.
  • Ask participants to check off all the personality traits that they possess.
  • Once they are done, ask them to identify the top 5 traits that they possess and that relate to the job they hope to do (e.g. if one hopes to be a truck driver, then “dependable” may be a more important personal quality than “cheerful”).  Ask clients to think of a time when they successfully used each of these 5 traits (on the job or otherwise), and to be prepared to talk about it.
  • Ask participants which 5 personality traits they think most employers most look for when hiring a new employee. There is no one right answer to this question, but for the following are qualities that many employers look for when considering to hire someone:  positive attitude, punctual, works well with others, self-starter, adaptable, and self-managed learner.

For a variation on this discussion ask participants which top qualities they would look for in an employee if they were the business owner.

My Personal Qualities

Put a check beside the words that are true regarding you…

___  Well-organized                                         ___   Hard-working

___  Ambitious                                                   ___  Active

___  Flexible                                                      ___  Energetic

___  Cooperative                                               ___  Responsible

___  Punctual                                                     ___  Neat

___  Alert                                                            ___  Friendly

___  Motivated                                                   ___  Polite

___  Honest                                                        ___  Independent

___  Efficient                                                     ___   Relaxed

___  Confident                                                   ___  Intelligent

___  Dependable                                              ___  Competent

___  Knowledgeable                                        ___  Thorough

___  Adaptable                                                   __  Curious

___  Disciplined                                                ___  Helpful

___  Mature                                                        ___ Caring

___  Creative                                                    ___  Open-minded

___  Funny                                                        ___  Patient

___  Careful                                                      ___  Respectful

___  Reliable                                                     ___  Willing to learn

___  Positive Attitude                                       ___  Works well with others

___  Self-starter                                                ___  Self-managed learner

Now, list your 5 top personality strengths and think of an example of a time when you successfully used each one.

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Do you have any creative games you use in Job Readiness class? If yes, please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org

This post was written by guest blogger Daryl Morrissey, Cultural Orientation Coordinator at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

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Webinar Announcement from DOL: Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Successes

Registration for this event is limited and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis; please register today.

Higher Network, let the great work you are doing in employment speak for itself through the art of storytelling. 

Tell a person a fact, they may remember it for a day or two.  Tell them a memorable story, they are likely to remember it for a lifetime.
Whether you are recruiting participants, engaging employers, or seeking financial support for your project, story-telling is one of the most powerful tools you can use to achieve your objectives.

This webinar will provide you with practical tips and guidance for telling a story that will evoke emotion, get your message across, and win support for your efforts.

You will learn how to:

  • Help your audience visualize your story.
  • Draw people into your story through the absence of information.
  • Get your audience to sit up and take notice.
  • Get your message across in a way that “sticks.”

If your seeking to improve the stories you tell your customers and the public, please join us for this informative webinar.

Presenter(s):

John Rakis, REO Technical Assistance Coach, Coffey Consulting LLC

Lenora Thompson, REO Technical Assistance Coach, Coffey Consulting LLC

Moderator(s):

Richard Morris, Program Analyst, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

 

When: Thursday, October 05, 2017

Time: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM ET

Register here to attend

Please note that to register, participants will have to create a DOL account, if they don’t already have one.

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