Alternative Pathways for Highly Skilled Refugees

Source: https://www.uaf.nl/english

Source: https://www.uaf.nl/english

While many professional fields in the U.S. require licensure, refugees from professional backgrounds who are not immediately able to pursue these credentials don’t necessarily need to be stuck in low-level jobs.

A recent post by our friends at WES Global Talent Bridge shares some fantastic alternative career pathways that highly skilled refugees (and those who work with them) may want to explore, whether they are working towards licensure or just looking for work that is related to their skills.

Here’s a few options they recommend:

  • Accountants can analyze budgets and costs for institutions without a certified public accountant (CPA) license.
  • Engineers or architects who are not lisenced can still work in technical, advisory, and management positions related to engineering projects.
  • Healthcare Professionals have many options including administration, community health, and research. In addition short-term training programs such as CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or Phlebotomist certification can be a good entry point.
  • Lawyers can work as paralegals, and may be able to advise on foreign law as a foreign legal consultant (FLC)
  • Social workers and psychologists can find work as community workers in non-profits and schools.
  • Teachers can sometimes work as substitutes, or even full-time teachers at private and charter schools. Many states also offer alternate routes to certification or licensure (e.g. New York City Teaching Fellows, Teach for America, etc.)

While newly arrived refugees will likely need assistance identifying and accessing the alternative pathways, the opportunities are there. Some refugee employment programs around the country are hiring dedicated staff or mobilizing volunteers that specialize in identifying opportunities and facilitating networking and career mentorship for highly skilled refugees. This is emerging as a best practice in serving this unique subset of newly arrived refugees.

To read the WES Global Talent Bridge article in its entirety, click here!

How to Get Refugees to Living-Wage Work

Guest post from Alicia Wrenn, Assistant Director for Integration at LIRS 

I had the opportunity to attend a Forced Migration Upward Mobility Project (FMUMP) workshop on October 16th in New York City where Dr. Faith Nibbs presented her report Moving into the Fastlane: Understanding Refugee Mobility in the Context of Resettlement. It is great reading and gives us much to think about to improve employment outcomes for clients. One of the main goals of FMUMP is to assist refugees (and employment practitioners), to find jobs that pay a living-wage as defined generally as $5 over the minimum, but it will vary based on the market.

Her team did research in the Dallas and Ft. Worth communities over a period of 2.5 years. They interviewed refugees, employment staff, and scholars – 350 in total.  And they observed 300 hours of service provision and reviewed all available data and literature on the topic.

moving-into-the-fastlane With targeted skills training it took just over one year to break the living wage threshold. The study found this to be the single greatest impact on wages. This was true for all the sub-populations – including highly skilled, low skilled, for men, and for women. Dr Nibbs went through a Return on Investment calculation that showed the net effect when making these wage gains – the savings on government assistance (Food Stamps etc.), plus the increased taxes paid by the refugee at the new wage, and that weighed against the cost of job skills training of approximately $3,000 per person. The ROI to the government is about 600%. So the investment by the government in skills training makes good sense.  

This teaches us a couple of things. Employment teams should be looking for job skills training for clients from all possible sources – government, community college, and company-led – now knowing this is the single biggest influencer. The study found it to be more important than the general English language training that is available. They discovered that the typical ESL that occurs for a few hours per week and teaches general conversation has less of an impact. See the report for interesting ways to improve this instruction such as an on-line platform for more cumulative hours, and the very positive effect of tailoring the vocabulary instruction to the work place. 

Dr. Nibbs had thoughts about other issues undermining living wage attainment. It was discovered that refugee clients are not given an understanding that while yes they need to take the first job, there are certain industries that are much more financially rewarding and will pay a living wage. This research has shown that clients by and large had no idea that they would never make ends meet nor advance up the pay scale in certain sectors. It was thought that Case Managers themselves might not be aware of this hierarchy of earning potential by industry sector.

There are a few interesting pilots occurring to address these gaps. The Office of Refugee Resettlement has funded a Career Navigator position in the State of Washington to determine if this can create a bridge for better placements and better information conveyed to refugees. IRC has five Career Development sites that provide to refugees targeted career training one year after arrival for those unemployed. There should be some interesting learnings down the road.

The report is here –  http://www.fmump.org/ – on the home page there is an option to download. 

You may also be interested in checking out Dr. Nibbs’ presentation at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Conference, which took place in Omaha, NE in November, 2015: http://higheradvantage.org/second-annual-refugee-employment-workshop-resources/ .

Coming Soon: ORR’s Refugee Career Pathways Program

carreerWant to know what funding opportunities are planned at ORR and HHS?  Check out forecast and RFP announcements.

Of particular interest to employment is an upcoming new competitive grant application process for The Refugee Career Pathways (RCP) Program.

Here’s how the official forecast announcement describes the new opportunity in HHS-2017-ACF-ORR-RC-1224.

“Through the RCP Program ORR will provide funding to implement projects assisting refugees to qualify for licenses and certifications necessary to attain employment and improve self-sufficiency. Allowable activities will include case management, training and technical assistance, specialized English language training, and mentoring. Grantees may also provide refugee participants with financial assistance for costs related to the establishment or re-establishment of credentials, such as obtaining educational credits or enrollment in required certification programs. Grantees are encouraged to collaborate with professional associations, universities, and others with expertise in this area to facilitate career opportunities in ways that supplement, rather than supplant, existing services.”

You can read more about the projected timing, eligibility and funding available via this summary from grantstation, too.  Start building partnerships with American Job Centers and other mainstream workforce stakeholders now to be ready to submit a competitive proposal next year.

 

5 Types of Jobs in Growth Industries

GrowthToo busy to think about new employers or job options?  Need more job openings to use with all the clients on your case load?

Three articles from Forbes and the Department of Labor blog highlight good jobs that don’t require a degree or the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. right now.

Here’s a synthesis of the 5 types of jobs most relevant for refugee job seekers.

1. Foreign language interpreter made two of the lists with a 29% growth rate.

2. Health care-related jobs were the majority of all three lists.  Jobs ranged from Home Health Aid to Registered Nurse.

Jobs you might not have thought of:  Audiologist, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapy Assistant and Hearing Aide Specialist.

3.  Ambulance driver (30% growth rate) requires a CDL with a passenger waiver and sometimes CPR certification.

4. Many of the non-degree jobs relate to the housing industry.  All kinds of construction skilled labor were included.

Jobs you might not have thought of:  Building Inspector, Insurance Sales, Property Management and Real Estate Agent.

5.  Just for fun, three unusual jobs made the lists: Photogrammatist/Cartographer, Genetics Counselor and Wind Turbine Service Technician.

Got  time to learn more?  Click these three links (one, two and three) to explore the source articles or read about prospecting techniques that work in a previous Higher post.

 

Coursera for Refugees: Here NOW

courseraCoursera and the Department of State have partnered to offer Coursera for Refugees as part of a larger White House private sector engagement initiative.

Read more in a previous Higher post or in a recent article in U.S. News if you aren’t already excited about the opportunity this presents for refugees.

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 5.10.21 PMHere is a link to the landing page for Coursera for Refugees.

At a glance – and in the screen shot from the portal on the right – you will see how to sign up and the benefits of doing so. There is a separate link to sign up for the Global Translator Community for volunteer interpreters to help translate Coursera courses into refugee languages.

Where to Start?

Higher strongly recommends that you first open the application, which includes additional information you’ll need in order to consider how your agency will proceed.  Here are three important points we learned by reviewing the application.

1. There are minimum client requirements for eligibility.  Organizations with fewer than 50 refugees with middle- to high-skills and the ability to complete courses in English will not be eligible for financial aid for organizations.  It might make sense to explore with other agencies in your community or at the national resettlement agency level.  You could also consider promoting individual financial aid for qualified refugees instead.

2. Technology access is required.  Internet connectivity and IT resources are required to participate and to afford meaningful access. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a computer lab to participate.  You might partner with a library, Goodwill computer lab or other community resource.  Refugees might have their own technology and connectivity, too.  Coursera courses are mobile optimized.

3. After 12 months, there may be costs to continue.  There is a modest reporting commitment and the financial aid expires after 12  months.  This means it’s important to develop a plan before you apply, so you make the best use of the 12 month access period.

Get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org if you are already making plans or have an organizational financial aid package already. We really want to hear how this looks on the ground.

10 Tips to Turn an Entry Level Job into a Better Opportunity

career-progress-graphic-23844825Talking Points to Build Job Retention and Advancement

Helping clients keep their jobs and even position themselves for internal advancement is important. That client conversation often gets overshadowed by the thrill (and relief) of that first placement.

Here are 10 talking points you can use with clients.  They are collected from employers, peer experience and social media guru Guy Kawasaki.

1. Get the basics right. Know your job and do it well. Ask questions to learn and show that you care about doing well. U.S. employers expect you to take responsibility for your own success and job training. 

2. Dress the part – for the job you want, not the one you have.  This is a bit difficult when the job requires a uniform. Practicing excellent hygiene and grooming is a good first step.  If you come in out of uniform to pick up your check or attend a meeting, dress up a little.

3.  Know the leaders and decision-makers in the company.  Remember faces and names and use them in greetings.  This should include your colleagues, the “big bosses” and important or frequent customers.

4.  Be on time.  Always.  And don’t forget that on time in U.S. work culture means be early.

5.  Let people get to know you.  You’re on trial when you’re new. Be courteous and friendly and build relationships slowly. Speak in a calm tone of voice that people can hear. Use your English.

6.  Self Start.  When you know what to do in your job, do it without waiting for someone to tell you. If you see a problem or some work to be done, take the initiative to propose a solution or just do it.

7.  Say “Yes”.  When your boss asks you to do something you understand and can do, tell them, “yes, I will do it.” Accept any opportunity to learn and show that you are ready to work hard and learn how to do new things.

8.  No Social Media.  Do not check your phone, accept calls, text or type on your phone during your work time. If you have a specific family emergency or important call, you can inform your boss and get special permission. This should not happen often.

9.  Improve your English.  Practice with your colleagues. Make time to learn more in a class or on-line. Be sure your boss knows and can hear that you are committed to learning. Employers site lack of English as the number one reason refugees are not promoted.

10. Tell them you are interested.  Your boss will not know that you want to learn, grow and get a promotion unless you tell them. Tell them and also show them through your performance.

How do you coach clients to encourage job retention and career success in their first job? Comment on this post or write us at information@higheradvantage.org with your tips for clients.

Advice from Uber Drivers

rideshare

Do drivers actually make any money through ride hailing applications (apps) like Uber and Lyft?

There’s lots of controversy around the business practices of Uber and Lyft. A lot of our clients do these jobs. Some of us might provide them information about the opportunity. Is it a good income generating option for our clients, though?

Click here for background information and a presentation that Catholic Charities in Arlington, VA shared with us in 2014.

I’ve been taking a lot of Ubers over the past three months since I broke my ankle in March, so I conducted an informal two question survey.

Question One: Are drivers really making any money after expenses and wear and tear on their vehicle?

Close to half of my 20+ drivers were first generation immigrants. Four were refugees or asylees.

Only threee said they kept detailed financial records or had solid information about whether they were actually making money after expenses.  One said he made enough to pay for his weekend motorcycle rides. The second said it paid for itself and he did it to stay connected in retirement. A third said he made money to augment his retirement income, but not enough to support a family.

What I found out isn’t scientific. I formed an opinion, though:

Driving for a ride share app can be a great second job and a way to build U.S. driving experience for a resume. It could also be an effective way to  practice English and customer service skills. Without multiple sources of customers and a chauffeurs license, I’m not convinced that it can generate a full-time living wage. If you do it right, you can make some income.

Question Two: Can you share any insider tips to help refugees around the country succeed in this job?

Some of these could help your clients make the right decision about driving for Uber and help them be more successful if they do.  Here’s what I learned:

 

one star Those 5 star rating emails are important.  If a driver falls below 4.5, they can be penalized or even fired.  Just a couple of 4 star ratings and one 2 or 3 can hurt you.  All of the drivers agree about this and offer different ways they try to get 5 stars every time.

  • Drive safely. If people are scared in your car, you won’t get a good rating.
  • Keep your car clean but don’t use those stinky air fresheners because many people are allergic.
  • Don’t dress like a slob – or like a jerk in a suit. Somewhere in between is the best.
  • Get out of the car to help them open the door or put their bags in the trunk.
  • There is not agreement about offering water, mints or wifi access, About half of the drivers surveyed had something like that in their car.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.55.52 AMPay attention to surge pricing and traffic patterns. You can make more money if you can drive more often when the rates are high, but they don’t stay high for very long.

  • My favorite driver, Eliades, came to the US from Cuba during the Mariel boat lift in the 80’s.  He doesn’t accept any requests for rides right before the daily afternoon surge so he doesn’t miss the higher rate and says he makes more money that way.
  • Uber has a trip calculator for customers to estimate the cost of the trip.  Three drivers used it to know if they wanted to accept a ride request to a far destination they didn’t know.
  • All of them agree that knowing the best roads to avoid traffic and not get lost is important.
  • There was no agreement about driving during rush hour or avoiding it.

 

Prfuel_meter_2006ofessional drivers know how to conserve fuel and be kind to their vehicle.  Several of the drivers I questioned had professional chauffeur licenses. That gave them a certain bias, but some of their advice made sense.

  • Don’t ever drive over the speed limit.
  • Don’t slam on the breaks when someone stops in front of you.  Slow down slowly.
  • Don’t gun the engine to get ahead when the light turns green.
  • Don’t keep a lot of extra junk in the trunk of your car  Extra weight burns more gas.
  • When you’re waiting for a customer (idling) for more than 5 minutes, turn off the engine.
  • Keep your tires fully inflated and keep your car well maintained.

 

 

customerserviceCustomer service is the most important thing.  Everyone I asked agreed on this but it was the hardest to explain.  You have to like meeting lots of people.  If you don’t, you probably won’t be an Uber driver very long.

  • Always be polite and friendly.
  • Don’t make or accept cell phone calls while you are driving someone.
  • Don’t ever get mad or take their behavior personally.  Just think about the 5 stars.
  • You have to be able to read their mood quickly and adjust your behavior to match it.  If they don’t want to talk, don’t do it.  If they don’t like your music, change it. If they’re cold or hot, change the temperature in the car.

 

Workforce Resource: On-the-Job Training

On the Job TrainingWelcome to the third post in our series featuring some of the tools, resources and programs available in the mainstream workforce system, shaped by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and delivered through the national network of American Job Centers serving all U.S. job seekers.

It’s a complex, resource-rich system underutilized in refugee employment services. Higher is determined to change that so our clients benefit from new opportunities and employment services.

We’ll do the research you don’t have time for amidst managing client caseloads and employer relationships. You can focus on using highlighted resources to help your clients succeed in the U.S. workforce.

In our first two posts we highlighted online tools that you can utilize in your job counseling and job development efforts. In the next few posts we want to shift to highlighting programs within the mainstream workforce system that can help your clients break into career fields that they are interested in.

Breaking into a Career through On-the-job Training

Breaking into one’s field of choice can be a challenge, even for native-born Americans. On-the-job Training (OJT) is funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and is one strategy for obtaining or updating skills and securing employment.

OJT is a win-win situation in which the OJT participant receives training and employment and the employer is reimbursed for the training costs (usually calculated at half the pay rate for the agreed-upon training period- although under the new WIOA legislation states can choose to increase employer reimbursement up to 75%).

OJT & Refugees

For refugees, OJT can be a strategic way to either re-enter one’s former industry or gain new skills that will put them on a stable career path in the US.

Because OJT is a comprehensive skills training program, it will be most useful for refugees with higher levels of English and literacy. Some programs, however, have found success placing LEP clients in OJT placements when there is a strong relationship between the employer and the refugee employment program in which they work as a team to make sure the OJT training is successful.

From the research Higher has done so far, refugees with backgrounds in “blue-collar” industries (e.g. construction, manufacturing) seem to be a particularly good fit for OJT, because of the experience they bring to the table, and because the federal reimbursement opportunity is attractive to small and medium sized business in these fields.

That being said, there have also been successful OJT placements with both high skilled refugees with more professional backgrounds and low-skilled refugees with little to no work background (see examples below).

Places Where it’s Worked

OmahaOmaha, NE:

Partnership: Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (Omaha) with WIOA Contractor Goodwill Industries of Omaha, NE

Population: Afghan SIVs

Industry: Construction

 

“With [WIOA/OJT] dollars and Lutheran Family Service’s reputation and connection to the community, we’re able to put together a package that speaks to a hiring manager or organization…and it’s quick—participants are getting enrolled in our program and within 3 or 4 weeks they’re working. We use our dollars to pay for tools, steel toed boots—whatever they need to be successful on the job, as well as paying money towards the employer for hiring through our program” –Justin Dougherty, (former) Director of Workforce Services, Goodwill Industries, Inc., Omaha, NE

Orlando__Lake_Eola_1Orlando, FL:

Partnership: Catholic Charities, Orlando, FL and local employers (Catholic Charities operates the OJT program in house using WIOA funds)

Populations: Cubans, Haitians, and Iraqis

Industries: Dentistry (Dental Assistant), Childcare (Assistant Teacher), Logistics/Warehouse, Hospitality (Maintenance Technicians and Front Desk), Food Processing

“OJT is a good option because it provides employment that is higher paying than most entry level positions, gives some clients an opportunity to continue in their field, and gives others a great ‘stepping stone’ job.” –Daisy Clemente, Employment Services Coordinator, Catholic Charities, Orlando, FL

Salt Lake CitySalt Lake City, UT:

Partnership: IRC, Salt Lake City, UT with Utah Department of Workforce Services Office

Populations: Sudanese, Burmese, Iraqi

Industries: Sewing, Construction/remodeling, Glass recycling

 

“We keep OJT in our back pocket as an incentive for employers who are a little hesitant [to hire refugees].” –Nolan LaBarge, Employment Specialist, IRC, Salt Lake City, Utah

Tips for Success

In talking to these 3 sites, some common themes emerged in terms of what made their OJT efforts successful:

  • Commit to learning the system: If you don’t already have someone on staff who has a background in mainstream workforce development, identify someone who can commit the time to learning the process and be the liaison between your office and the American Job Center (AJC). Additionally, look for allies within the mainstream system who are excited about your work and can give you an insider’s perspective on how to navigate the system.
  • Strong job development makes strong OJT placements: Often times it’s the employers you already have strong relationships with who will be most interested in placing your clients in OJT. You can also use OJT as a selling point when approaching new employers. Either way, you can put the opportunity on their radar and if they’re interested, you can can make the connection to the AJC to continue the process.
  • Provide good marketing materials for employers: In the same way that you provide employers good information about refugees, consider also leaving them with a nice brochure about OJT. Give them something to think about, and follow up with them shortly afterwards.
  • Offer employers additional support (coordinating interpretation, etc.): Let them know that you not only can provide them with strong candidates, but you are available to provide reasonable support to them to help with some of the challenges that come along with hiring refugees.
  • Make the right match: Always remember to take your clients past experience and skills into account when recommending them for OJT. While OJT may at times provide an opportunity for someone to learn completely new skills, the OJT program is primarily designed to be a skills upgrade program, and trainees are expected to begin contributing as productive workers on day one. The refugee programs that have found success with OJT have done so largely because they capitalized on skills their clients already had.

Getting Started & Learning More

If OJT is new for you, the best place to get started would be to contact your local American Job Center (AJC). Click here to find an AJC near you.

Once you identify the OJT resources and process in your community, you can begin marketing the program to employers that you work with.

The Employment Training Administration (ETA) is in the process of updating its’ OJT Toolkit which will be made available soon on the new Workforce GPS website, but in the meantime click here to access a recent webinar entitled “Strategies for Implementing OJT Simply and Effectively” as well as an OJT Training Brief and Resource Guide by the same name (you can find it in the left hand column called “Related Resources”).

Coming Soon…

Also, keep your eyes out in the next month or so for the next edition of our Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series, which will take a deeper look at the OJT partnership (highlighted briefly in this post) between Lutheran Family Services and Goodwill Industries in Omaha, NE.

Have You Placed Clients in OJT?

It’s impossible for us to know everything that everyone is doing out there. If you’ve placed clients in OJT, please let us know so that we can learn from your experiences as we continue to look at this strategy for refugee employment! Send us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 5

Unrealistic ExpectationsAt a recent Maryland-wide workshop which focused on refugee workforce development, Higher had participants do a brainstorming activity, in which groups worked together to list common barriers refugees face to employment as well as possible solutions.

These types of activities inevitably generate a “wish list” of solutions which are great ideas but not always in our power to implement quickly (e.g. adding staff members, ESL at work sites, home-based self-employment for refugee women).

While there are certainly times to pursue those big ideas, perhaps the best thing about exercises like this is that they allow groups to identify simpler solutions that can be implemented immediately.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been sharing insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement!

So far, we’ve shared tips for overcoming challenges including transportationchildcare, limited English proficiency (LEP), and challenges related to digital literacy/computer access.  Today we’ll wrap up this series and share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of unrealistic client expectations.

Tips for Managing Expectations:

  • Educate yourself on the information clients receive during pre-arrival cultural orientation (CO) so that you can reinforce important points and/or present new information that may not have been covered in the overseas CO (See Adjusting Expectations: The Cultural Orientation Connection, a recent Higher post by Daryl Morrissey, Cultural Orientation Coordinator at LIRS).
  • Collaborate with R&P cultural orientation staff to make sure that messaging around employment is consistent.
  • Consistent messaging with within office among staff- have a team strategy for how you will handle client expectations.
  • Connect with community leaders to encourage consistent messaging within communities.
  • Set expectations early- have honest conversations about appropriate expectations.
  • Highlight the benefits of two-income households and ensure equality of services to both spouses.
  • Walk the line of hopeful realism. Emphasize the importance of taking that initial survival job while also recognizing the skills, experience and education, your clients bring, and laying out a path and timeline for how they can pursue a fulfilling career over time. Develop short, medium, and long term goals with clients.
  • Mobilize mentors (including former refugees) who will help support clients by giving them realistic expectations and a sense of hope.
  • Educate clients about training programs and career development options.

For more on managing expectations see:

Managing Expectations: When Will You Find Me a Job?

Creative, Participatory Employment Plans that Work

Help Highly Skilled Refugees Look Out the Windshield

Feel free to participate in the conversation by leaving a comment below or sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

Using Data to Drive Job Development

With such limited time and capacity, you’ve got to make the most out of the time you have for Job Development.

Back in February, we highlighted some online industry research tools available on www.careeronestop.org that can help Job Developers be strategic about what industries they pursue by looking at local labor market information such as fastest growing occupations, most total job openings and occupations with the largest employment.

We’ve recently come across a similar (though less extensive) resource that also presents labor market information, but in a format that is much more user-friendly and more visually appealing.

Where-are-the-jobs.com provides a “graphic representation of occupation employment statistics.” The website was developed by SymSoft Solutions using open data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, and provides insights on employment trends and salary information for various occupations.

This helpful website allows you to view big-picture information such as top industries across the nation, or filter search results by occupation group, specific occupation, state or metro areas. For example, here is what you get when you filter results for “Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations” in the San Diego – Carlsbad, CA area:

Where are the Jobs Visual

We hope that this tool as well as the resources available at careeronestop.org will increase your ability to use your time wisely and strategically identify the best opportunities for your clients.

If you have any stories about how you’ve used data-driven strategies to drive your job development efforts we’d love to hear them. Share your story by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org or by using the comments section below.