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.

 

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

 

Support for Refugee and Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens[1]. A community initiative in Silicon Valley is now engaging the immigrant and refugee entrepreneurial spirit through a program focused on supporting potential new business founders.

The Pars Equality Center created the Pars Entrepreneurship Program as a response to a forum that it held; where newly-arrived refugees were invited to hear the stories of successful Iranian-Americans. Participants began asking for more tools, mentors, and practical advice on starting businesses.

Just a couple of years after it started, the Pars Entrepreneurship Program has already become wildly popular, shared Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at the Pars Equality Center. Shortly after creating an Entrepreneurship Program page on Facebook, the page had more than 3,000 followers. “That by itself is an indication of what a huge need there is for a program like this,” said Ellie.

“We sat down and brainstormed with aspiring entrepreneurs for about three months to find out what their needs were,” said Ellie.

The outcome is that Pars Equality Center now hosts bi-weekly meetings featuring experts and business founders who lead roundtable discussions about particular entrepreneurship topics. Topics range from how to incorporate a company to sales planning and fundraising. The group is currently at capacity, with some 50 refugees and immigrants who have been in the U.S. for 3 – 7 years in regular attendance. In addition, a group of mentors is available for individual questions outside of the larger group meetings. Pars Equality Center staff have been successful in finding subject experts and mentors through their personal networks and LinkedIn searches.

Although the group is diverse in age and professional background, one commonality is that “they all have an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Ellie. “They came to Silicon Valley with the hope of starting their own company.”

Twelve entrepreneurial initiatives, all tech-based, have blossomed since the program began. Participants practiced describing their business concepts at a recent Pitch Day event, where investors and advisors were invited to provide feedback. From there, eight participants were selected to take part in a meeting with a capital venture firm and three vendors. Ellie said that although investors expected young refugees and immigrants would need a lot of guidance, they were “in awe of their talent” and also learned new ideas from the entrepreneurs.

The Pars Equality Center is a community-based social and legal organization that focuses on integration of Iranian-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-are-immigrants-more-entrepreneurial

Hospitality Training Programs in Minnesota

Employment in the hospitality field is one of the top three industries for newly arrived refugees in the United States. However, housekeeping can be more than just a refugee’s first job, it can also be a career. The International Institute of Minnesota knows that refugees can grow into a variety of positions in this field with the assistance of their Hospitality Careers Pathway Program (HCPP). The HCPP provides three different courses; Hotel Housekeeping, Supervisor Training and College Readiness in Hospitality. Hotel Housekeeping is a 6 week course focused on training hotel housekeepers on the basics of job. Supervisor Training is a 6 week course that helps people currently working in the industry to move into supervisory positions with a focus on managing employees, data entry and personal development plans. College Readiness in Hospitality is a 16 week course to prepare students for the Hospitality Pathways Program at Normandale Community College. The course accompanies students through a career-focused college hospitality management course, helping students to earn 8 free college credits.

HCPP uses an empowerment-focused model that draws on student experiences, allowing students to shape the classroom leadership curriculum and provide advice to each other about navigating the American workplace.  In addition, all participants are able to practice customer service industry-specific English and soft skills.

In order to register for the Hotel Housekeeping class, students need to be motivated to work in the hospitality industry and read and write in English. Hospitality experience is required for the supervisory or college readiness courses. All courses are free and include a 1-month bus pass to offset transportation costs. Program costs are primarily funded by Women United under the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

A Success Story

Dorcas is an asylee from Liberia who came to the US in 2013. After completing Hotel Housekeeping at IIM, she obtained her first job. Dorcas continued to take Supervisory Training after starting her job and she now works as the Director of Housekeeping at a hotel. She is also enrolled in Hospitality Pathways Program at Normandale Community College, pursuing a certificate in Hotel Operations. Read her entire story here.

For more information regarding the Hospitality Careers Pathway Program, contact Julie Rawe at jrawe@iimn.org or Najma Mohamud at nmohamud@iimn.org.

 

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

 

Reader Question

After Higher blogged about the USCRI North Carolina’s job upgrade program last week, it received the following question from one of our dedicated blog subscribers:

I just read the most recent blog regarding job upgrades and certifications, and I’m wondering who has come up with the funds to put the clients through the commercial driving course at the office referenced in the article? Here in Fort Worth, we have many clients who have the goal of becoming truck drivers, but courses are estimated at $8,000 we have found. Any tips on how to overcome the financial hurdle would be much appreciated.

Do you have a job upgrade program that covers the cost of vocational courses or a creative partnership to cut down on course costs? Higher will be responding to the inquiry from Texas but, would like to add advice coming from the network. Please send your tips or information about how your program accesses these courses to information@higheradvantage.org.

A Focused Approach on Job Upgrades and Skills Certifications

Bu* started as a counter and sorter at a laundry service company and over time earned a promotion within the company to reach a job that he loves in maintenance. Amal* came to the U.S. with an engineering degree from Iraq and is currently studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam while working as a Civil Engineering Inspector.

These are just two of many client success stories from Laura Honeycutt, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in North Carolina (USCRI-NC) Employment Specialist. Laura helped launch a Career Enhancement Opportunities (CEO) program last year at USCRI-NC with funding from ORR’s Targeted Assistance Grant and private funders.  The CEO program provides targeted employment support for clients with professional experience and clients seeking job upgrades.

The CEO program has now been in operation for about a year, serving approximately 40 clients during that time. The program focuses on:

  • Job upgrades and raises: When clients have established a job history in the United States, USCRI-NC works with employers to see if clients are eligible for a promotion or wage increase at that company.
  • Career pathways to new certifications, re-certifications, and higher education opportunities: Some clients come to USCRI-NC with a specific training goal in mind and others learn about the opportunity as they talk through their career options.

Having a dedicated employment specialist to focus on job upgrades and highly skilled clients has provided additional one-on-one attention for a group of clients that can sometimes be overlooked.

Clients in the CEO program have seen successes, ranging from certification and placement in security guard positions to a promotion at Panera Bread. Another client is working at Cisco after earning recertification in Cisco Certified Network Associate and Cisco Certified Network Professional. Some CEO participants are becoming registered with the state as HVAC technicians, and several clients have earned their commercial driver’s licenses and are now work with trucking companies.

How does your team go above and beyond in seeking out job upgrades and serving highly-skilled clients? We’d love to hear at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Names changed to protect client privacy.

Post written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele

Interactive Map Shows Foreign-trained Occupational Licensing Law Updates

IMPRINT has created a map showing legislative updates related to the occupational licensing of foreign-trained immigrants and refugees. IMPRINT is a coalition of organizations such as the Welcome Back Initiative, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and Upwardly Global that identifies and promotes best practices in the integration of immigrant professionals.

Click here to see if your state has laws that are either pending or have been enacted from 2014-2017. Several of the laws focus on healthcare professionals; educational and architectural professionals are also included. Other laws establish task forces that will evaluate credentials and workforce integration of foreign-trained professionals, rather than focusing on specific industries.

While you’re visiting IMPRINT’s website, check out another resource they have available, mentioned in a previous Higher bloga map showing organizations and resources available for skilled immigrants across the country.

Guest post written by Carrie Thiele

Three Critical Factors for Developing Occupational Training Programs

How do you decide which refugee occupational training programs to develop when there are countless options?

Huda Muhammed, IRC Baltimore Program coordinator

Maryland has found a winning strategy that includes labor market evaluation, employer input, and consideration of client interests and past experience. ORR’s Targeted Assistance Program (TAP/TAG) grant is given by Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) to Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MIMA).

MIMA works with training program providers to ensure contextualized Vocational English language training (VELT)and industry-recognized credentials (where required by employers) are part of each program.

MIMA chose to subcontract a portion of its funding to the International Rescue Committee to provide industry recognized training programs, in addition to placement and case management services. The IRC is using the funding to partner with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and different vendors to provide medical front office, welding, and forklift training programs, all adapted for the refugee community.

The focus areas for these short-term occupational programs were chosen very carefully. Huda Muhammed, Program Coordinator at IRC, says, “The first thing I do when thinking about training in the Baltimore area is go to O*NET and research occupational growth projections, average salaries, and for potential employers in the area.”  The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration and is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Muhammed then validates her data with local employers, she shares ideas on training programs, and she gauges employers’ interest in hiring training program graduates. This ensures training programs respond to real workforce needs.

A final step in the selection of trainings to develop is to “always look at the background of your clients and the jobs they’ve had before,” said Huda. Many of her clients have welding experience and were very interested in obtaining a welding program certification in the U.S., confirming that it was a solid training focus.

The process has paid off – the average wage for graduates of any of the training programs was more than $13 per hour in July 2017.

We’d love to hear about short-term occupational programs in your state. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

Guest post by Carrie Thiele.

Building a Story Bank to Support Your Program’s Success

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. –Robert McKee

The recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Workforce GPS webinar, Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Success, provided some great ideas for collecting stories that can inspire our clients, encourage employers, and inform the community.

Why are personal stories important? Research indicates that people remember information better when it’s delivered through a story. Potential employers learning about refugee employment services may be more likely to connect with you by hearing a story about a client overcoming barriers to reach their career goals rather than hearing just the facts about your team’s outstanding placement numbers and retention rates. Most importantly, make sure you obtain every client’s consent on a document that they sign. Without a client’s consent their story cannot be shared.

Sharing stories requires having them available. Presenters Lenora Thompson and John Rakis of Coffey Consulting LLC shared these tips for building and maintaining a story bank:

  • Have a variety of stories ready to meet a variety of audiences. Save your stories by theme or by audience for ease in locating the right one.
  • Ensure your materials are high-quality, whether the story is delivered verbally, in written format, through photographs or by video.
  • Protect your client’s identity as needed by using a completely different first name.
  • Have accompanying media releases on hand.
  • Keep your story bank up to date so that it’s relevant to any current issues occurring in the news.
  • Enlist volunteers to build your story bank – journalism students, retirees or videographers would make great candidates!
  • Share the stories far and wide in your agency’s newsletters, website and social media pages, as well as in community presentations, job readiness classes and in one-on-one conversations with employers and clients.

Interested in learning more about crafting an effective story? Check out the complete power point presentation and a downloadable list of additional storytelling resources on the DOL’s Workforce GPS website. You can also visit the National Storytelling Network’s website to find story collections, additional resources, and for information on small grants that could be used to help build your agency’s story bank.

Do you have an example of an effective employer or client story? We’d love to share it! Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Upwardly Global Now Offers Refugee-specific Services

You may already be familiar with Upwardly Global (UpGlo). Since its founding in 2000, UpGlo has offered free job search training and services, online and in person, to help skilled immigrants and refugees rebuild professional careers in the U.S.  One thing that you may not be aware of, however, is that they now offer refugee-specific services to eligible job seekers nationwide.

The program includes UpGlo’s standard job search training and services as well as an Online Learning Portal that houses free training courses, materials, and community forums. For example, the online community platform, known as WeGlo, provides guides and resources related to refugee legal rights, social and welfare benefits and information regarding naturalization, etc.

UpGlo’s refugee-specific services also include free access to Coursera online college courses, and for clients in the San Francisco Bay area, access to internship opportunities at Tetra Tech DPK.

Additionally, refugee clients are connected with volunteer mentors from various industries through informational and networking events. UpGlo provides refugee-specific training to volunteer mentors, equipping them to assist refugees with interview preparation, job search, and building a professional network in the U.S.

To learn more about UpGlo’s refugee-specific services, click here.