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


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Webinar: Bridging the Skills Gap With International Talent



If you work with highly skilled refugees, you know how challenging it can be to help them find opportunities that utilize their professional skills and lead to a fulfilling career path.

Welcoming Economies Global Network, a project of Welcoming America in partnership with Global Detroit, is presenting a webinar tomorrow from 2:00 – 3:00 PM EST that will highlight the latest resources and strategies for making sure that immigrants’ and refugees’  skills don’t go to waste.

Here is the webinar description from the Welcoming America website:

Bridging the Skills Gap With International Talent

Retirement of baby boomers, low U.S. birth rates, and the shift toward the knowledge economy are leaving many regional economies without the highly-skilled workforce they need to grow and attract business. Modernizing the workforce system to best utilize the talents of all Americans includes considering the talents of immigrant labor — such as those considered highly skilled, holding a four-year college degree or higher. Better integration of international students and underemployed/unemployed immigrants living in the U.S. can address both local labor shortages and create opportunities for individual professionals’ upward mobility and empowerment.

In this webinar, you will gain a basic understanding of the skills gap issue and the opportunities international talent presents. You will learn how to access existing resources for highly-skilled immigrants and take away practical tips that can be implemented locally in the short-term.

Click here to register for this webinar.

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When Serving Skilled Immigrants, You Don’t Need to Re-invent the Wheel!

Logo skilledMany refugee employment professionals dream about developing customized employment services for clients with higher levels of education and professional experience. Unfortunately, because of limited time and resources, these dreams are rarely realized.

Take heart, my friends! You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Momentum has been building on the issue of skilled immigrants for the past decade, and some great resources have been developed that you can use, adapt, or refer clients to directly.

Check out the organizations and initiatives below!

1.  Upwardly Global – Upwardly Global (UpGlo) provides customized training and support for skilled immigrants and connects them to employer partners interested in hiring global talent. In addition to it’s 5 brick and mortar locations (New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, and Silver Spring, MD) UpGlo offers online training programs for skilled immigrants who live elsewhere in the US.

For more information about UpGlo’s online training options, click here to register to attend a webinar they’re offering  just for us on July 28. 

2.  Imprint Project – The IMPRINT Project is a coalition of organizations active in the emerging field of immigrant professional integration. Imprint works closely with business, government, higher education and other partners to raise awareness about the talents and contributions of immigrant professionals. In addition to the services that member organizations provide, IMPRINT provides a wealth of resources on its’ website including publications, program resources, articles and op-eds and webinars.

3.  Global Talent Bridge – An initiative of World Education Services, Global Talent Bridge is dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States. Global Talent Bridge’s services include support, training, and resources for community organizations, government agencies and employers; direct outreach to skilled immigrants, including seminars and comprehensive online resources; and policy advocacy at the local, state and national level. To get started, check out their Resources for Immigrants page.

4.  Welcome Back Initiative – The Welcome Back Initiative focuses on internationally trained health workers living in the United States. They do this primarily through their network of “Welcome Back Centers” which provide orientation, counseling and support to foreign-trained health workers. Welcome Back Centers currently exist in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington state, Maryland, New York, Texas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

5.  Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) – In addition to the professional experience and education immigrants bring with them, many also pursue education here in the US. Classes at a community college are often the first step. CCCIE’s mission is to raise awareness of the important role community colleges play in delivering educational opportunities to immigrants and to promote and expand the range and quality of programs and services for immigrant students among community colleges around the country. For an orientation to this organization and what they do, check out their presentation Immigrant Students and Workforce Development.

In addition to the great resources listed above, don’t forget about mainstream workforce development programs/resources in your region that may provide the extra boost that a skilled immigrant needs to break into a professional job. Use the search feature on Higher’s website to find useful information about WIOA opportunities and more resources to support skilled immigrants.

DWilkinson HeadshotDaniel Wilkinson is a Philadelphia-based job developer with nearly 5 years experience serving refugee communities. He has worked for Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey in Trenton, NJ and Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, PA.

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Upwardly Global Services for Highly Skilled Refugees

upgloAnnouncing a July 28 (1PM EST) webinar introduction for refugees and refugee employment programs

Everyone should already be aware of Upwardly Global programs and resources.  UpGlo exists to help highly skilled professional refugees and other immigrants achieve career success and contribute their motivation, training and expertise to U.S. economic growth.

Here are three ways to make sure you are making full use of UpGlo resources to better serve refugee professionals.

1.  Register to attend an UpGlo webinar.  Include your clients, too!
Upglo 3 step program

Three simple steps you’ll learn more about in the July 28 webinar

Attend a one hour UpGlo webinar on July 28, offered especially for the refugee employment network.  You’ll learn about eligibility criteria and program services available nationally.  There will be plenty of time for questions, too.

Your highly skilled refugee clients would benefit from attending themselves.  The information is substantive and accessible for high-intermediate levels of English language proficiency.

2.  Help medical professionals explore career options in their fields.

Learn more about another excellent FREE web-based resource presenting alternative career pathways for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists  in a previous Higher blog post.

3.  Hear how UpGlo programs have made a difference for immigrants and mentors

Watch the Youtube video in this post, which shares the impact of UpGlo’s model in the voices of immigrant professionals and volunteer career mentors who have participated and benefitted.

If you’re trying to establish an employer partnership or employment mentor program with a hospital or care facility, sharing this video would strengthen your pitch!

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Driving Jobs: The Employer Perspective

Big Truck Wheels 1192523_33540048Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) and driving jobs are sought after by many of our clients. We often focus on how to help clients secure those credentials, rather than building the right employer connections.

As with any other employer conversation, it’s important to start with understanding what characteristics employers wants in an employee and what problems you can help them solve with pre-screened, work authorized candidates.

Click here to read great information to help you reach out to employers and help clients understand the skills involved in a U.S. driving job.  Or, read this quick summary.

  1. The transportation industry experiences higher than average turnover.  Background checks can establish driving history.  Road tests and licensure can demonstrate experience, reaction times and the ability to avoid fatigue while driving
  2. Industry studies show that soft skills and characteristics are more important success factors.  The industry needs to do a better job of assessing for those.
  3. Here are some of the most important characteristics for success in driving jobs:

Values:  conscientious, dependable, values safety, concern for other’s well-being

Motivation:  autonomy, independence, solitude, predicable routines

Personality:  risk aversion, patience, stability, friendliness, lack of aggression, attention to detail

Don’t forget about marketing, sales, up-selling and customer service skills that are often important for local delivery driving jobs and are not mentioned in this article.

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ESL and Workforce Preparedness

SkilledImmigrant SubjectsA June 17th webinar, ESL Strategies for Skilled Immigrants (Global Talent Bridge)  presented strategies for integrating ESL into the context of US Workforce preparedness.

Presenters from the International Center of Catholic Charities Community Services of New York, New York offered four categories of US Workforce information and activity ideas for each.

The four categories are:  Career Plans, Networking, Application Materials and Foreign Credentials & Licensing.  Download the powerpoint for additional information.

Here are the three resources that resonated most for Higher staff:

  • Set up a LinkedIn group for skills professionals to share leads, support each other and learn how to use LinkedIn in their own professional development and job search activities.
  • Download  A Toolkit for ESL Practitioners Supporting Skilled Immigrants – a free, 76 page guide that includes resource links and useful background information.
  • Check out My Next Move, an online career planning resource offers three ways to explore career alternatives.  It requires fairly strong language and computer literacy skills and is available in Spanish.  It includes key word and industry search features that lead to well designed fact sheets featuring required skills, sampe job descriptions, average salaries and whether the industry or position is growing or shrinking.




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06/17 Webinar: ESL Strategies for Skilled Immigrants

Global Talent Bridge LoglDo you have ESL learners with university degrees from their home country sitting next to students with limited literacy skills?

WES Global Talent Bridge is partnering with The International Center of Catholic Charities Community Services and Riverside Language Program to host a FREE webinar, “Successful ESL Strategies for Skilled Immigrant Students.”

Register for this 1-hour session for ESOL practitioners and program managers to be held on Tuesday, June 17 at 2 pm, Eastern Time (11am Pacific /12pm Mountain /1pm Central).

Presenters will discuss practical ways to serve skilled immigrants in multi-level classes. Participants will learn techniques to use in class and across programs to ensure these students are receiving the content and skills they need to be successful in gaining professional employment.  



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05/14 Webinar Explores Programs for Immigrant Nurses, Engineers and Teachers

MPI webinar pic

Photo from Latino Community Credit Union and Migration Policy Institute

It never gets any easier to help highly skilled clients.

There are many challenges along the employment service continuum:

– helping them to develop more realistic expectations;

– finding resources to pursue long term career goals;

–  understanding what kinds of entry level jobs they could so to match their long term goals with the need for a survival or starter job.

Migration Policy Institute (MPI) webinar on Wednesday, May 14 at 4:00 pm EDT will present models in three different States (IL, MA, WA) that are addressing the needs of Highly Skilled Immigrants and Refugees with a special focus on Nurses, Engineers, and Teachers.

Read more details here or go directly to the registration page here.




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Plan Ahead for Summer/Fall Academic Enrollment

conference-registration-sign-croppedNow is the time to find out about orientation and enrollment schedules for summer and fall academic enrollment.  

ESL classes, short term skill training, prerequisites for higher education or recertification are among the client resources you can likely access through your local community college or other higher learning institutions.

With enough lead time, you can spread the word among clients more easily in already-scheduled meetings and classes.  Plenty of advance notice can also allow clients time to collect their documents, achieve pre-requisites like language assessments and arrange their schedules.   

This is especially important for working clients so they have time to follow their employer procedures about requesting time off for orientations or making a more permanent schedule change to allow them to attend a class while working. 

Job Development Tip:  Share information about available ESL classes and enrollment dates with employers.  They will appreciate being able to provide it to all of their employees.  And, it might help to introduce the idea so clients can more easily request adjustments to their work schedules around registration and class attendance. 


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NEW Upwardly Global Skilled Immigrant Employment Training Online

Hispanic woman at computer thumbnailDid you know that more than 25% of the skilled immigrant professionals who benefit from Upwardly Global (UpGlo) programs are refugees or asylees?  If you don’t already know about this great resource for our highly skilled clients, explore UpGlo’s website today.

UpGlo is launching an exciting new Online Employment Training Program that can help more of our clients with professional degrees and work experience find job upgrades with higher paying employment in their field’s of expertise.

Tell your clients.  Spread the word.  Think about how to reach clients beyond their initial period of service who might be the best candidates to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Training Program Details

The training program is a guided series of self-paced, online workshops that help skilled immigrants acquire the techniques and cultural savvy needed to market themselves as a competitive candidate for U.S. jobs, and ultimately to return to their career fields in the U.S.  The program description includes a clear list of services, eligibility requiremens and an online application form.

After applying, an UpGlo staff member will call the client directly within three to five business days.  This initial call includes a discussion of their experience and qualifications in English, as part of the screening process.

Why UpGlo is an Important Partner for Our Network

Across our refugee employment network, we continue to talk about better ways to help highly skilled clients achieve their dreams to work in their field AND begin to work in a survival or starter job so they can meet their basic needs through rapid employment.

Often, by the time clients are ready for a job upgrade , they are  no longer in touch with refugee employment programs and seldom come back to request those services.  Due to the constraints of resources and case loads, it’s often difficult to provide the required support when they do come back to request it.

The nature of our work requires us to be generalists, offering solid basic support for all clients.  UpGlo’s focus on the highly-skilled segment of our client base allows them to develop the deeper expertise often required to help these clients successfully reenter their chosen career fields.





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