Tips from the Field: Safety Training – Safety Gear

Having an understanding of the importance of workplace safety rules and gear helps prepare refugees for work in the United States. Below are two activities, provided by network agencies, which may help you to incorporate safety training into your job readiness or ESL classes.

World Relief DuPage/Aurora

Dan Peterson, Higher Peer Advisor and Early Employment Specialist, says that World Relief DuPage/Aurora developed several lessons that includes safety as a part of their six-week job readiness training course. Each lesson is taught by an ESL teacher in the daily sessions and reinforced with a once a week workshop taught by Employment Counselors.  Dan shares one of the safety gear activities here:

  • Safety Gear Review: “We bring in lots of safety gear and have an interactive lesson where clients examine the gear, guess its use. Participants also learn what equipment might be required and supplied by various companies and which equipment is often required, but must be purchased, by the employee.” The picture of safety gear on the left shows the types of equipment that might be included in this activity.

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, says that she has incorporated safety training into Vocational and work-related ESL classes because a majority of clients will encounter it on the job and need to understand what it is and why it is important. Here is one of the safety gear activities Jessica uses:

  • Safety Gear Race: “I put clients into two groups, and they pick one person to put the safety gear on, and the group labels each piece. The team that finishes first, wearing and labeling the gear correctly, is the winner.” Clients not only practice vocabulary for safety gear in this activity, it also ensures they know how to correctly wear the gear.

Safety gear is an important aspect of safety training that may be highlighted in job readiness or ESL classes. Providing opportunities to see, wear, or touch real safety items will assist refugees in understanding how United States workplaces function.

Follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for more information on safety gear standards for various workplaces.

Look for our next blog post where we will discuss how teaching specifics on workplace safety can continue to prepare refugees for new positions that have specific regulations and rules on safety.

What are some ways that you incorporate safety training in your job readiness curriculum? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Women Centered Employment Programming

Across the country, employment programs are engaging more women in their programs. Both PRM and ORR emphasize the need to provide full services to all adult case members. In addition to the usual barriers most refugees face, women may disproportionately face barriers such as access to childcare, lower levels of formal education, and cultural expectations regarding their role in the workplace. Still, there are powerful examples from across the country that highlight women being empowered through employment. For example, a group of women entrepreneurs in Phoenix, AZ are tackling obstacles they face and gaining new skills by selling homemade art, candles, body products, jewelry and more. Their pop-up store allows them to make short-term income and learn valuable business skills.

In Maryland, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) implements a program to provide women additional access to employment services.  IRC’s method is to increase access to classes through gender-specific services and continuing support beyond the initial employment services period.

“It’s not that women don’t want to be employed, it’s that the traditional [employment services] model may not fit their needs,” said Neisha Washington, IRC Maryland Youth and Women’s Employment Coordinator. “We wanted to design something that takes into account the challenges that families are finding as well as the specific barriers that women are facing.”

Neisha and her colleagues surveyed the agency’s female clients and found that nearly 100% want to work. However, many women need additional support and flexibility to balance work, education, and home life. The resulting IRC program is the Youth and Women’s Employment Program (YWEP), serving women in individual and group sessions as needed.

One way in which YWEP addresses self-sufficiency barriers while managing the resettlement process is by providing additional childcare support and long-term case management.

An additional training opportunity offered through YWEP is a women’s only class focused on career coaching, increasing confidence in self-promoting, and creating new social connections. YWEP encourages the women in the class to invite friends to expand social circles and provide grassroots support for those with limited English and work experience. IRC has found that the women’s class gives participants the opportunity to engage in more meaningful ways than in a general employment class.

Providing supplementary training programs centered on women like YWEP in Maryland and the women entrepreneurs group in Arizona can be significant to the long-term success of refugee women.

How does your agency ensure employment success for refugee women? Share your thoughts by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Refugees in America: Employment Skills Training

As part of their ORR funded refugee employment program efforts, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) of Dayton, Ohio has explored a variety of employer partnerships. For example, CSSMV forged a partnership with a staffing agency that works with local clothing manufacturers in need of skilled sewers, and a volunteer sewing teacher to create vocational sewing classes. Together, this partnership serves to prepare refugees with the skills required for employment as Industrial Sewers. With Dayton being the home of several niche market clothing manufacturers, the classes have played a significant role in preparing a trained workforce for this market.

Class Set-up

The vocational sewing classes started in spring of 2012 when a staffing agency approached CSSMV refugee employment staff about the need for skilled sewers. The staffing agency reported needing a large number of experienced sewers for a new employer they had recently contracted. Thus, a program intern who had sewing experience was tasked with providing one-on-one training to clients in the basement of the CSSMV office using donated materials and sewing machines. The demand of refugee trainees and employers quickly outgrew this informal arrangement and the Employment Coordinator approached Pam, a local schoolteacher and ESL volunteer about teaching sewing to clients in a more structured setting. Pam a dedicated, compassionate advocate for refugees agreed and began working with a few clients. Pam and the Employment Coordinator worked together to build a program focusing on sewing skills and job-specific vocabulary. The sewing classes quickly filled up with clients recruited by the refugee employment program, with Pam teaching 6-8 students at a time, two evenings a week.

Refugees in the CSSMV classes are now taught on basic sewing machines and industrial equipment donated by community partners and a local employer. The entire CSSMV training process usually takes eight weeks, but varies depending on the individual’s ability to master the necessary skills. Once participants pass employer skill tests, continued training takes place at the job site, and if necessary, clients can return to CSSMV classes for additional training.

A Partnership that Benefits Everyone

Since its inception in 2012, more than 200 refugees (men and women) primarily from Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo and Sudan) have completed the CSSMV training with most transitioning to full-time company employment and some participants being promoted to team lead and supervisory positions leading to increasing wages and opportunities over time.

Do you have any volunteer-led vocational training in your community? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org

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Worker Rights Review

At Higher, we frequently receive inquiries about the rights of refugee workers. To address those past and future inquiries we have compiled a list of worker’s rights and associated websites.  These rights are important topics for job readiness classes and may enable refugees to recognize instances of discrimination and unsafe working conditions.

Right to be paid – in most instances, workers have the right to be paid federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and to receive overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week. If workers do not receive all of the wages for the time they actually worked, they can take action to recover those wages. Note that many states have minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage.

Right to be free of discrimination – it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against or harass workers based on race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin or sex.

Right to organize – in most workplaces, it is illegal for an employer to punish or threaten workers for organizing with others to improve their working conditions.

Right to be safe on the job – workers are protected by workplace health and safety laws at their worksites.

Right to benefits if injured on the job – in most states, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to the protections of state workers’ compensation laws.

Right to unemployment payments – in most states workers who are fully or partially unemployed, looking for work, and have valid work documentation are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Right to choose which documents to show your employer for employment eligibility verification (I-9) – for example, your employer cannot demand that you show them a green card. If you do not have a green card yet, you may show your employer your driver’s license or ID and Social Security Card (SSC).

Right to begin work – if you do not have your Social Security card but can provide other documentation of status such as an I-94, you can still begin working unless e-verify is required, in which case a SS number or card is needed at time of employment.

Right to a work environment free of harassment – if you encounter harassment in the form of sexual aggravation, taunting and bullying, or hazing, you may file a report with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel.

Right to report unfair hiring or work practices – you can report any offenses to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel by calling their hotline at 1-800-255-7688.

For more information, check out these resources:

How do you teach refugees in your job readiness classes about their rights in the workplace? 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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Interactive Games for Developing U.S. Workplace Skills

The U.S. workplace often emphasizes three skills—speed, accuracy, and organization. Refugees, as well as other applicants, need to be prepared to finish tasks quickly, yet pay attention to details and follow specific instructions. One strategy from the field, to evaluate and expand these capabilities for clients and prepare them for jobs, is to use interactive games and activities such as Legos or Tetris in job readiness classes.

In Ohio, the Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley’s (CSSMV) employment team learned of several tests, which were games, employers were using in the hiring process that fit well in job readiness classes or one-on-one skill assessments. The team decided to implement several corollary games to help build client’s confidence on skill based tests given during interviews. Introducing these games to refugees in job readiness classes is fun, and can be useful for building and evaluating job skills.  These games are accessible to a wide range of English levels. Using them in multi-level classes where pre-literate and highly skilled participants are present might optimize time and efficiency when preparing refugees for the U.S. workplace.

Perfection: the goal is to match each piece into the correctly-shaped slot within a specific time frame. This game is used with refugees preparing for work at industrial laundries, distribution centers, electronic assembly warehouses and other positions that require finger and hand agility. Perfection was introduced to the employment team by a hiring manager at a local linen supply company.

Legos: the goal is to build and match the color and shape of Legos models within a specified period of time. Legos are used as a hiring test by an Ohio company that designs and builds electronic motors which are sold internationally. Practicing Legos in job readiness classes helps employment staff to evaluate if a client was ready to move forward in applying for certain types of jobs.

“My favorite activity is a group Legos session where clients race the clock (and each other) to build small trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, etc. The directions for the Legos models are just pictures and arrows in sequential order. If you are working with clients who are non-English speakers, or may speak some English but read very little, you can still get a good measure of the skills needed for certain jobs,” said Gretchen Pfaff, Employment Coordinator at CSSMV.

Memory Match: the goal is to turn over two cards of the same picture from an array of cards. You can create your own set of memory cards including basic vocabulary for industry tools, foods and shapes, allowing clients practice of key English words at the same time. This game is used by employment staff to help build a client’s ability to concentrate, learn key words for particular jobs, and practice English.

 

Tetris: the goal is to rotate shapes to form continuous lines. This game is used by a particular employer that required staff to load and unload boxes off and onto trucks.

Job Ready Bingo: Job ready Bingo is used in job readiness classes to practice employment vocabulary such as documents needed to work, job cycle, and shifts. The goal is for each participant to quickly identify the called word on their game card and cover the space with a marker. This game helps to evaluate a clients’ understanding of the material taught in class, listening skills, and the ability to follow directions, and it reinforces key English vocabulary.

What games or interactive activities do you use to teach everyday U.S. workplace skills with your clients? Share with us at higherinformation@lirs.org.

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Career Planning: How to Make SMART Objectives and Goals Work for Refugees

While working with job seekers it is important to make the most out of the time shared. Using SMART objectives and goals[1] can be an efficient way to help the job seeker identify specific steps to achieve self-sufficiency and longer-term goals. It is a clear, concise way of goal setting to help clients focus their efforts.

Often times during the first employment intake, an employment team member will hear that a job seeker’s goals are, “I want to work any job” and, “I want to learn English.” Those are good thoughts, but not specific enough to provide an action plan. They are not SMART. SMART objectives and goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Example: Claude is a recently arrived refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who speaks fluent French and some English. Claude completed Secondary School (High School) but never received his diploma or certificate. Claude arrived with his mother and six siblings. During his employment intake Claude shares that his long term goal is to become a human rights lawyer, but he also understands the immediate need to financially support his family. The Employment Specialist (ES) suggests seeking work at a local warehouse that often hires new Americans. Claude agrees and is ready to embark on the job hunt.

Objective #1: Obtain employment at the warehouse within two months.

 

Specific Claude begins the job cycle process of applying and interviewing with one particular employer.
Measurable Claude will either have the job or will not in two months’ time.
Attainable The ES already has connections to the employer and knows they are eager to hire newly arriving refugees.
Relevant Claude wants to start working right away to support his family and have money to be able to achieve his long term dream of becoming a lawyer.
Timely Claude needs to be able to pay bills before his family’s initial funding assistance runs out.

 

 

Objective #2: Enroll in General Education Diploma (GED) training course within one year.

Specific ? The objective does not outline explicitly where Claude will enroll.
Measurable Claude attending a GED training course within one year from intake is measurable.
Attainable ? There are several questions that must be answered to know if this objective is attainable.  Is the training free? If not, how will Claude pay for it? How is Claude’s English proficiency in reading, writing, and other subjects? If he needs additional preparation, where will he get it and how long will it take?
Relevant Claude’s long term goal is to become a lawyer, having a GED or High School Diploma is required and therefore relevant.
Timely Claude can keep his job to meet basic needs while going to GED class simultaneously. He seems motivated to do it all.

 

 

 

It is important when creating SMART objectives and goals to consider each step required while keeping in mind the client’s immediate needs and barriers. There are several additional objectives that Claude must achieve in order to reach his longer-term goal of becoming a human rights lawyer, including:

  1. Ensure proficiency for GED training courses
  2. Enroll in GED courses
  3. Obtain a GED
  4. Apply and be accepted to college
  5. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
  6. Apply and be accepted to law school
  7. Obtain a law degree
  8. Obtain a job in the human rights field

Going through each objective required to meet longer-term goals utilizing the SMART technique may help the ES, as well as the client, understand the pathway of a career and its feasibility for the client.

Look out for activities on career planning and SMART objectives and goals in Higher’s upcoming Job Readiness Toolkit!

What are some ways that you teach goal planning when working with refugees? Share your best practices with us at Information@higheradvantage.org!

[1]Objectives are the measurable steps an individual takes to achieve his/her goal(s).

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Three Ways CORE Certification Courses Can Benefit Refugee Employment Services

Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) has developed a series of certification courses[i] to support refugee resettlement staff and volunteers who cover cultural orientation (CO) topics in their day-to-day roles. While lessons have a CO focus, several courses contain information and concepts helpful to employment volunteers and staff. Each self-paced lesson, which can be completed in approximately 20-30 minutes, covers key concepts through an interactive audiovisual interface, and includes links to online resources for further reading. Here are three ways your employment team can benefit from this free resource:

 

  1. Volunteer Training: Incoming volunteers can gain an overview of the refugee resettlement process in the first CORE lesson. The Refugee Resettlement Journey covers topics such as the differences between refugee and asylee status, durable solutions to address the needs of refugees, and the vetting process. Understanding the basics of refugee resettlement is crucial for volunteers working with clients on job readiness and job placement, and with potential employers of refugees.
  2. Working with Interpreters: Staff working with interpreters on a regular basis to complete employment plans, teach job readiness class, or foster conversations between employers and clients should consider the Working Effectively with Interpreters lesson. Concepts – such as why family members should not be used as interpreters, ensuring cultural sensitivity, and the importance of meeting with your interpreter ahead of time – promote more effective, respectful communication with clients.
  3. Job Readiness Facilitation: The first of several adult learning strategy courses is now available. Knowles’ Six Principles covers unique characteristics of adult learners, such as being internally motivated and self-directed. This lesson includes “expert insights” from seasoned adult education trainers. The next course will cover the difference between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches.

You can register to access the courses here and sign up here for the CORE newsletter to stay up to date on future certification course offerings as they are available. You can also check out the CORENAV resources for refugee self-learning on a variety of topics, including employment.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

 

These resources[i] were developed under an agreement financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State, but do not necessarily represent the policy of that agency and should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

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Understanding Client Motivations

What do your clients really care about? What has motivated them in the past, and what will inspire and push them forward as they start work in the U.S.?

The answers to these questions might significantly affect employment decisions. As Roy E. Disney said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

Here are some creative ideas for learning about your client’s personal motivators that can be carried out in job readiness classes or during one-on-one meetings:

  1. Value cards: Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE)’s employment section of CO curriculum includes a sorting activity, where participants use photo cards to show what reasons for working are least/most important to them. Examples of the photo cards included: to gain respect in my community, to support my family, and to earn money to go to school in the future.

These two ideas come from an article by Herky Cutler[1]:

  1. Photography: Ask your client to take a dozen pictures of important things in his or her life, using a cell phone. As you review the photos, ask what each image represents, think of how it might related to a job setting, and ask on a scale of 1-10 how important it is to have that as an aspect of work.
  2. Music : Ask your client about a favorite song – one that has personal meaning or significance — and listen to it together if possible, even if you don’t understand the language! Ask questions to learn why it’s significant and how your client relates to the message.

Not only will learning about your client’s personal values help inform your approach, but these self-reflective exercises will remind clients of specific motivators they can rely on when things are challenging at work.

[1] Engaging Client Assessment Tools That Rock! From Career Convergence Web Magazine, February 2017.

Post written by Carrie Thiele

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. Take time this month to ensure you understand the resources available to your clients with disabilities.

The United States Committee for Refugee and Immigrants (USCRI) Resource Guide for Serving Refugees with Disabilities includes an overview of cultural differences in perceptions of disabilities and a chapter on employment, covering topics like promoting employment among clients eligible for SSA benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) sponsors these technical assistance resources:

  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers guidance on disability employment issues. Search for accommodation information by disability for an overview of specific impairments along with accommodation ideas you can share with employers.

 

 

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