Refugees Make Great Employees: New Report Surveys 100 Employers on Working with Refugees

The Tent Foundation and the Fiscal Policy Institute have published a new research study entitled, REFUGEES AS EMPLOYEES, Good Retention, Strong Recruitment. Read it here.

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How to Keep Employers Engaged

Higher presents a guest post from Ellie White with World Relief Seattle.

In the World Relief Seattle employment office, the employment team uses a whiteboard to keep track of job leads and prospective applicants. Black pen indicates companies that have open positions, while colored pens (each color representing a different employment program) indicate employment program participants who are interested in applying to the corresponding company.

Usually, the board has a healthy balance of companies and job seekers. However, sometimes there is more black than colored ink, which highlights the imbalance between the number of employment opportunities and available candidates.

How can your employment program best navigate this situation?

Be Honest

Always try to stay positive when an employer partner reaches out with a job opportunity. “Thanks for checking in,” one might say, “I’ll pass this along to my team and we’ll let you know if we have any great candidates for you.” Even if your agency doesn’t have a client for the position, it’s important to remember that one of your teammates might have recently connected with a new or former program participant that would be an excellent candidate.

If after three days to two weeks of looking for candidates (depending on the timeline of the employer) results in no job applicant prospects, check back in with the employer and let them know that you don’t currently have any available candidates. End the conversation by asking the employer if they would like you to continue to identify candidates for the position. In this situation, checking in by email occasionally often works best (depending on the employer). A quick message of, “I hope things are going well?” often gets a response of, “Thanks for checking in – we’re good at the moment,” or, “I’m glad you asked -we’re still looking to fill two positions.”

Communicate with honesty to maintain a strong and trusting relationship.

Keep the Long View

Employment programs thrive when employment staff focuses on cultivating employer relationships. Your goal is a mutually beneficial long-term relationship with a local employer partner – never a single job for an individual program participant.

The company values your communication, service, and history of providing excellent candidates and follow-up support, even if you don’t have applicants for current openings.

Refer Employers to Other Employment Programs

A few years ago, a collection of refugee employment service providers in King County, WA, gathered together to create the Refugee Employment Coalition (REC). The coalition meets together for professional development, special projects, and to share employment leads.

When World Relief has no job applicants for an employer partner, they contact the service providers in the REC and share the job leads. World Relief sees this as an opportunity to strengthen its relationship with the employer and the other service providers. However, before referring your employment partners to other service providers, make sure you are able to vouch for the quality of their employment services.

Refugee employment work is a giant puzzle with moving parts that sometimes fit together and sometimes do not. As this puzzle shifts with client arrivals, the job market, and a variety of other uncontrollable factors, we can do our best to provide excellent service to our employer partners so that they continue to have a wonderful experience hiring newly-arrived refugees!

Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org about all the creative ways in which you are keeping employers engaged.

 

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Labor Market Information Strategies: Wage and Benefit Negotiation

Labor Market Information (LMI) is an excellent source of national and state job market data that resettlement programs utilize to make informed decisions on employers, particular industries, and wages. LMI might seem complicated and overwhelming to jump into; however, the benefits to you and your clients are well worth the effort.  Here is an example from Atlanta.

Lutheran Services of Georgia

Lutheran Services of Georgia Matching Grant program has been using LMI to empower their job developers with knowledge and tools for self-sufficiency success. Job Developer Meron Daniel shows us how. Meron noticed that while most families in LMI’s Matching Grant Program are self-sufficient and are financially comfortable enough to pay their bills, many are  unable to save enough money to make major purchases such as a house or car, and may not have a financial cushion in case of an emergency. Thus, Meron explored ways to increase client wages.

Meron started by gathering information on pay and benefits from employers that were already hiring refugees. Then, she used LMI to compare that data to wages for the same industries in the Atlanta area.  Armed with this information, Meron was able to demonstrate to a potential hotel employer offering a starting wage of just $8.50 an hour, that other hotels were paying $9.50 to $10 per hour for the same position. As a result, the hotel came onboard at $11 an hour – clients are happy and the hotel is competitive with its peers and has improved employee retention. A win-win outcome for everyone.

Suggestions

When negotiating on behalf of clients, Meron advises having your pitch and LMI data ready, being transparent with the employer, highlighting all the costs a particular family may have, emphasizing the services your agency provides, and stressing how vital it is for the family to be self-sufficient. In Meron’s experience, Human Resource recruiters have been open to negotiations and may even use the LMI data to make the case for higher wages to their corporate bosses. Meron recommends that if an employer cannot immediately increase pay based on the LMI information, perhaps they will be willing to offer other employee benefits such as free transportation or expanded health care benefits.

Finding LMI for your area

Higher’s Guide to Labor Market Information tells you how to access specific LMI and offers specific examples on how to use the data in  negotiations. LMI databases, like CareerOneStop or O’NET, have tools available to find wage information for industries in particular areas. Additionally, each state has an LMI expert that is available to help create reports or answer questions.

How do you use labor market information when meeting with employers? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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A Collaborative Approach to Career Development

Higher presents a guest post from the Refugee Career Hub, operated by Friends of Refugees in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. RCH employment staff share their best practices for helping clients find immediate income while encouraging long-term career growth and fulfillment.

Refugees have limited time after arriving to the U.S. to become self-sufficient. Clients often have limited time to complete job readiness courses before starting work. Here are our team’s tips on how to maximize short- and long-term career planning in just a few visits:

Partner with Refugees in Career Development

Refugees arrive in the U.S. with varying expectations, dreams, and previous experience. During the first employment meeting with a client, it is essential to honor a client’s work history and input in designing a career pathway. Staff should not assume that clients understand the refugee employment process, such as accepting entry-level employment or needing to have their education evaluated. Likewise, staff should not expect that clients will seek out a job upgrade on their own to move out of an entry-level position. Creating a career pathway plan that addresses both short- and long-term goals may help to solidify the relationship between employment staff and the client. Check out an example of an employment plan strategy on Higher’s blog.

It is vital to explain procedures, process, and systems to help answer client questions like, “Why am I being referred to a different job than my neighbor? Why is my friend taking a computer class, and I wasn’t referred? Why is someone else having their credentials evaluated when my career counselor told me it is not the best use of money?” For some clients, the differences behind career specific development steps can be elusive. With greater programmatic transparency, clients will have an easier time staying motivated as they navigate through the job market.

Know the Field

The best way to properly advise and connect clients with their next career steps is to know the employment outlook for local industries. Because clients’ backgrounds vary, employment staff must be familiar with employers in a variety of industries and fields. Researching industry information, such as labor market statistics and publications from professional organizations and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as anecdotal information, helps staff understand the specific training, education, and skills needed to move clients forward in particular careers.

 

Promote Personal Responsibility

Very few people are able to reach a fulfilling career by having someone else do the legwork. An easy way to determine if a client is ready for the next stage of his or her career pathway is to see whether or not the client is willing to put in the necessary effort. At RCH, every client goes home with homework. For example, RCH may give a client an employment manager’s business card and encourage them to email their resume to the employer. This allows RCH to see if the client has the motivation to follow through on the assignment and if they are comfortable sending an email with basic professional courtesies and an attachment. If the client returns to RCH and has not sent the email, RCH staff follow up with the client to determine if the issue is a lack of skills or motivation.

Promoting client responsibility and empowerment helps clients take ownership of their own job search and career pathway.

Explain Networking

While clients are incredibly resourceful in making connections, they often do not leverage these relationships in their job search or long-term career pathway. Taking the time to explain career networking and its benefits is highly productive. Clients often say that they feel alone and disconnected when looking for employment, so RCH created a professional networking activity for clients to identify and leverage relationships with friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers. RCH challenges clients to contact their connections and learn where they work and if their employers are hiring. This is another way for clients to take ownership of their career pathway.

RHC hopes that these suggestions will be helpful for other refugee employment programs in their efforts to help clients move from survival jobs to career fulfillment.

Tirzah Brown is the interim employment services manager at Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, GA. She is currently earning her Aaster’s of Public Administration and plans to work on anti-trafficking policy and survivor rights.

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Webinar Reminder! Higher Presents: A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment

Higher is excited to announce the publication of a guide to understanding and utilizing Labor Market Information to maximize refugee employment outcomes.  Whether you are a seasoned refugee employment professional or new to the field, labor market information (LMI) is a valuable tool for counseling refugees on employment options and matching clients with quality job placements. For job development, LMI can arm you with the information to elevate job placements that are low-skill entry-level jobs to a higher quality first job placement. For job readiness training, LMI helps you tailor curricula to meet the skills employers require for specific jobs.

Join Higher tomorrow, Tuesday, March 27 at 3 PM for a webinar on LMI and the official release of the LMI guidebook. The webinar will include a review of the guide and a discussion with a refugee employment manager on strategies for utilizing LMI in the field.

REGISTER HERE

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Webinar Reminder! Higher Presents: A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment

Higher is excited to announce the publication of a guide to understanding and utilizing Labor Market Information to maximize refugee employment outcomes.  Whether you are a seasoned refugee employment professional or new to the field, labor market information (LMI) is a valuable tool for counseling refugees on employment options and matching clients with quality job placements. For job development, LMI can arm you with the information to elevate job placements that are low-skill entry-level jobs to a higher quality first job placement. For job readiness training, LMI helps you tailor curricula to meet the skills employers require for specific jobs.

Join Higher Tuesday, March 27 at 3 PM for a webinar on LMI and the official release of the LMI guidebook. The webinar will include a review of the guide and a discussion with a refugee employment manager on strategies for utilizing LMI in the field.

REGISTER HERE

Please follow and like us:

Higher Presents: A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment

Higher is excited to announce the publication of a guide to understanding and utilizing Labor Market Information to maximize refugee employment outcomes.  Whether you are a seasoned refugee employment professional or new to the field, labor market information (LMI) is a valuable tool for counseling refugees on employment options and matching clients with quality job placements. For job development, LMI can arm you with the information to elevate job placements that are low-skill entry-level jobs to a higher quality first job placement. For job readiness training, LMI helps you tailor curricula to meet the skills employers require for specific jobs.

Join Higher Tuesday, March 27 at 3 PM for a webinar on LMI and the official release of the LMI guidebook. The webinar will include a review of the guide and a discussion with a refugee employment manager on strategies for utilizing LMI in the field.

REGISTER 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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High-Paying Jobs Refugees can Access without a Bachelor’s Degree

A common misconception in our field is that higher paying jobs are not available without a Bachelor’s Degree (BA). According to the Good Jobs Project, however, there are 30 million “good jobs” across the United States that pay well and do not require BAs. Knowing where to find these jobs can assist employment staff and refugees in identifying career pathways that do not require expensive four-year degrees.

A “good job” is defined as one “with earnings of at least $35,000 annually for those under age 45 and earnings of at least $45,000 annually for workers age 45 and older.” The 30 million good jobs that don’t require a BA identified by The Good Jobs Project have median annual earnings of $55,000. Even though a BA isn’t needed for these jobs, researchers found the best-paying positions still require some education. Training, such as associate degree programs or trade skill certifications, may be necessary to secure a good job. When discussing career planning with refugees, it is essential for employment staff to explain the difference between BA education requirements and associate or technical education requirements.

The Good Jobs Project, completed by The Georgetown Center and JPMorgan Chase, includes a website and report analyzing the job market across the United States. The narrative report shows what careers are available state-by-state without the need of a BA through analysis of US Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

 

State Data Available

 

The report offers state-specific data including pay information, industry changes over time (from 1991 – 2015), jobs by educational attainment, and the top five industries and occupations where non-BA jobs are found. For example, Illinois has a median earning of $58,000 for non-BA workers in 2015. Fifty-six percent of Illinois workers were employed in blue-collar industries versus 44 percent in skilled-services industries. The top five industries in IL where good jobs are available without requiring a BA include:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Transportation and utilities
  3. Construction
  4. Information, financial activities, and real estate
  5. Health services

In addition to the narrative report, the user-friendly website offers data on good jobs that can be filtered by industry, education, occupations, geography, and gender. To learn more about the methodology and resources, click on the main menu drop down feature on the top right hand of their website.

As refugee employment professionals, understanding labor market information like that included in The Good Jobs Project can help you locate career pathways or “good jobs” over lower-paid, survival jobs. For example, a job developer in Illinois might decide, after reviewing the data from the Good Jobs Project that their team has not tapped into the Transportation and utilities field and could be missing out on opportunities for their clients.

For more information on educational requirements for specific sectors and occupations, check out to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Another tool for researching particular industry sectors is CareerOneStop, where you can find a directory of employers, career guidelines, training programs, and local resources.

 

What are ways that your program provides career advancement opportunities for refugees? Send us your best practices at information@higheradvantage.org!

 

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Employment Brochures

No matter how your agency is structured or how you handle job development, marketing brochures can be a useful tool for promoting your employment programs to potential employers. A leave-behind, such as a brochure that summarizes refugee employment information and the services your agency provides, is helpful for those who are new to the idea of hiring your clients. Brochures can be distributed by volunteers or any resettlement staff member to point new businesses to your job development staff.                        

 Who Should Develop Your Marketing Piece? 

Brochures can be intimidating to develop but do not have to be produced by an expensive consultant in order to be effective. In fact, some non-profit communications and development personnel caution that developing something too glossy can make your agency appear as if it is not using financial resources wisely. 

Not many agencies have access to communications departments, but you probably have access to volunteers with marketing and communications expertise who can help create your brochure. If you can’t find someone in your current volunteer pool, consider recruiting a new volunteer to assist with the project; or, your employment team may be interested in tackling this project themselves. Pass drafts around the office for feedback, and think of a trusted employer partner who might also review a final draft.

What Information Should You Include?

Higher recently collected three good examples that can be used as models when creating your brochure:

  1. Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas
  2. Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
  3. Refugee Employment Services

Identify the information you want to include ahead of time to organize the layout correctly. Look for agency pictures and graphics available for inclusion. If you already have a brochure, think about how it could be improved or updated with fresh photos, more recent data or a new success story.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Use business language and avoid nonprofit jargon: Be succinct, direct, and brief. Be sure to speak your audience’s language.
  • What will be beneficial for employers?A brochure is not the place to give a detailed, in-depth explanation of refugee resettlement or paragraphs about every service your agency offers. Considering including information that will be important to employers—that refugees are work authorized and pre-screened, job retention rates of your clients, post-employment supportive services that your agency provides, etc.
  • Use numbers and statistics: Provide concrete and quantifiable information from existing donor reports or performance data. Consider job retention rates, a pie chart of industries where refugees are already working, the number of employees placed, or the number of employers who hire refugees from your agency.
  • Utilize your network of employer relationships: Give a list of area employers, with permission, who already hire your clients. Include a testimonial quote from a supportive employer, preferably someone influential and in a leadership role.
  • Make the layout visually pleasing: Utilize graphics, whitespace, and pictures of refugees at work. A success story or quote from a refugee who has been promoted, won an award at work, or owns their own business, can make your brochure stand out.
  • Remember the 5-second rule: Hiring managers/employers are busy. The decision whether to consider your pitch is made in just five seconds. If they can’t immediately see what you have to offer and why they should listen, they won’t spend time trying to figure it out. Wordy, cumbersome brochures typically end up in the trash.
  • Don’t forget to provide contact information:Staple a business card or place your employment team’s contact info prominently on each brochure so employers can easily contact you. Consider creating a dedicated generic email address that won’t be affected by staff turnover—for example jobs@agencyname.org.
  • Spread the word: Once the brochures are ready, feel free to leave it everywhere you go. Leave them with new employers or on a visit to the mall. Do an electronic version so you can attach it to emails. Load it on your website. 

Does your ageny have a beautiful brochure you can share with your peers? Please email us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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