How Can Volunteers and Small Donors Support Your Career Advancement Programs?

Many programs across the country have reported seeing an increase in community and donor support over the past year. Frequently, offices ask Higher about the best ways to use new volunteers and donors to amplify their employment programs. Higher has found two ideas to make the most of volunteers and small donations.

  1. Co-sponsorship

Many agencies already have strong resettlement co-sponsorship models, however, with the decrease in new arrivals, co-sponsorship groups remain on a wait list. Some agencies replicated their model to pair co-sponsors with refugees who have been living in the U.S. for a few months and are ready to take on career advancement. Volunteer co-sponsors are great for assisting clients who are navigating career advancement and small donations can help refugees return to school, pay for re-licensing fees or exams, or even purchase a vehicle so they can increase their job search radius.

  1. Micro-lending

A small amount of money can go a long way for programs working to secure better jobs for their clients. Consider using donor money to create a small micro-lending program. Whether you begin with $5,000, $10,000 or more, the money can go a long way on a refugee’s journey towards returning to a previous career or securing a better paying occupation.

At USCRI of North Carolina, they utilize small donations to feed a small micro-lending pool of money. Clients who enroll in USCRI of NC’s Career Enhancement Opportunities, or career advancement program have access to the funding. Clients are able to borrow up to $2,000 to use towards obtaining a higher paying job and do not have to repay the loan until their new job has been secured. Like most micro-lending programs, USCRI of NC has a very high repayment rate at 98%. When clients repay the money, they know they will be helping another person on their career pathway.

Learn more about USCRI’s career advancement program here or listen to Higher’s webinar: How to Design and Measure a Successful Career Advancement Program .

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Job Corps Provides Opportunities for Refugee Young Adults

Refugee young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 24 may have narrow educational and career training options due to low English language proficiency and a lack of formal education. Job Corps can offer refugee youth the opportunity to learn and live with American students, perfect English language skills, and ultimately achieve educational and employment goals. Job Corps is a free program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, available to help young people improve their livelihood and career prospects by empowering them to obtain professional jobs and become financially independent. Participants in Job Corps live on-site at one of 131 locations across the country, learning academic skills and training for a chosen career path. After students spend their morning in the classroom, they spend the afternoon learning a specific trade. Each location has different training programs based on the needs of the communities.  For example, programs might include, advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, culinary arts, or transportation.

Job Corps is a self-paced program that takes between 8 months and 2 years to complete. When participants are close to finishing the program, Job Corps provides employment support, including job coaching, resume and application assistance, and networking referrals.  These services continue for up to one year after graduation. Most students graduate with a job or enroll in college.

Job Corps and Refugees

The key to success in pairing refugee youth with Job Corps lies in creating a relationship with your local Job Corps center. For example, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) in Dayton, OH, worked with Job Corps admissions and career counselors to help create a space of welcome for refugee youth. CSSMV refugee program has been working with the Job Corps program in Dayton, OH since 2010, according to Teena Davis, Outreach and Admissions Counselor for Job Corps.

When CSSMV is advising a client on whether Dayton Job Corps would be appropriate, the two Job Corps components are considered: education and employment. Job Corps provides the educational component by assisting youth in obtaining their high school diploma or GED in addition to a trade. However, not every Job Corps site offers ESL.   In Dayton, CSSMV facilitated a partnership between Job Corps and a local English Language program.  As a result, ESL classes are now available for refugee participants.

Interested in connecting with a local Job Corps center? Ellenne Abraham, Job Corps Career Counselor, suggests that resettlement sites offer to assist with recruitment and work with their local Job Corps to find innovative low cost methods to offer ESL.  Abraham also advises resettlement sites to refer refugee community members for Job Corps center position openings. Those staff members can be ambassadors to help avoid miscommunication and cultural mishaps.  Refugee employment staff should also continue to be available to assist referred refugees when needed.

Success Story

Bior was resettled in 2016 when he was 18.  At school in the Kakuma refugee camp, Bior dreamed of becoming a scientist. After arrival in Dayton, Bior realized that in order to achieve his dream, he would need to take an indirect route. Bior’s Employment Coordinator at CSSMV spoke with him about Job Corps.  Three months later, Bior entered the high school diploma program at Job Corps and then began the Medical Assistant trade program. Bior completed his high school diploma and Medical Assistant training in a year. Today, Bior continues to reside at Dayton Job Corps: “I work at a Pharmacy after classes and I am now in college studying Aviation Technology. Job Corps provides me with everything I need and everything is free, including books and transportation.”

You can learn more about the Job Corps program by visiting their website or by reaching out to your local admissions office.

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LSS/NCA Shares Career Advancement Employment Strategies

More often than not, the first job a refugee gets in the U.S. is only temporary, as its main purpose is to start generating income to cover living expenses. Many refugees are eager to return to a previous field or pursue other career opportunities, but there may be obstacles that stand in the way: the need for professional-level English, re-certification of degrees or licenses, and the lack of a professional network, to name a few. In this post, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) shares their two-pronged approach to assisting clients who are ready to embark on their career pathway.

  1. Utilizing Volunteers

Twice a month, a professional career coach volunteers with LSS/NCA to provide highly-skilled clients with training on writing resumes, cover letters, and job applications. LSS/NCA also has a growing list of career mentors with industry-specific expertise to provide staff and refugees with networking and other field-specific guidance. These volunteers utilize their own professional backgrounds to assist clients in navigating their chosen career path.

  1. Partnering With Local Service Providers

To address the barriers clients face when pursuing professional employment, LSS/NCA relies on their close partnerships with other community organizations that specialize in career advancement. One of these partnerships is with Your Edge for Success, a career coaching company that provides personalized career services and professional job seminars.

Connecting with American Job Centers and WIOA training programs provides additional routes for refugees to achieve their long-term goals. LSS/NCA partners with the local workforce development center to regularly provide information sessions featuring panelists from a variety of professions. LSS/NCA also has access to vocational training programs in the medical, accounting, and project management fields.

To provide networking support, LSS/NCA works with Northern Virginia Friends of Refugees, a network of faith communities, NGOs, businesses, and public agencies interested in assisting and connecting with refugees. The organization sponsors an annual networking event for refugees that features guest speakers and field professionals offering advice. Last year, the event drew over 100 refugees and SIVs.

Each of these partnerships build deeper connections between refugees and the local community, while providing critical career support to refugees beyond their initial job placement after arrival.

For more information on LSS/NCA’s employment work, contact Lauren Ressue at ressuel@lssnca.org.

To find training in your area, look at CareerOneStop’s Local Training Finder.

What career advancement opportunities do you provide for your clients? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Webinar Reminder: How to Design and Measure a Successful Career Advancement Program

Higher is pleased to announce an upcoming webinar on designing and measuring career advancement programs, in collaboration with the Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance project of the International Rescue Committee.

Career advancement programs provide needed structure to refugees for career progression, helping them to make a plan for gaining the skills needed to increase their career options.

Many refugee resettlement agencies have existing services and support from community partners to enable them to provide career advancement programming. In this webinar, experts will walk participants through each piece of an employment program and offer guidance on how to better serve clients on their career advancement journey.

Participants will be able to understand the building blocks of successful career advancement programs as well as how to use data to demonstrate the impact of career advancement on clients, communities, and economies. The webinar will highlight a program in North Carolina that successfully transitioned to a job upgrade program. Additionally, Higher chose to collaborate with META, the data experts, in order to demonstrate how to measure your progress and determine the effect of this programming on clients.

Presenters:

Hannah Parkin, Case Manager and Job Developer with USCRI’s North Carolina Field Office

Meg Gibbon, Program Officer, Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance (META)

When:

Tuesday, June 26th from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST

Please click here to register and join us for this exciting webinar.

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Higher Presents: How to Design and Measure a Successful Career Advancement Program

Higher is pleased to announce an upcoming webinar on designing and measuring career advancement programs, in collaboration with the Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance project of the International Rescue Committee.

Career advancement programs provide needed structure to refugees for career progression, helping them to make a plan for gaining the skills needed to increase their career options.

Many refugee resettlement agencies have existing services and support from community partners to enable them to provide career advancement programming. In this webinar, experts will walk participants through each piece of an employment program and offer guidance on how to better serve clients on their career advancement journey.

Participants will be able to understand the building blocks of successful career advancement programs as well as how to use data to demonstrate the impact of career advancement on clients, communities, and economies. The webinar will highlight a program in North Carolina that successfully transitioned to a job upgrade program. Additionally, Higher chose to collaborate with META, the data experts, in order to demonstrate how to measure your progress and determine the effect of this programming on clients.

Presenters:

Hannah Parkin, Case Manager and Job Developer with USCRI’s North Carolina Field Office

Meg Gibbon, Program Officer, Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance (META)

When:

Tuesday, June 26th from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST

Please click here to register and join us for this exciting webinar.

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Building Professional Online Networking for Refugee Clients

Higher presents a guest post from Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFSN), on their partnership with LinkedIn to provide training for highly skilled refugees.

In today’s professional landscape networking is one of the best ways to secure a job and a professional online profile amplifies your reach. Limited personal connections in the US and narrow exposure to online professional systems present a barrier for newly arrived refugees. Developing a high-quality LinkedIn profile helps clients overcome this barrier and increase confidence by showcasing their skills, education, and experience.

In February 2018, LFSN partnered with LinkedIn to provide refugee clients with a training on creating and updating their LinkedIn profiles, including profile pictures. Guidance on how to utilize LinkedIn profiles in the job search process was also provided.

This partnership was inspired by a Higher blog post describing a jointly produced job fair for immigrants and refugees where participants received guidance from LinkedIn staff. LFSN proposed a similar idea to LinkedIn and was connected with “LinkedIn for Good,” a program promoting access to economic opportunity for underserved communities including youth, veterans, and refugees. LinkedIn for Good helps participants build networks and acquire needed skills for advancement in their fields of interest.

A total of 14 LFSN clients and 2 mentors attended the event on February 17th, 2018. After presenting on how to build a great LinkedIn profile, a LinkedIn Product Education Consultant and three volunteer LinkedIn staff created professional profile photographs for attendees.

Participants had the opportunity to interact with other refugees facing similar challenges in building online and professional networks. With their new profiles, participants report feeling empowered to expand their network and more hopeful of advancing in former or new career pathways. LFSN staff members also gained skills in assisting other clients with creating LinkedIn profiles.

Encouraging and supporting refugees to pursue their career goals is critical to promoting long-term professional development, economic self-sufficiency, and community integration.

For more information on the partnership and event, email Jessica at jploen@lfsneb.org.

How do you incorporate partners to help your clients along their career pathway? Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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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

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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!

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Data-Driven Job Upgrade Programs: 2 Questions to Ask when Measuring Changes in Client Income

Higher is excited to bring you a guest post from META, ORR’s technical assistance provider for monitoring and evaluation.

If you’re a refugee employment specialist, you’re probably tracking your clients’ income. But of all the data you could collect, why measure this? And how exactly should you do it? The answers will depend on your project, but when measuring income as part of a data-driven job upgrade program, META proposes asking yourself two questions:

  1. What do we want to learn, and why?

In a job upgrade program, measuring income may seem like a given. But too often we collect data without a clear plan for its use. All measurement should be purposeful: if we spend the time to think through the what and the why before focusing on the how, we help ensure we get the information we need (and we don’t burden staff and clients with unnecessary data collection). So carefully consider what you want to learn and how you’ll use the information once you have it! For example:

We need to learn… In order to…
Do clients have employment income that exceeds their basic needs by the end of the job upgrade program period? Help understand if our program is effective
Are there differences between male and female clients in the average time it takes to move beyond the survival job? Help understand if our program is gender-responsive
Are employers satisfied with the clients they hire? Do more satisfied employers offer our clients more opportunities for career growth? Help build productive relationships with new partners and strengthen existing partnerships

Keep in mind that the question “Do clients have employment income that exceeds their basic needs by the end of the program period?” relates to an outcome that is quite different from, and more meaningful than, “Do clients earn more income in Job B than they previously earned in Job A?” Figuring out what outcomes we want to achieve and what we need to know (or the story we want to tell) will directly inform our measurement plan.

  1. What data will help us learn this, and where can we get it?

Now we can consider indicators, the variables we use to measure change. At this point, it pays to be specific. Ask yourself: What do we mean by “employment income,” “basic needs,” and “program period”? Will we disaggregate by gender? Where will we actually get this data (is it realistically measurable given our human and financial resources)? An indicator matrix is a useful tool to map out this and more. See the partial example below:

Question Indicator Calculation Disaggregation Source of Data (Means of Verification)
Do clients have employment income that exceeds their basic needs by the end of the job upgrade program period? % of clients whose income exceeds their basic expenses within six months of enrollment Numerator

# of clients whose income is greater than their basic expenses (sum of all employment income minus sum of all basic expenses) within six months of enrollment

 

Denominator

Total # of clients served

Disaggregate by client gender Numerator Source

Household budget form completed with the client at the end of program period (six months or earlier)

 

Denominator Source

Job upgrade program enrollment spreadsheet

Note that this isn’t the only way to answer this question! For example, your needs may lead you to measure income on the household level, rather than the individual. Or your question may be better answered by tracking all sources of income, not just employment income. To sum up, how you measure changes should correspond directly to why you measure: what do you plan to do with this data?

META can help!

Let’s work together to define the information you need to learn, choose indicators, and create useful data collection tools for your programs! Email META@Rescue.org for free technical assistance, or check out the resources below:

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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.

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