Partnering on Corporate Days of Service

Partnerships with employers beyond job placements are a strategic way to maintain and grow business relationships. Businesses support refugee resettlement programs through employee giving, event sponsorship, donations, and grants, but did you know that many firms also sponsor employee volunteer days? Many companies offer their employees 1 to 3 days per year to go out into the community and provide volunteer service.  For example, TripAdvisor allows their employees to take up to five days of paid leave to volunteer their time and skills at any nonprofit organization, including those working with refugees. Before reaching out to an employer with a proposal, Higher recommends that refugee programs prepare a list and description of short-term volunteer roles that would be appropriate for such an event. When providing options, be mindful of corporate preferences such as volunteer opportunities that might be done at the business’s location or one-time large group projects.

Here are just a few ways in which refugee employment programs might utilize corporate volunteers:

  • Have the company put on a fair or job readiness class where refugees can learn about different aspects of American workplace culture. This event can also include informational interviews and interviewing or networking practice for clients.
  • Have the company’s employee’s act as career mentors for refugee clients.
  • Seek out professional volunteers that might offer their skills for special projects such as database creation, grant writing, social media, or marketing.

Related Resources from the Higher Blog:

A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

Targeted Volunteer Recruitment- for Employment Programs

4 Ways to Utilize Volunteers in Employment Services

Do you have a great corporate partner that you would like to share with us? Please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Higher’s Guide to Labor Market Information: Occupational Profiles Tool

Labor Market Information (LMI) enables refugee employment teams to utilize data to enhance their career counseling, job development, and job readiness classes.  In this post, Higher will highlight one aspect of Higher’s A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment Programs, the Occupational Profile tool, which is available on CareerOneStop, an LMI database.

LMI is data provided by the US Department of Labor that incorporates statistics from employers across the nation. Within LMI, the Occupational Profile is a tool that gathers industry information on various fields and positions and provides data to the public.

How to Use the Occupational Profile – Example

Imagine you are in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, meeting with a client who has returned for long term career planning. The client has experience in crane operation from her country and is interested in returning to that field. You are unfamiliar with that position or industry and need to understand the client’s experience and how to assist the client in crafting an industry specific resume and long term career plan. To start, you open the Occupational Profile and search for the position. After clicking search, the occupational profile opens up with a description of job duties, responsibilities, and a career video. (For more details on the job duties and responsibilities, you may also use O*NET, the second LMI database, which holds similar information as CareerOneStop but in a different format.)

The Occupational Profile also provides details on national and state-specific employment projections. For example, Crane and Tower Operators projections show that job growth in this filed is slower in Alabama, than the United States as a whole. Based on the information provided you could select “Compare Projected Employment button to what other states will have more potential positions in the future. Select View Chart or View Map to compare. The information from the profile also indicates if the field is shrinking. Since the example highlights less potential growth, there could be other positions in the same industry that have more openings in the future. The Occupational Profile includes a list of related occupations for any selected position.

Another component of the Occupational Profile is Education and Experience: to get started as well as Typical Education. The Education and Experience box highlights what credentials people starting in this career often possess and some programs that can prepare a potential worker. Typical Education allows viewers to learn about the average educational level for workers in the field. For the example of Crane and Tower Operators, the diagram shows that 50% have a high school diploma or equivalent, and 24% have some college, but no degree. This information suggests that pursuing higher education for this field is unnecessary.

The Occupational Profile also provides wage information, required certifications and training, and skills and abilities of people in that field.

Accessing the Occupational Profile allows any employment professional to gather data to respect their client’s experience to benefit their future career.

Considerations

It is important to remember that as LMI data is gathered nationally every two years. Utilizing local sources like American Job Centers that collect real-time, local employer, or training information, might help to provide the most concrete information to refugee job seekers.

Of course, LMI databases or toolkits are not meant to replace local relationships and partnerships. To run reports, ask questions, or learn more about your state or local area, contact your state’s LMI expert.

The Occupational Profile is just one of many tools found on CareerOneStop; Higher also recommends discovering local businesses on the Business Finder, using Comparing Local Wages, and Local Training Finder.  For more information on Labor Market Information, check out Higher’s A Guide to Labor Market Information for Refugee Employment Programs.

How do you use labor market information to help inform client’s career pathways? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Resume Writing for Advanced Positions

Often Higher is asked for guidance on how to help clients prepare a more advanced resume. Outlined in the section below are some of the best rules and advice on how to build a professional U.S. style resume.

The Rules

  • 1-page rule: In the US, job seekers must stick to the one-page rule unless they have a master’s degree or higher; then a resume can be two pages.
  • Get the order right: Move backward in time, starting with the most recent job in each section.
  • 10-year rule: Never recount more than 10 years of employment history.
  • Equal bullets rule: Under every position, there should be the same amount of bulleted information and job duties.
  • Education: Spell out the degree so it will stand out. It is not necessary to include a GPA or GMAT score. Do not list courses. Do list any leadership roles and study abroad experiences.
  • Font rule: Keep the entire document in the same font, and only the name should be in larger font. Use a standard font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica), so it reads the same on any computer or printer.
  • Avoid the objective: Many people like to start their resume with an objective outlining their purpose. However, every applicant has a similar objective; as they are all seeking employment. Express the objective in a cover letter, and keep the resume for professional and educational history.
  • Addressing Gaps: Use cover letters to briefly and directly address the gap in the career, particularly for refugees who have experienced long periods of time where they were unable to work. For example, “I am returning to the workforce after a period of raising children/living as a refugee.” Then address the strengths, qualifications, and goals. Emphasize the job seeker’s excitement and preparedness to re-enter the workforce now. If the gap is over 7 years or a refugee prefers not to address the time gap, it may be time to consider a skill based resume which will be tackled in a subsequent Higher blog.
  • Creativity rule: Create a new version of a resume for every job opportunity. Similar to a cover letter, a resume should be tailored to a job description
  • Finally, don’t forget to have a friend or colleague help edit and proofread. An outside perspective is most helpful in selecting what is most relevant to each job.

What are some rules or content guidelines that you use when writing advanced resumes? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Check out Higher’s past blogs for more information on Resume Strategies, Entry-Level Resumes or Cover Letters.

 

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Webinar Alert: Financial Literacy Training Resources

Financial Literacy training is a required resettlement service. On Thursday, June 21st, CORE, the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange, is providing a 30-minute Money Management webinar on how to engage refugees around key messages on budgeting, financing, and self-sufficiency. The session will draw on CORE’s new resources on Money Management, including a supplemental lesson plan, and also feature additional resources as well as an opportunity to engage with peers on the subject.

To accommodate a range of time zones, the webinar is being offered at 8:00 AM EDT and 1:00 PM EDT on June 21. Note that each webinar will feature the same content.

To select your preferred session time and register, click here.

Other financial literacy resources, such as courses like Understanding Your Paycheck, can be found on Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

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Three Steps to Consider Before Crafting a Resume

Resumes are vital to the job search process, whether it is for a first job or a job upgrade. Generally, resumes should be one page and include a detailed history of the applicant’s ability to meet the needs of the employer. The skill set of the job seeker should match the job description. Resume writing is a critical topic that should receive ample coverage in your interactions with clients.

Recently, Higher presented posts on Cover Letters and Resume Writing for Entry-Level Positions. Today, Chris Hogg, an employment counselor and job-readiness instructor at Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) in Columbus, Ohio, offers his advice on how to prepare for a client resume writing session in three steps:

Step One: The Interview

Personalization of a resume for each refugee can be challenging when working with the number refugee clients that employment staff are assigned. To add individualization to each resume, there needs to be a thorough and far-ranging interview with every client. While it may seem that employment staff can use a resume template, fill in the blanks, and crank out several bullet points to create a complete resume, such an approach defeats the purpose of a resume and ultimately does the client a disservice. The client needs to understand and articulate what an ideal job (or three) looks like for him or her before staff can even think of putting pen to paper.

Step Two: Skills and Limitations

Identify the client’s skills, experience, and knowledge as they apply to a particular job objective. Identification of soft (transferable) skills is essential because in most cases, and certainly, for the first job, soft skills (teamwork) almost always supersede hard skills (sewing). For example, a refugee may have excellent communication skills (the ability to listen, read body language, to ask questions, give feedback) even though they may have minimal English ability.

Further, discover the client’s barriers and limitations before preparation of a resume. A client may have the physical strength to work in a fast-paced distribution center, for example, but may be easily distracted or become confused if the job requires a wide variety of functions in a short period. Religious and cultural factors also must be identified and resolved.

Step Three: Uniqueness

Resumes should be crafted individually for each client to support the client’s job goals. Thus one could be working with two clients who are very similar (say, civil engineers), and yet craft two resumes that are significantly different in form and content. Resumes can be written in a “human” voice using, when appropriate, the pronoun “I” and including wording such as, “I am seeking my first paid employment ever (I am 21-years-old) – I want to work, I want to do good work, and I want to help my employer be successful.”

Now you’re prepared to craft a focused client-specific resume that will be more likely to result in a client in finding and obtaining a meaningful job.

 

Does your agency have a unique approach to writing resumes with clients? If so, please share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Continue to follow Higher’s blog, for another post on resumes for advanced positions.

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Worker’s 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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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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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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Writing a Cover Letter that Stands Out

Cover letters are often a client’s first introduction to an employer, and should always be included with a job application. Like the resume, tailor the cover letter to the position announcement. The goal of a cover letter is to entice an employer to review the client’s resume and to secure an interview.

Here are five tips on how to structure and write a cover letter that will lead to an interview:

  1. Start off on the right step

The header on the cover letter should be a replica of that on the resume. A matching header gives the two documents an added professional look. These two documents should be submitted together. Be sure to include the date, candidate’s name and contact information.

  1. The greeting

Avoid nameless salutations such as, dear sir. It might take a little research but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score major brownie points. Never start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’

  1. The structure and body of the letter

Limit the letter to one page. Try to keep the cover letter to a maximum of three paragraphs. Keep it simple and clean, not cluttered. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal. Try not to use the same wording that is on the resume.

  • Paragraph 1: Have a strong opening statement that make it clear why the applicant wants the job and why he is right for it. Include the job title and how the candidate learned about the opening (e.g., company’s website, an employee referral, job search site).
  • Paragraph 2: Describe the candidate’s qualifications. A cover letter should show what she could bring to the company and the position. Give the job listing a careful read and see where the candidate’s experience best matches up. Then, reveal why the applicant is a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why she has chosen the employer or job. Briefly summarize the applicant’s talents, experience, and achievements. Use specifics. For example:
    • Office manager cover letter: I currently serve as office manager for a busy financial services firm, (XYZ Company), where I supervise a team of 12 employees and coordinate all office functions. My strengths in improving office systems and building a top-performing clerical team have earned repeat commendations and formal recognition from the company CEO.
    • Chef: Classically trained at the renowned XYZ Institute, I earned an AOS in culinary arts and mentored under celebrity chef Bill Jones as a sous chef for 3 years. Following this experience, I held executive chef positions within 4-star restaurants for a leading hospitality group and spent the past two years as a chef on luxury yachts.
    • IT: Key strengths include: High-volume ticket management. In my current position as helpdesk support specialist for XYZ Co, I handle 1,725+ tickets per month, fully resolving and documenting issues for future reference.
  • Paragraph 3: Follow up information. Mention that the resume is enclosed and indicate a desire to meet with the employer. Thank the employer for their consideration.
  1. Want an error-free and perfectly written cover letter? Then you must edit!

Make sure the letter has no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently passed over because of such mistakes. Take some time away from the document and return with fresh eyes, ready to edit. It’s always better to have a second person proofread the text as well.

Bonus Tip: Save both the resume and cover letter in the following format [last name, first name document title] for example [Redford, Nicole Resume]. Hiring managers like to be able to quickly find and access documents as they often receive dozens to hundreds of resume for any open position.

Need a template for a cover letter? Start with this one from CareerOneStop!

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Resume Writing: For Entry-Level Positions

At Higher, we receive many inquiries from the network on how to write a professional style resume with refugee clients. While this can be a time-consuming task, below is a sample illustrating vital areas to focus on for streamlining this process.

Start from the beginning. Explain to your client what a resume is and how to use it in their job search. Show visual examples of resumes and describe all the information that they will need to include. 

    1. Review what personal information is essential to ensure that prospective employers will be able to contact and stay in touch with the candidate.

     

    1. This section can also be titled Professional Experience. Providing accurate information and keywords is extremely helpful to employers. O’NET may be useful to gather descriptions of your client’s specific career or jobs.

     

    1. Include past education, as well as education and training that your client is currently undertaking. It is important to emphasize training and education that is relevant to the desired position. Including English Language classes for non-English speakers shows potential employers that the applicant is committed to learning.

     

    1. Listing skills that are crucial to particular industries may help a client get the job. Use Cultural Orientation Resource Center (CORE) lessons on identifying skills.

     

    1. Professional references are not always required on a resume, but they may provide a way for an employer to reach out to your agency to address concerns and give you the opportunity to advocate on your client’s behalf.

     

    1. Once completed, ensure that the client understands the resume’s description of their experience. Additionally, the client needs to know how to tailor resume revisions to job openings.

     

    1. Practice interviewing with the completed resume, as employers will likely use the resume as a basis for their interview.

     

    1. Finally, work with your clients so that they can understand how to identify accomplishments and responsibilities and update their resumes as they move from their first job and beyond.

For more information on resumes, see CareerOneStop’s online Resume Guide to help your client’s build a successful resume. Additionally, Higher has resources on our site and look for Higher’s Job Readiness Curriculum, coming soon!

What are some tools or ways your write resumes with your clients? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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