Research Study Measures Economic Benefits of Job Upgrades Into Professional Career Tracks

It’s often difficult to help refugees with job upgrades or professional recertification, but the added income for refugees and contribution to the US economy make a  significant difference.  Skilled immigrants increased their average annualized salary by 121% (from an average of $16.967 to $37,490) when they begin working in a better job in their field.  A research study released by Upwardly Global in April of this year, documents and quantifies the economic benefits of employment assistance to help skilled immigrants secure job upgrades related to the careers in which they offer skills and experience.    Look for more resources and examples of job upgrade strategies and successes in professional recertification in the coming months at http://higheradvantage.org.

 

 

Low English Proficiency (LEP) Demographics

LEP US Map

Statistical analysis from the Migration Policy Institute highlights the increasing number of LEP residents in the US, especially in metropolitan areas and in California, Texas and New York.  Higher numbers of LEP men work in construction and extraction and LEP women in service and personal care.  How is the picture similar or different for your refugee clients?   Share your success stories, resources or models on our website http://higheradvantage.org.

Compensation Comparison for Three Attainable Jobs

worker pay

Hourly wage, number of hours per week and access to benefits are all important considerations for our clients.  For the whole article highlighting the benefits to employers of paying a living wage, go to http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/06/news/economy/costco-fast-food-strikes/index.htm.

NYTimes Article Provides Valuable Examples and Resource Leads for Physician Clients

A recent New York Times article outlines the barriers refugee and other immigrant physicians face to continue their practice in the US.  Providing a copy of this article to your physician clients will reinforce what you’re telling them, give them useful examples of other physicians in the US and point to two great resources you can help them find:  The Welcome Back Initiative and Upwardly Global.

Immigrant Professional Recertification Research

A new research study from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) outlines the barriers and identifies possible solutions to the issue of skilled refugee professional recertification.  It is very much in line with our experiences as service providers helping refugee clients understand and address barriers they may face, learn about recertification options and seek pathways to reentering their profession and gaining US work experience, networks and US licensure.

You can find a link to the entire report in our Research and Reports section or by visiting the MPI website.

Resources from DOL!

We just added some Department of Labor fact sheets to the Resources section of our site. Check them out to learn more about how American Job Centers and the Workforce Investment System can help support refugee workers in your community.

Higher Welcomes Lorel Donaghey as Research and Communications Specialist

LorelWe’re very excited to announce that we are gaining a talented new staff member, Lorel Donaghey. Starting July 29, she will be adding her deep expertise to our team as Higher’s Research and Communications Specialist.

Lorel Donaghey comes to us from six and a half years in Texas at the Caritas of Austin Employment Program. There, she worked as Senior Employment Specialist and Job Developer, piloting both of those positions as the Employment unit expanded from 4 to 11 staff members.  She also served on the Higher Peer Advisory Network, contributing to our blog and other publications, and in online and peer exchange workshops.  Previously, she worked to strengthen nonprofits internationally in training, assessment, organizational development, and field office management.  Lorel has an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, speaks Russian and Spanish, and brings a strong belief in the importance of helping refugees and other immigrant families succeed in the United States.

Lorel will primarily focus on Higher’s website, virtual trainings, and other online communications that are critical to the technical assistance we provide to front-line refugee employment professionals.  Lorel’s experience on the front lines, as well as her innovative ideas on how to strengthen refugee employment services, are really going to benefit Higher and LIRS as a whole.

LIRS’ President and CEO, Linda Hartke, had a chance to ask Lorel a few questions about her new role. Here’s what she said:

What personal experiences led you to become so committed to standing with refugees?

My commitment to standing with refugees really began with my previous career in international development.  When I came back to live in the United States, I wanted work that continued to engage with different cultures and had a global element.  Soon, admiration for the resilience, spirit and diverse contributions refugees make here at home joined that need for a broader worldview in my every day life as a sustaining motivation to continue working with refugee resettlement programs.

What excites you most about working with Higher?

I’ve had a little crush on LIRS since participating in Higher strategic planning with Higher Director Rebecca Armstrong and LIRS Vice President for Programs and Protection Mike Mitchell, and after hearing the expertise of the employment professionals in the LIRS field network whom I’ve met at Higher events.  So, I’m really thrilled to contribute in a more direct way.

But, I’m actually most excited about finding yet another way in which my life intersects with that of my great Aunt Dee, who lived across the street from my family and was 101 when she died.  She married a Lutheran minister when she was in her late 30s after traveling to attend college with her sisters in a covered wagon, graduating from Columbia in the late 1800’s as one of the first women to attend and traveling to Cuba as a missionary in a steam ship from New York City.  I definitely have her spirit of adventure and use the trunk she traveled with as a coffee table.  I hope I have her longevity, too!

What do you most hope to achieve while in your new position?

I’ve long wanted to do more work with online content and social media, especially after blogging for Higher as I started the Job Development function at Caritas of Austin, so I’m excited for the chance to further hone those skills in my new position.  Through that part of my work, I really hope I can help add the knowledge and passion of the  LIRS and Refugee Employment networks to the ongoing national conversation around immigration reform and the valuable contribution made by immigrants (including refugees) throughout U.S. history.

African Community Center of Denver’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program

During our last webinar (click here to view the slideshow), Donna Kapp, Training Programs Manager for
ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, shared a little bit about how she uses labor market information to inform employer outreach. Afterward, we caught up with Donna to learn a little more about the ACC’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program.

Can you share any successes of the program?DSC02822[2]
CFaSST graduates are often better prepared for work in a commercial kitchen than most Americans! At the beginning of the course, CFaSST participants take a pre-test to determine their familiarity with food safety and to set a benchmark from which to measure their learning. The average pre-test score is 39%. After several weeks of learning in the classroom, field trips, special speakers and applying their learning in a commercial kitchen, every student has passed the post test. In fact, the average score on the posttest is 87% and two participants have scored 100%!

What is the program? What do refugees learn?
CFaSST, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training, is a 100 hour, highly accessible and interactive course on the rules and regulations of commercial food preparation and service in America. It includes information on the importance of food safety, the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them. Participants learn how to prevent foodborne illness by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination, preparing and holding food at the correct temperatures, storing food correctly and cleaning and sanitizing in the commercial kitchen.

They also learn the basics of customer service, how to handle a knife, English vocabulary related to the commercial food industry, and the soft skills employers are looking for in their newly hired employees. Through a dynamic partnership with the University of Denver, the course is offered in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management building on campus. CFaSST participants are able to learn course content in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the event center kitchen.

This partnership also makes possible unique learning opportunities for both students and staff who interact with the CFaSST program on campus. Undergraduate students enrolled in the “Human Capital Management” course develop very close relationships with CFaSST participants. Each CFaSST participant is mentored by one or two university undergrads to learn more about the hospitality industry and how to find and interview for food service positions. For many, this “assignment” becomes a gateway to new friendships as CFaSST participants and university undergrads get to know each other and move forward toward the common goal of employment in the hospitality industry.

While CFaSST participants benefit a great deal from the experience, university students also learn how to interact with and train someone who may be older than they, who might not speak much English and comes from a very diverse cultural background. Students graduating from the university have described this mentoring relationship as one of their most significant learning experiences during their four years at the university.

Check out this article to learn about the program from the perspective of the students and faculty.

How many refugees have completed the program?
Since the program began in the spring of 2012, 46 adult refugees have graduated from the course with certificates of completion, safe food handler cards and their own bimetallic stemmed thermometers.

DSC00370[1][4]Of those that have completed the program, how many have been hired in the hospitality industry?
Since last year, 76% of those enrolled in CFaSST found employment within 90 days of completing the course. Most of those placements occurred within the first 30 days after graduation. 81% of those employed are working in food service related positions such as cook, prep cook, kitchen utility worker, dishwasher, steward and concession stand worker.

We have worked hard to build relationships with various employers in the Denver metro area. CFaSST graduates are working in many different businesses including Chili’s Restaurants, the Sheraton Hotel, Coors Field (where the Rockies, Colorado’s professional baseball team, play), the University of Denver, and many other local commercial food businesses.

What are some of the challenges of the program?
Through experience, we’ve learned that food service jobs are difficult to find right before the holidays. Consequently, we’ve reorganized the schedule so that this fall participants will complete the course and be ready for employment in mid-October rather than late November.  Employment placements are high in Denver right now so it is sometimes difficult to get enough referrals from Volag staff. Fortunately, CFaSST enjoys an excellent reputation within the community and many individuals refer themselves to the program.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone that would like to start a program like this?
Training programs for adult refugees should be closely tied to the American workplace in order to prepare them for employment. That means programs should instruct in the hard and soft skills employers are looking for while building participants’ workplace English vocabulary. Look for employer partners who understand and value the opportunity such programs offer them to contribute to the training content and then hire well prepared employees.

In the classroom, instructors should not be afraid to challenge their students with difficult material while creating a positive and safe environment that encourages learning through a variety of methods and activities. CFaSST participants are always respected as mature and capable learners who, through hard work, rise to the expectations of the instructors.

To learn more about CFaSST, please contact Donna Kapp, donna@acc-den.org or 303-399-4500 x331.

Training Program Gives Refugees Work Experience

Training program gives refugees work experience
Written By Jessica Opoien, Oshkosh Northwestern Media
May 23, 2013

Refugees resettling in the Oshkosh area now have an opportunity to gain work experience, English skills and job references thanks to a partnership between World Relief Fox Valley and Habitat for Humanity. photo (3)

The Habitat Employment Training Program places refugees resettling through World Relief into what amounts to an unpaid internship while they look for jobs. The eight-week program puts refugees to work in the Habitat ReStore and on construction sites.

“Our main goal is to advance their communication skills, in a workplace rather than just a classroom, as well as provide them with a working reference — just kind of an initiation to the American job culture,” said Keri Ewing, Americorps VISTA volunteer coordinator with Habitat for Humanity.

Fourteen refugees participated in a pilot program, with seven completing it. Since then, five have found full-time employment. The program began as a partnership between Habitat and World Relief, a humanitarian organization that helps refugees resettle in the United States. An Oshkosh office opened in January 2012.

The collaboration expanded to include the Workforce Development Center, the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Winnebago Literacy CouncilCity of Oshkosh, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, ADVOCAP and the Wisconsin Works program. The program’s funding currently comes from Americorps and a Community Foundation grant.

Last year, World Relief assisted in placing 86 refugees in the Oshkosh area, most of whom were Burmese. Others hailed from Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Darfur. About three-fourths of those refugees were adults. The office expects to resettle about 100 refugees per year.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) resettlement handbook, the United States was projected to resettle 52,500 refugees from around the world in fiscal year 2011. The word “refugee” refers to people who have crossed international borders for actual or feared risk of persecution for political, religious or ethnic reasons.

When refugees flee their country, they have three options. They can stay in a resettlement camp in a second country, and return to their home when conditions have stabilized. If their country remains unstable, sometimes they can integrate into the country of asylum — an option that’s very rare. The third, and also rare, option is to resettle in a third country like the U.S.

Upon being resettled, refugees receive 30-90 days of direct assistance from organizations like World Relief, as well as language training and a short orientation. After three months, they still receive some assistance but are expected to have found a job.

However, with little to no English skills and no work experience in the U.S., finding a job is often easier said than done. That’s where employment training program comes in.

“We have people from different countries either with no work experience or work experience that is not recognized,” said Myriam Mwizerwa, office director at World Relief Fox Valley. “Anything they can do here in the U.S. and have that reference helps.”

Refugees come from a wide variety of circumstances and have a broad range of professional experiences. Some have worked as doctors and lawyers, others as carpenters. Some have worked recently and others have spent the last several years in refugee camps. The number one goal for all refugees, regardless of professional experience, is economic self-sufficiency, Mwizerwa said.

The two biggest barriers to self-sufficiency are language barriers and transportation, said Christy Hillebrand, World Relief’s employment specialist. English classes are helpful, but often, being in a work environment helps improves language skills more than learning in a classroom.

photo (4)Jay Barrientes, project manager for Habitat for Humanity, works directly with refugees on the construction sites. Currently, he is working with three refugees from Myanmar: Ruata Ialrem, Sum Hran and Vum Iian, on a house on Winnebago Avenue that is expected to be finished by Aug. 6. Hran said someday he would like to have a job making furniture.

Barrientes said language is the biggest challenge, but they work through it by going slowly and using hand signals. Safety is also a major challenge, he said, adding that regulations vary significantly from country to country. Much of the skills and knowledge he passes on are things he takes for granted.

“They’re getting American job skills in an industry that many of them could probably leave here and go work in … at least they know basic measuring skills and operating power tools … and then to be able to feel more comfortable with the language and interacting with people,” Barrientes said. “These guys want to help, and I think they want to be part of our community.”

Mwizerwa and Hillebrand said World Relief is still trying to make connections with employers and find job possibilities for refugees, as well as professional mentors. Since the organization is relatively new to the area, it’s still working on making itself known. In the meantime, while refugees search for full-time employment, the Habitat program allows them to become more comfortable in the American workplace.

“The refugees are able to help out with something that’s going on in the community and give back, too,” Hillebrand said. “So it’s a win-win.”

To learn more about World Relief Fox Valley, please contact Myriam Mwizerwa, mmwizerwa@wr.org or 920-891-7961.

Learning and Growth is a Two-Way Street Between Landscaping Company and Local Refugees

Guest Blog Contribution from Luke Telander, Project Associate for Outreach at LIRS

Edible Yard & Garden is truly an exceptional company for its commitment to environmental responsibility and the empowerment of local refugees. Building on its mission of environmental stewardship, it strives to complement existing flora by including fruit and nut producing trees and bushes in its landscaping, which facilitates local and just food production. Urban environments are food deserts, but by smartly taking advantage of landscaping possibilities, Edible Yard & Garden is taking a step towards environmental justice and food security for everyone.

Located near Clarkston, GA with one of the largest populations of refugees in the Eastern United States, Edible Yard & Garden is also strongly committed to employing refugees at a living wage, capitalizing on the experience and knowledge many refugees bring with them from overseas. To date, Edible Yard & Garden has employed refugees from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. “We learn so much from who we’re working with,” said co-founder Jeremy Lewis. “Many refugees, not having access to resources, have developed more sustainable practices, and have passed them down through tradition,” said co-founder Benjamin Portwood, “For us this is a big asset and very beneficial. Learning has been a two-way street.” Edible Yard and Garden is committed to figuring out ways to value what everyone, in particular the refugee population, can quite literally bring to the table.

Many refugees are particularly poised to contribute much to the discussion surrounding sustainable landscaping, having upheld many of these cultural practices for generations. When one Bhutanese farmer first visited an Edible Yard & Garden demonstration site, he was almost brought to tears, exclaiming, “This is how we do it at home. This plant helps that plant, it is so much easier this way.” With the help of their refugee employees, Edible Yard & Garden has been able to develop ecologies where edible plants complement each other and even serve as pest controls. Through their great appreciation for food practices and significant practical knowledge, the Bhutanese refugee employees have proven a valued asset to the growth of the company.

The relationship between Edible Yard & Garden and its refugee employees strives to be one of solidarity and mutual growth. The organization has been building slowly and is seeking to grow in order to be able to provide steady employment, all while seeking to foster a sense of solidarity through working the earth together. As the organization sets its sight on expansion over the next few years, I am sure refugees will continue to find empowerment and fulfillment in this outstanding company.