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

How to Keep Employers Engaged

Higher presents a guest post from Ellie White with World Relief Seattle.

In the World Relief Seattle employment office, the employment team uses a whiteboard to keep track of job leads and prospective applicants. Black pen indicates companies that have open positions, while colored pens (each color representing a different employment program) indicate employment program participants who are interested in applying to the corresponding company.

Usually, the board has a healthy balance of companies and job seekers. However, sometimes there is more black than colored ink, which highlights the imbalance between the number of employment opportunities and available candidates.

How can your employment program best navigate this situation?

Be Honest

Always try to stay positive when an employer partner reaches out with a job opportunity. “Thanks for checking in,” one might say, “I’ll pass this along to my team and we’ll let you know if we have any great candidates for you.” Even if your agency doesn’t have a client for the position, it’s important to remember that one of your teammates might have recently connected with a new or former program participant that would be an excellent candidate.

If after three days to two weeks of looking for candidates (depending on the timeline of the employer) results in no job applicant prospects, check back in with the employer and let them know that you don’t currently have any available candidates. End the conversation by asking the employer if they would like you to continue to identify candidates for the position. In this situation, checking in by email occasionally often works best (depending on the employer). A quick message of, “I hope things are going well?” often gets a response of, “Thanks for checking in – we’re good at the moment,” or, “I’m glad you asked -we’re still looking to fill two positions.”

Communicate with honesty to maintain a strong and trusting relationship.

Keep the Long View

Employment programs thrive when employment staff focuses on cultivating employer relationships. Your goal is a mutually beneficial long-term relationship with a local employer partner – never a single job for an individual program participant.

The company values your communication, service, and history of providing excellent candidates and follow-up support, even if you don’t have applicants for current openings.

Refer Employers to Other Employment Programs

A few years ago, a collection of refugee employment service providers in King County, WA, gathered together to create the Refugee Employment Coalition (REC). The coalition meets together for professional development, special projects, and to share employment leads.

When World Relief has no job applicants for an employer partner, they contact the service providers in the REC and share the job leads. World Relief sees this as an opportunity to strengthen its relationship with the employer and the other service providers. However, before referring your employment partners to other service providers, make sure you are able to vouch for the quality of their employment services.

Refugee employment work is a giant puzzle with moving parts that sometimes fit together and sometimes do not. As this puzzle shifts with client arrivals, the job market, and a variety of other uncontrollable factors, we can do our best to provide excellent service to our employer partners so that they continue to have a wonderful experience hiring newly-arrived refugees!

Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org about all the creative ways in which you are keeping employers engaged.

 

WES Career Pathway Guides

Higher presents a guest post from World Education Services (WES) Global Talent Bridge announcing their new career pathways guides.

Skilled immigrants and refugees can find step-by-step guidance on how to use their international education and professional experience in the United States or Canada in World Education Services (WES) Global Talent Bridge’s new Pathways e-guide series.

What are the Pathways e-guides about?

WES Global Talent Bridge created its new Pathways e-guide series to help skilled immigrants explore career and academic pathways in their professional fields. The guides offer practical information on the different educational pathways in each field, licensing and certification requirements for common field-specific careers, and career options that make the best use of transferable skills.

The e-guides provide sector-specific advice and resources on academic requirements, career options, and, when applicable, licensing and certification requirements. A one-stop source for strategies, support, and additional resources, the Pathways e-guides are helpful at every step of the journey toward professional success for skilled immigrants in the United States or Canada.

What fields do the Pathways e-guides cover?

So far, WES Global Talent Bridge has published Pathways e-guides for the fields of nursing and education. WES Global Talent Bridge plans to publish additional e-guides for internationally trained health care professionals in the coming months. Additional future topics include regulated fields like engineering and architecture, as well as unregulated fields like business, information technology, and the creative arts.

Like Career Pathways in Nursing, the upcoming e-guides will feature:

  • Strategies for achieving career success.
  • Helpful charts highlighting licensing and certification requirements.
  • Interactive worksheets and guides.
  • Success stories spotlighting the real-life professional pathways of skilled-immigrants.
  • Links to helpful resources in each field.

For more information on WES Global Talent Bridge’s Pathways, contact Mia Nacamulli mnacamul@wes.org.

For additional information on career pathways, checkout Higher’s recertification assistance guides for engineers, accountants, pharmacists, and more. For examples of career pathway programs, go to Higher’s blog.

Labor Market Information Strategies: Wage and Benefit Negotiation

Labor Market Information (LMI) is an excellent source of national and state job market data that resettlement programs utilize to make informed decisions on employers, particular industries, and wages. LMI might seem complicated and overwhelming to jump into; however, the benefits to you and your clients are well worth the effort.  Here is an example from Atlanta.

Lutheran Services of Georgia

Lutheran Services of Georgia Matching Grant program has been using LMI to empower their job developers with knowledge and tools for self-sufficiency success. Job Developer Meron Daniel shows us how. Meron noticed that while most families in LMI’s Matching Grant Program are self-sufficient and are financially comfortable enough to pay their bills, many are  unable to save enough money to make major purchases such as a house or car, and may not have a financial cushion in case of an emergency. Thus, Meron explored ways to increase client wages.

Meron started by gathering information on pay and benefits from employers that were already hiring refugees. Then, she used LMI to compare that data to wages for the same industries in the Atlanta area.  Armed with this information, Meron was able to demonstrate to a potential hotel employer offering a starting wage of just $8.50 an hour, that other hotels were paying $9.50 to $10 per hour for the same position. As a result, the hotel came onboard at $11 an hour – clients are happy and the hotel is competitive with its peers and has improved employee retention. A win-win outcome for everyone.

Suggestions

When negotiating on behalf of clients, Meron advises having your pitch and LMI data ready, being transparent with the employer, highlighting all the costs a particular family may have, emphasizing the services your agency provides, and stressing how vital it is for the family to be self-sufficient. In Meron’s experience, Human Resource recruiters have been open to negotiations and may even use the LMI data to make the case for higher wages to their corporate bosses. Meron recommends that if an employer cannot immediately increase pay based on the LMI information, perhaps they will be willing to offer other employee benefits such as free transportation or expanded health care benefits.

Finding LMI for your area

Higher’s Guide to Labor Market Information tells you how to access specific LMI and offers specific examples on how to use the data in  negotiations. LMI databases, like CareerOneStop or O’NET, have tools available to find wage information for industries in particular areas. Additionally, each state has an LMI expert that is available to help create reports or answer questions.

How do you use labor market information when meeting with employers? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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.

Writing a Cover Letter that Stands Out

Cover letters are often a client’s first introduction to an employer, and should always be included with a job application. Like the resume, tailor the cover letter to the position announcement. The goal of a cover letter is to entice an employer to review the client’s resume and to secure an interview.

Here are five tips on how to structure and write a cover letter that will lead to an interview:

  1. Start off on the right step

The header on the cover letter should be a replica of that on the resume. A matching header gives the two documents an added professional look. These two documents should be submitted together. Be sure to include the date, candidate’s name and contact information.

  1. The greeting

Avoid nameless salutations such as, dear sir. It might take a little research but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score major brownie points. Never start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’

  1. The structure and body of the letter

Limit the letter to one page. Try to keep the cover letter to a maximum of three paragraphs. Keep it simple and clean, not cluttered. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal. Try not to use the same wording that is on the resume.

  • Paragraph 1: Have a strong opening statement that make it clear why the applicant wants the job and why he is right for it. Include the job title and how the candidate learned about the opening (e.g., company’s website, an employee referral, job search site).
  • Paragraph 2: Describe the candidate’s qualifications. A cover letter should show what she could bring to the company and the position. Give the job listing a careful read and see where the candidate’s experience best matches up. Then, reveal why the applicant is a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why she has chosen the employer or job. Briefly summarize the applicant’s talents, experience, and achievements. Use specifics. For example:
    • Office manager cover letter: I currently serve as office manager for a busy financial services firm, (XYZ Company), where I supervise a team of 12 employees and coordinate all office functions. My strengths in improving office systems and building a top-performing clerical team have earned repeat commendations and formal recognition from the company CEO.
    • Chef: Classically trained at the renowned XYZ Institute, I earned an AOS in culinary arts and mentored under celebrity chef Bill Jones as a sous chef for 3 years. Following this experience, I held executive chef positions within 4-star restaurants for a leading hospitality group and spent the past two years as a chef on luxury yachts.
    • IT: Key strengths include: High-volume ticket management. In my current position as helpdesk support specialist for XYZ Co, I handle 1,725+ tickets per month, fully resolving and documenting issues for future reference.
  • Paragraph 3: Follow up information. Mention that the resume is enclosed and indicate a desire to meet with the employer. Thank the employer for their consideration.
  1. Want an error-free and perfectly written cover letter? Then you must edit!

Make sure the letter has no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently passed over because of such mistakes. Take some time away from the document and return with fresh eyes, ready to edit. It’s always better to have a second person proofread the text as well.

Bonus Tip: Save both the resume and cover letter in the following format [last name, first name document title] for example [Redford, Nicole Resume]. Hiring managers like to be able to quickly find and access documents as they often receive dozens to hundreds of resume for any open position.

Need a template for a cover letter? Start with this one from CareerOneStop!

Fraudulent Phone Call Alert

There have been a variety of phone call scams over time that target newcomers.  These fraudulent calls are aimed at scamming people to steal their identity or gain access to their finances. As resettlement staff, we have a responsibility to warn our clients about these phone call scams so they do not get tricked into revealing personal information.

Our contacts at the Department of Labor recently alerted Higher to a new scam: within the past few weeks, there have been reports of phone calls made from a Department of Labor phone number (202-693-2700) soliciting personal information or promising funds to those receiving the calls.

Higher is reporting that the Department of Labor has not authorized any of these calls. Please let your clients know that the Department of Labor does not and will not solicit personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, over the phone.

Tell your clients that if they receive a call from anyone they do not know requesting personal information, they should consider it a spam call and hang up. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers helpful information about protecting yourself against fraud of all types; for more information, please visit their Scam Watch.

The FTC tracks and investigates fraud cases that are perpetuated by telephone. Anyone who has been targeted by the recent telephone scam should file a complaint with the FTC.The online complaint form is available in English and Spanish.

If you have multiple clients receiving calls from the DOL number, you should report the situation by calling the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-855-522-6748.

Baltimore Healthcare Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a valuable solution to creating a path for refugees to get started in a new field, upgrade a current position, or get back into a former field. The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH) has created an apprenticeship program that provides an opportunity for just that. BACH seeks to create a pipeline of qualified frontline healthcare workers in the Baltimore area by collaborating with local employers and community colleges to provide training opportunities to interested individuals.

To engage refugee participants in the program, BACH collaborated with the International Rescue Committee Maryland (IRC) to provide an opportunity for refugees with higher levels of English, extensive education, or work history.

As part of their BACH apprenticeship, participants are paid and work part-time at an area hospital while completing on-the-job training and classroom training provided by Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). The on-the-job training is competency-based, so not every participant is at the same level or moves through at the same speed. The program’s flexibility allows refugees with backgrounds in healthcare to progress through the training more quickly. As apprentices complete a designated set of competencies, they receive wage increases. Once participants complete their apprenticeship the hospital moves them into a full-time position.

The first apprenticeship cohort by BACH was for Environmental Care Supervisors at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital. The initial cohort includes four refugees.

The training starts at $15 an hour, with competency completions adding raises, and pay starting at $20.29 an hour for those who complete the program.

A new BACH apprenticeship program for Surgical Technologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center will launch in Spring of 2018. The program will follow a set full-time schedule with twice a week CCBC classroom work and three days in the hospital. Both of these apprenticeship program specialties provide refugees with backgrounds in healthcare an opportunity to re-enter the hospital environment without having to forgo work for school or having to pay tuition.

The BACH program is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s ApprenticeshipUSA program through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.

For those interested in starting a similar program, Janie McDermott, BACH Program Manager for Apprenticeship, suggests that the first step is to find employers that are on board and willing to be fully engaged.week CCBC classroom work and three days in the hospital. Both of these apprenticeship program specialties provide refugees with backgrounds in healthcare an opportunity to re-enter the hospital environment without having to forgo work for school or having to pay tuition.

For more information on BACH contact Janie McDermott at jmcdermott@baltimorealliance.org.

What kind of training or apprenticeship programs do you use for refugees? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

Resume Writing: For Entry-Level Positions

At Higher, we receive many inquiries from the network on how to write a professional style resume with refugee clients. While this can be a time-consuming task, below is a sample illustrating vital areas to focus on for streamlining this process.

Start from the beginning. Explain to your client what a resume is and how to use it in their job search. Show visual examples of resumes and describe all the information that they will need to include. 

    1. Review what personal information is essential to ensure that prospective employers will be able to contact and stay in touch with the candidate.

     

    1. This section can also be titled Professional Experience. Providing accurate information and keywords is extremely helpful to employers. O’NET may be useful to gather descriptions of your client’s specific career or jobs.

     

    1. Include past education, as well as education and training that your client is currently undertaking. It is important to emphasize training and education that is relevant to the desired position. Including English Language classes for non-English speakers shows potential employers that the applicant is committed to learning.

     

    1. Listing skills that are crucial to particular industries may help a client get the job. Use Cultural Orientation Resource Center (CORE) lessons on identifying skills.

     

    1. Professional references are not always required on a resume, but they may provide a way for an employer to reach out to your agency to address concerns and give you the opportunity to advocate on your client’s behalf.

     

    1. Once completed, ensure that the client understands the resume’s description of their experience. Additionally, the client needs to know how to tailor resume revisions to job openings.

     

    1. Practice interviewing with the completed resume, as employers will likely use the resume as a basis for their interview.

     

    1. Finally, work with your clients so that they can understand how to identify accomplishments and responsibilities and update their resumes as they move from their first job and beyond.

For more information on resumes, see CareerOneStop’s online Resume Guide to help your client’s build a successful resume. Additionally, Higher has resources on our site and look for Higher’s Job Readiness Curriculum, coming soon!

What are some tools or ways your write resumes with your clients? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

BRYCS Youth Career Readiness Resources

Do you work with youth or young adults seeking employment? Your ORR technical assistance provider Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services (BRYCS)  can help.  Check out these Career Readiness Resources! The resources may be helpful for clients seeking higher education, training or certification in a particular field, or career advancement opportunities.

Did you know that ORR funds several technical assistance providers to help you improve your services? To learn more, click here.

How do you provide career readiness for youth? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!