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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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 informaton@higheradvantage.org.

 

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Career Pathway to Nursing in Minnesota

Employment programs can offer a variety of services to refugees in a range of ways, including career pathway opportunities. Career pathway programs are centered on moving a refugee through the steps of a career, taking into account the barriers, short term or long term goals, education requirements, and labor market projections in local areas. Career pathway programs offer assistance for refugees at different stages in their resettlement.

At Higher, we like to spotlight successful career advancement programs that can give clients access to job upgrades and provide more tailored services, like the Medical Careers Pathway (the Pathway) at the International Institute of Minnesota (IIM). The Pathway assists refugees and immigrants interested in pursuing a career in nursing or who are enrolled in nursing programs throughout the Twin Cities and Minnesota. The Pathway began with the Nursing Assistant Training (NAR) program in 1990, as a way to provide skilled workers for the growing need for certified nursing assistants in the area. Over the next nine years, NAR received requests regarding advancement training, so the Medical Career Advancement Program was created in 1999. Due to the need for additional educational support, the first College Readiness class began in 2000. Extra support services have grown over time as populations have changed, industries have evolved, and education has become more readily available.

Today, the Pathway supports participants in these ways:

As practical nursing programs take at least one year to complete and registered nursing programs take at least two years to complete, the Pathway focuses on preparing students for making the most of their time in these rigorous programs. Because many students enrolled in the Pathway are simultaneously working as nursing assistants or in other entry-level positions, it can often take 3 to 5 years for them to complete training, especially if they are English language learners. The Pathway is dedicated to assisting those with barriers to upgrading their first job and with career planning for lifelong career growth.

The Pathway students who gain employment in various nursing positions, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) or Registered Nurses (RN), are tracked for one year and can return for additional support as they move through higher degree programs.

Program Funding and Costs

Scholarships are available for up to two semesters of tuition assistance for the MCA program, which specifically provides support for those who have already been accepted into college-level nursing programs. MCA tuition assistance is available to all students who qualify. In 2017, MCA awarded $54,200 in scholarships to nursing students. NAR is free for participants outside of costs required for transportation, uniform, and $130 for a background check and state test fee. The Pathway is partially funded through a grant called Minnesota Job Skills Partnership from the Minnesota Department of Education and Economic Development (DEED) and received community support from the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Partnerships

The Pathway partners with Saint Paul College and Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning to offer the College Readiness Academy (CRA). CRA provides free college readiness classes which include college navigators to assist new Americans entering the U.S. college system, and the Academic Advantage program, , which provides support classes for nursing pre-requisites and a Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) preparation class. CRA students pay a minimal fee of $20 for books. Scholarship funding for nursing students is provided through private donations and government grants. The Pathway has created relationships with employers to hire program graduates as nursing assistants, practical nurses, and registered nurses.

The Pathway Graduate Success Story

Kushe came to the United States from Burma and enrolled in the Nursing Assistant training program. After excelling in IIM’s training program, she began working as a nursing assistant in the long-term care industry. Kushe enjoyed her work, but found that she wanted to be able to do more for her residents; she needed to become a nurse. She returned to IIM for a College Readiness grammar course that strengthened her English in preparation for college courses. IIM’s Medical Career Advancement program awarded Kushe scholarships and connected her with tutors as she pursued her nursing degree.

Today, Kushe and her family are thriving. In 2015, Kushe passed her licensed practical nurse board exam. She and her husband bought their first home, and their three children are in school programs for gifted children.

NAR Program Achievements

The Pathway accomplishments are shown through quantitative proof as well as success stories; of the 140 Pathway Nursing Assistant Training graduates, 98% pass the Minnesota Nursing Assistant certification, and 85% are placed in jobs. The Pathway program graduates are earning higher incomes, too—their average starting wages were $13.96 for Nursing Assistants. Those completing the MCA or CRA are earning $21.90 for LPNs, and $29.47 for RNs.

For more information regarding the Pathway, contact Julie Garner-Pringle, Admissions and Client Services Manager, Nursing Assistant Training 651-647-0191 x314 or JGarnerPringle@iimn.orgor Michael Donahue, Medical Careers Pathway Director, 651-647-0191 x318 or MDonahue@iimn.org.

Creating a career pathway program such as IIM’s Medical Career Pathway or Hospitality Careers Pathway Program is a way to provide more intensive client services, provide trained groups of potential employees for vacant fields or needy employers, and employ labor market information to project growing industries to have long-term success.

 

Does your office have a great career pathway program you want to share? If so, please write to us at informaton@higheradvantage.org

 

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