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.

 

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!

 

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!

How to Stay Organized as a Job Developer

  1. Make lists. Start each day by prioritizing a list of tasks that need to be completed. This can assist you in identifying what is urgent and what is not. When emergencies do come up (as they often do) and you drop tasks to deal with it, knowing what other responsibilities must get done today versus what you can finish tomorrow can keep stress levels down.

  1. Use a planner. A paper planner or one on a device or computer can help track appointments and tasks. Keeping appointments with employers and clients is crucial to success. Not attending a scheduled appointment is a good way not to impress a potential employer.

 

  1. Schedule basic tasks. Scheduling time in your day for activities like case noting, returning phone calls and emails, and travel can prevent projects or daily tasks from overwhelming you. Look ahead at deadlines and add reminders in your planner to stay prepared. If setting aside time each day is not possible, try using a “theme” for different days of the week. For example, designating Fridays as case note days and Mondays as staff meeting days increases consideration for the theme selected for that day. While scheduling tasks, remember a 30-minute lunch break can provide relief, recharge your mind and lead to a fresh perspective on tasks for the day. Taking care of yourself is crucial to staying organized and assisting refugees. Stop eating at your desk while responding to emails or eating a granola bar on the way to pick up clients for an interview! Take the 30 minutes (or even 15!) to focus on yourself, eat, and maintain your mental health. Even if you have to schedule a break in your day, you will thank yourself later.

 

  1. Extra Documents. Keep copies of documents on hand that you need every time you meet with prospective employers or current employers. These could include outreach materials, a flyer on the benefits of hiring refugees and business cards. Having extra copies of documents in your bag or car will help you to be prepared for those days when you aren’t.

 

  1. Use Technology. Check out Higher’s previous post on 4 (Free) Productivity Tools for the Busy Job Developer for some technology that can save time and help you organize. As applications for devices change frequently, we selected four additional applications that may interest job developers:
  • Mileage IQ can track your mileage on a monthly basis.
  • TinyScan can help you scan (take a picture) of a document, save as a PDF, and share via email, all from your cell phone.
  • Dropbox and Google Drive are two other tools that make creating, editing and sharing documents simpler but keep in mind client confidentiality and privacy when using them.

 

  1. At the end of the day, clear your desk. A clean or organized office can clear your mind, looks good, and can support you to focus on the important tasks of the day. You can do this by sorting piles, putting documents away in file folders, or placing items into your shred box under your desk (get one if you already don’t have one). While you are cataloging files, remember to make note of any outstanding tasks or create an “urgent” stack of documents.

Starting to get organized can be the hardest part and while every day brings a new challenge to tackle, as job developers, using strategies like these to become and stay organized will reduce stress and benefit clients.

What are some ways you stay organized? Share your tips with us at informaton@higheradvantage.org.

Jobs for the Future Seeks Session Proposals

Jobs for the Future is accepting proposals for its biannual national summit, Horizons 2018: A Vision for Economic Advancement, is June 13-14, 2018 in New Orleans, LA. Jobs for the Future’s mission is that all lower-income young people and workers have the skills and credentials needed to succeed in our economy.

Proposals should be in one of the following topics to represent refugee employment successes and challenges at the summit in June:

  • The Equity Imperative: Sessions will examine persistent disparities in outcomes for groups that our education and workforce systems are currently leaving behind. Presenters will elevate strategies that provide more equitable opportunities for workers to gain the skills, credentials, and experiences to meet employer needs and their potential.
  • Skills for the Future: Sessions will explore innovative approaches to build and assess these skills, including competency-based education to accelerate learning, and strategies for creating stronger, more agile feedback loops between employers and educators about skill needs. Presenters will highlight promising solutions for ensuring that youth and adults complete high school and postsecondary programs of high value to regional economies.
  • Solutions at Work: Presenters will showcase proven innovations and breakthrough ideas that foster more powerful practice, successful programs, and improved systems.

The deadline for proposal submissions is Dec. 31, 2017. You can read more about the conference and download the session proposal application here.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

WeWork Pledges to Hire Refugees

WeWork is an American company which provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and existing small and large businesses. Founded in 2010, it is headquartered in New York City with many other locations (here).   On Tuesday November 14, the Washington Post reported that WeWork will hire 1,500 refugees globally over the next 5 years. This could be a great opportunity for refugee clients. Check out the full article here.

 

Collaborative Job Fair: Connecting Employers and Professional Refugees and Immigrants in Silicon Valley

Twenty-one employers and more than 140 job seekers attended the first Employer Meet and Greet hosted by the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County in April 2017. It was such a success that a second fair is planned for November 9.

The 31 public, non-profit and individual members of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County noticed that refugees with professional experience start in entry-level jobs when they arrive to the U.S. and can get stuck there. Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at Pars Equality Center and the Chair of the Forum, has a passion for seeing professional refugees and immigrants attain better jobs, “We found a need to really pay attention to this group and not let them fall behind due to very few connections when they first arrive,” said Ellie.

The first job fair made quite an impression on the local refugee and immigrant community, as well as employers. “The excitement in the room was so amazing, from both sides,” said Ellie. Job seekers who attended told organizers they had never been to a job fair with such high-level employers, including Cisco, Airbnb, Bank of America, and Comerica.

Employers who previously never imagined they could find the talents and skills they need among newly-arrived refugees and immigrants are now signing up to join the second Employer Meet and Greet. When asked how the Forum was able to get commitments from so many employers for the pilot event, Ellie admitted, “It was hard!” She said it took the support of the entire Forum sub-committee—each member personally reached out to connections to secure commitments. The organizers emphasized that hiring a refugee is not just about doing a good deed, but that the invited employers have a lot to gain by having access to so many educated professionals.

The Forum sub-committee continues to learn from the successes and challenges of planning a collaborative job fair. The upcoming fair will add a resume workshop for job seekers who want additional feedback on how to best frame their education and experience for a job in the U.S. This event will be held at LinkedIn, which is also providing complimentary profile evaluations for the first 50 job seekers who arrive. Attendees will receive feedback on how their profile compares to others in Silicon Valley. Ellie says they hope to have 30 employers and increase the number of job seekers in attendance.

Although the meet and greet fair has proven invaluable in fostering connections and awareness, one challenge has been the difficulty in tracking how many people were hired from connections made at the fair, a data point the Forum hopes to report after future events.

You can learn more about the career pathways promotion efforts of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County here.

Targeting Growing Industries as a Job Developer

Are you looking to connect with potential employers in fast-growing fields? Here are two online resources to help you make new connections and diversify your pool of job leads.

  1. CareerOneStop lists the 50 fastest-growing industries in the U.S., and that list might spark some ideas for you in looking up industry-specific employers in your area with the Business Finder, which includes contact information for some 12 million businesses. It’s quick and easy to use!
  2. Join LinkedIn “groups” related to the growing field you’d like to explore for potential job openings. Joining a group connects you with numerous employers that you can message personally to set up in-person introductions. Here’s how:
    • Search for industry groups by typing in the name of an employment field the “search” bar at the top left of linkedin.com. A quick search of “healthcare,” for example, returned results such as a “Healthcare Industry Professionals” group with nearly 100,000 members.
    • Click on one of the group names you’re interested in; then click “request to join” on the right side of the page.
    • Once the administrator has approved your request, you can click on the group to access a list of members. Send private messages to set up informational interviews that can help you land a new employer!

What are some other ways you’ve found to successfully diversity your network of employers? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org

Written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele.

 

3 Tools to Help Identify Your Clients’ Skills

The urgent need for qualified employees in fast-growing fields is shifting employer’s priorities from requiring specific credentials toward identifying in-demand skills. This is beneficial for our clients, who often have the skills required for jobs but do not have U.S. credentials upon arrival. Here are three tools that can help you identify your clients’ skills:

These resources are all linked under the job seekers’ page at Skillful, a web-based initiative that aims to align people looking for work, training programs, and career coaches with the specific skills heavily needed by employers.

This post was written by Guest Blogger, Carrie Thiele.

Reminder: Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Higher Job Development Webinar, September 20, 2:00-3:30 PM EST

Leveraging First Placements: How to be Strategic with Entry Level Jobs

Refugees arriving in the U.S. need to begin working as soon as possible. Our job as refugee employment professionals is to make that happen. While a refugee’s first job will rarely be their “dream job”, there are ways to leverage the first placement so that it becomes the first step on a career ladder, rather than a “dead-end job. There are also ways to ensure employers see refugees as employees worthy of long-term investment, rather than short-term labor solutions.

Join Higher’ s Nicole Redford and front-line refugee employment practitioners for a webinar that will present strategies for finding and landing employers who will offer not just a first job but a first step on a career-ladder.  Guest speakers include Hilary Lucas of Catholic Charities of Cleveland and Lindsey Saultz of Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains.

To register please click here.