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!

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 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.


Webinar Alert: Welcoming and Integrating Refugee Professionals

Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern

The refugee images from overseas emphasize war and poverty, leading many in the receiving community to think of refugees only in terms of their needs, rather than their many potential contributions. Few consider refugee professionals: the many doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, teachers, and others who make their way to the U.S. and work to rebuild not only their lives, but also their careers.

The Welcoming and Integrating Refugee Professionals webinar will help you consider how you can do more to maximize the potential of refugee professionals in their communities. This includes implications for the development of programs, strategic partnerships, and positive communications. We’ll explore who refugee professionals are, recommendations for service providers, innovative partnerships, and ways to communicate refugee professional success stories back out to a broader audience.

Featured Speakers

  • Katherine Gebremedhin, IMPRINT/WES
  • Nicole Redford, Higher

To register, click here.

Colorado CAREERS Program: Apprenticeships for Highly-Skilled Refugees

Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, CO, has worked with the Colorado Refugee Services Program (CRSP) to develop Career Aligned Refugee Education and Employment Readiness Services (CAREERS), a program for highly skilled refugees. It includes promoting apprenticeships and other career pathway opportunities.


CAREERS Program Setup

The CAREERS program began in October 2017, with funding through the CRSP office. Individualized career plans for each participant are developed by assessing the client’s English level and making personalized recommendations based on his or her interests. Recommendations might include:

  • Short-Term Occupation Training Programs (STOT)
  • Transitional field-specific courses
  • On-the-Job training opportunities
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Longer-term options such as entrance into a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program


Making the Most of Apprenticeships

When CAREERS program participants are referred to apprenticeships, Emily Griffith Technical College connects students with businesses offering “learn while you earn” programs. Emily Griffith Technical College serves as the intermediary, providing support to companies and their apprentices by completing the administrative paperwork and providing college credit for the educational component of the work experience. While most apprenticeships require evidence of high school education, Emily Griffith Technical College has worked with some businesses to waive the requirement (this may not possible if a trade Union is involved).

“The advantage of an apprenticeship is to be in the workplace immediately, doing something that is meaningful for a career,” said Heather Colwell, an Emily Griffith Technical College Language Learning Center Student Navigator. “With apprenticeships, refugees get paid while working towards a better future. It’s really about meaningful work and a pathway that helps them meet their goals.”

Emily Griffith Technical College reports that refugees need more explanation about the apprenticeship time commitment and the competitive salaries that can be achieved relative to alternatives. “While an apprentice might start at just $15 an hour, wages often increase throughout an apprenticeship,” says Heather Colwell, Emily Griffith Technical College Student Navigator.

Another benefit which is sometimes missed when clients consider apprenticeships versus traditional educational programs is the comparative cost savings. In Colorado, refugees have access to higher education upon arrival; however, if they enroll in college before being considered in-state residents, they have to pay higher non-resident costs. Apprenticeships through Emily Griffith Technical College allow newcomers to start learning in-demand skills while earning an income AND saving on tuition fees.


Early Successes

While the CAREERS program is relatively new, the initial successes look promising. One refugee participant in an Emily Griffith Technical College apprenticeship program, whose background is in engineering, recently started a four-year sheet metal apprenticeship program making $16 an hour.

“Apprenticeships can fill a need for these high-skilled professionals,” said Tiffany Jaramillo, Emily Griffith Technical College Pathway Navigator.


Have you successfully referred clients to apprenticeship programs? If so, share your story with us at


U.S. Employers’ Guide to Hiring Refugees

Higher presents a guest post from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) announcing the release of an employer guide in partnership with the Tent Foundation

LIRS has produced in partnership with the Tent Foundation, the U.S. Employers’ Guide to Hiring Refugees, a manual to assist U.S. businesses that are interested in hiring refugees and have questions about the logistics and practicalities of doing so. The Guide contains essential information on a variety of topics related to refugee recruitment and employment, including:

  • An explanation of who refugees are and how they arrive in the United States
  • The benefits of hiring refugees
  • The logistics of finding and hiring refugees
  • Common barriers – and solutions – to refugees entering and maintaining employment
  • Highlight the organizations that businesses can contact if interested in bringing refugees into the workforce

Leading businesses throughout the United States have already experienced the many benefits of hiring refugees, who are authorized to work immediately upon arrival in the United States – including lower workplace attrition, increased diversity, and a strengthened brand and reputation.

In the coming weeks, the guide will continue to be updated to provide an accurate list of refugee resettlement offices that businesses can contact to connect with refugees interested in immediate employment.

We hope that our national resettlement partners will find the contents of this Guide useful for the employers in their communities who have yet to hire refugees. Sharing this guide with employers in your community could be extremely beneficial to building bridges between local agency offices and surrounding businesses.


For more information or clarity, contact The guide is also available on the Higher website.

What strategies or materials do you use when seeking new employers? Share your plan with us at!

High-Paying Jobs Refugees can Access without a Bachelor’s Degree

A common misconception in our field is that higher paying jobs are not available without a Bachelor’s Degree (BA). According to the Good Jobs Project, however, there are 30 million “good jobs” across the United States that pay well and do not require BAs. Knowing where to find these jobs can assist employment staff and refugees in identifying career pathways that do not require expensive four-year degrees.

A “good job” is defined as one “with earnings of at least $35,000 annually for those under age 45 and earnings of at least $45,000 annually for workers age 45 and older.” The 30 million good jobs that don’t require a BA identified by The Good Jobs Project have median annual earnings of $55,000. Even though a BA isn’t needed for these jobs, researchers found the best-paying positions still require some education. Training, such as associate degree programs or trade skill certifications, may be necessary to secure a good job. When discussing career planning with refugees, it is essential for employment staff to explain the difference between BA education requirements and associate or technical education requirements.

The Good Jobs Project, completed by The Georgetown Center and JPMorgan Chase, includes a website and report analyzing the job market across the United States. The narrative report shows what careers are available state-by-state without the need of a BA through analysis of US Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.


State Data Available


The report offers state-specific data including pay information, industry changes over time (from 1991 – 2015), jobs by educational attainment, and the top five industries and occupations where non-BA jobs are found. For example, Illinois has a median earning of $58,000 for non-BA workers in 2015. Fifty-six percent of Illinois workers were employed in blue-collar industries versus 44 percent in skilled-services industries. The top five industries in IL where good jobs are available without requiring a BA include:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Transportation and utilities
  3. Construction
  4. Information, financial activities, and real estate
  5. Health services

In addition to the narrative report, the user-friendly website offers data on good jobs that can be filtered by industry, education, occupations, geography, and gender. To learn more about the methodology and resources, click on the main menu drop down feature on the top right hand of their website.

As refugee employment professionals, understanding labor market information like that included in The Good Jobs Project can help you locate career pathways or “good jobs” over lower-paid, survival jobs. For example, a job developer in Illinois might decide, after reviewing the data from the Good Jobs Project that their team has not tapped into the Transportation and utilities field and could be missing out on opportunities for their clients.

For more information on educational requirements for specific sectors and occupations, check out to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Another tool for researching particular industry sectors is CareerOneStop, where you can find a directory of employers, career guidelines, training programs, and local resources.


What are ways that your program provides career advancement opportunities for refugees? Send us your best practices at!


Welcome to Higher’s New Website

Hello Network,

We are very pleased to announce the launch of Higher’s new website. The new website quickly connects you with materials, best practices, and resources to enhance your work and save you time.

The new site includes three main menus:

  1. Resources: Quickly link to tools for career counselors, job developers, job readiness trainers, and employers. This section features our Online Learning Institute, expert-led webinars, guides, toolkits, and training courses.
  2. About Us: Learn more about us and how you can get involved.
  • Blog Library: Search our collection of blog postings for best practices and ideas on other topics relevant to your work. Search categories include job development, Job Readiness, Career Advancement, new resources, and more

Please make sure all of your refugee employment colleagues and employer partners are following us — share the Higher Blog with other refugee employment providers and employer partners.

Email to give us feedback on the new site.

Employment Brochures

No matter how your agency is structured or how you handle job development, marketing brochures can be a useful tool for promoting your employment programs to potential employers. A leave-behind, such as a brochure that summarizes refugee employment information and the services your agency provides, is helpful for those who are new to the idea of hiring your clients. Brochures can be distributed by volunteers or any resettlement staff member to point new businesses to your job development staff.                        

 Who Should Develop Your Marketing Piece? 

Brochures can be intimidating to develop but do not have to be produced by an expensive consultant in order to be effective. In fact, some non-profit communications and development personnel caution that developing something too glossy can make your agency appear as if it is not using financial resources wisely. 

Not many agencies have access to communications departments, but you probably have access to volunteers with marketing and communications expertise who can help create your brochure. If you can’t find someone in your current volunteer pool, consider recruiting a new volunteer to assist with the project; or, your employment team may be interested in tackling this project themselves. Pass drafts around the office for feedback, and think of a trusted employer partner who might also review a final draft.

What Information Should You Include?

Higher recently collected three good examples that can be used as models when creating your brochure:

  1. Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas
  2. Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
  3. Refugee Employment Services

Identify the information you want to include ahead of time to organize the layout correctly. Look for agency pictures and graphics available for inclusion. If you already have a brochure, think about how it could be improved or updated with fresh photos, more recent data or a new success story.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Use business language and avoid nonprofit jargon: Be succinct, direct, and brief. Be sure to speak your audience’s language.
  • What will be beneficial for employers?A brochure is not the place to give a detailed, in-depth explanation of refugee resettlement or paragraphs about every service your agency offers. Considering including information that will be important to employers—that refugees are work authorized and pre-screened, job retention rates of your clients, post-employment supportive services that your agency provides, etc.
  • Use numbers and statistics: Provide concrete and quantifiable information from existing donor reports or performance data. Consider job retention rates, a pie chart of industries where refugees are already working, the number of employees placed, or the number of employers who hire refugees from your agency.
  • Utilize your network of employer relationships: Give a list of area employers, with permission, who already hire your clients. Include a testimonial quote from a supportive employer, preferably someone influential and in a leadership role.
  • Make the layout visually pleasing: Utilize graphics, whitespace, and pictures of refugees at work. A success story or quote from a refugee who has been promoted, won an award at work, or owns their own business, can make your brochure stand out.
  • Remember the 5-second rule: Hiring managers/employers are busy. The decision whether to consider your pitch is made in just five seconds. If they can’t immediately see what you have to offer and why they should listen, they won’t spend time trying to figure it out. Wordy, cumbersome brochures typically end up in the trash.
  • Don’t forget to provide contact information:Staple a business card or place your employment team’s contact info prominently on each brochure so employers can easily contact you. Consider creating a dedicated generic email address that won’t be affected by staff turnover—for example
  • Spread the word: Once the brochures are ready, feel free to leave it everywhere you go. Leave them with new employers or on a visit to the mall. Do an electronic version so you can attach it to emails. Load it on your website. 

Does your ageny have a beautiful brochure you can share with your peers? Please email us at!

Get to Know Your State’s SNAP Options

Refugees in the United States can access many federal and state supportive programs upon arrival. One of those programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides funding to assist eligible, low-income families to purchase food each month based on household income and size. For more information on the funding amounts supplied per household, see the updated 2018 Income Eligibility Standards. Although SNAP is federally funded, states have some flexibility to tailor the program to best meet their local communities’ specific needs.

As a refugee employment specialist, you need a solid working knowledge of the SNAP program and how employment income affects this benefit in order to accurately calculate client self-sufficiency and to educate your clients about the changes they can anticipate upon starting work. The SNAP State Options Report provides specific information on how your state’s SNAP program is executed, and can help you identify changes from previous years and make comparisons to other states’ SNAP programming. The October 2016 report is the most recent edition, and you can view past reports on the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website in order to make the comparisons with previous years.

The SNAP State Options Report is broken into two sections. Both sections highlight the same 27 categories of program options, such as work requirements and disqualification policies, reporting systems used, and availability of online SNAP applications. Here is how to use each report section:

  1. National Option Profiles (p. 2 – 28) show visual map comparisons of how state programs operate. This section also provides explanations of the different SNAP program options, such as defining “Simplified Income and Resources” and clarifying how SNAP certification workflow and case management differ among states.
  2. State Agency Profiles (p. 29 – 81) show state-by-state charts of SNAP information. This section is most helpful in seeing a snapshot of how your state’s SNAP program is set up.

The National Option Profiles demonstrate the various aspects of each option that the state agency profile highlights in section two of the report. For example, one option highlights the Work Requirements and Disqualification Policy on page 19. This allows one to see the specifics on the national minimum requirement, how each state exceeds the requirements, and requirements of termination from SNAP. This information is crucial when looking at specific state information in section two, State Agency Profiles, because each option is not provided with definitions.

For the purpose of this review, two states (Arizona and New Jersey) were chosen as examples to reflect how the report can be used.

In section one, the map on page 19 shows which states fall under which category of disqualification policy. The State of Arizona chose that the entire household could be disqualified from SNAP based on becoming ineligible for benefits along with the regulatory minimum. The “minimum periods set by law are 1 month for the first instance, 3 months for the second, and 6 months for the third.”  While the state of New Jersey however, chose only the regulatory minimum.

For section two:

On page 31, one can look at the SNAP State Agency Profile for Arizona. State-specific information includes:

  • SNAP program is administered by the state rather than individual counties in AZ. (Identified in the Program Administration option)
  • Arizona households can apply for SNAP and TANF with one application in some cases. (Identified in the Joint Processing – TANF option)
  • All household income and deductions are counted toward SNAP eligibility, even if the household includes ineligible non-citizens who cannot receive SNAP benefits. (Identified in the Treatment of Income and Deductions of Ineligible Non-Citizens option)
  • Clients in AZ can apply and recertify their SNAP eligibility using an online application. (Identified in the Online Application option).

On page 60, one can look at the SNAP State Agency Profile for New Jersey. Examples of information found are:

  • SNAP program is administered by the county rather than the state in NJ. (Identified in the Program Administration option)
  • New Jersey households can apply for SNAP and TANF with one application in some cases. (Identified in the Joint Processing – TANF option)
  • All household income and deductions are counted toward SNAP eligibility, even if the household includes ineligible non-citizens who cannot receive SNAP benefits, with the exception of prorated SNAP months. (Identified in the Treatment of Income and Deductions of Ineligible Non-Citizens option)
  • Clients in NJ can apply for their SNAP eligibility using an online application. (Identified in the Online Application option).

Be sure to check out what options your state chooses and how they implement the policies. You can find more SNAP information and further research here.

Questions on how to use the report or access data? Email us at

Workforce GPS Webinar

Join Workforce GPS for the Protecting Farmworkers from Sexual Harassment and Human Trafficking: State Level Activities webinar on Thursday January 25, 2018 from 2:00 – 3:30 EST.

The webinar will feature Jorge Acero, State Monitor Advocate Maine Department of Labor. The webinar will focus on migrant and seasonal farmworkers’ experiences related to sexual harassment and human trafficking. Jorge’s focus during the webinar, is to share:

  • The prevalence of sexual harassment and human trafficking within the farmworker community in the state;
  • WIOA regulation on sexual harassment and human trafficking training;
  • How to leverage resources and support from state administration and partners (including coalition groups at the state level and non-profit organizations);
  • How to develop a sexual harassment and human trafficking training plan that outlines audience, needs, objectives, strategy, and key training contents.


To register for this webinar, you must first create a free account with Workforce GPS, click here to create an account.

Registration for this webinar is limited and is a first-come, first-serve basis, to register for this webinar, click here.