Female Genital Cutting


Naima Abdullahi runs a support group for victims of genital cutting. She was cut at age 9. Photo Credit: Amber Fouts for The New York Times

Working with cultural differences is important in our work.  Remaining judgment free is a critical skill that some may find difficult around the issue of female genital cutting.

Did you know that 98% of women in Somalia and 89% in Eritrea are cut?  Did you know that “vacation cutting” (performed when US-resident daughters visit their countries or origin or relatives elsewhere during school holidays) is common enough in the US to have a name?  Neither did I.

A recent New York Times article shocked me.  I asked a few trusted advisors how to frame this information in a blog post and if I should even post about it at all.

If anyone has insight about how this issue could affect employment services and our work with clients, please share.





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LGBTQ Employment Perspectives

rainbowLGBTQ clients face additional barriers to employment.  Sometimes, those barriers can include misconceptions and stereotypes on the part of employers, colleagues and, even employment professionals.

We are mindful of how cultural differences might affect our clients success and the ways we can best help them.  Working with LGBTQ clients should be handled with the same attention and respect.

Heartland Alliance, an ORR technical assistance contractor, offers two great resources to help you develop successful strategies for providing effective services.  Each include a special section on employment.  Download them both here. 

To learn more about how to identify and address cultural sterotypes, watch a clip from Higher’s Workplace Culture training.

Two points from the Heartland Alliance resources were especially relevant to my own experience working with LGBT clients.  It would be great if others could share their experience or questions.

Documentation and Legal Names

New hire paperwork must be completed with the client’s legal name as it appears on their eligibility documentation (i.e. I-9 or EAD).  No matter the client’s gender identity, a mismatch during an employment eligibility verification causes problems for clients and employers.

Although documentation issues can usually be resolved, for LGBTQ clients, this situation can also have the unintended consequence of disclosing identity issues better explained in a different way.

How to Communicate with Employers?

After heated debate, my team decided not to disclose a client’s gender identity as we were helping her apply for a job with one of our most trusted employment partner.  The recommendation included in Heartland Alliance’s publication is to consider having a conversation with trusted employers to ensure they are sensitive to the participant’s transgender identity.

When the employer realized the situation (after the client got the job offer and began to work), it put a bit of stress on our relationship, but we were able to work together to modify corporate processes to make everyone comfortable in the workplace.



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Higher’s On-line Learning Institute: Cross Cultural Competence

Higher’s Employability Assessment training has a great section about self-awareness and stereotypes that might affect clients in the workplace.

It was developed with significant input from MG and Higher ORR Program Officer Tom Giossi.  (Thanks, Tom).

Check out the two minute clip below and request a free user name and password for Higher’s eLearning portal today at http://higheradvantage.org/connect-to-highers-online-learning-institute/.

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ESL and Workforce Preparedness

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

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

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

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

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




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New CAL Congolese Video

The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) Cultural Orientation Resource Center has just made a great new resource available.

Watch a 30 minute film featuring Congolese talking about various aspects of their experience for new arrivals.  Some of the information is employment related.

You can also download a transcript and toolkit to help you use the video in your work with clients.

Higher is preparing a more employment-focused video resource that will be available this fall.  Stay tuned.




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Free Download of Picture Vocabulary Guides

picture guide snip

Selected images from the Food Service Picture Guide in Arabic. Provided by Caritas of Austin, TX

Blending short term vocational training, job readiness and ESL is a best practice we see across the refugee employment network.

When the trainings also respond to employer needs and engage employers in the design and implementation, they boost both job development success and client self-sufficiency.

Caritas of Austin, TX developed a series of picture vocabulary guides in a number of client languages for use in their short term training programs focused on entry level hotel housekeeping and food service careers.  The guides have been very well received by employers and clients.

  • Clients find them helpful for learning English and communicating with guests.
  • Employers have been able to use them to facilitate supervisory conversations.  They perceive them as a valuable resource provided by a valued partner helping them meet their hiring and employee objectives.

These great picture vocabulary guides are once again available for donwload at Higher’s website.

Click here to find versions in multiple languages.  We hope to make additional language versions available later, so stay tuned.

A recent webinar highlighting Job Readiness Class Models offered several great resources and field experience that will be highlighted in blog posts over the next several days.

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New Refugee Employment Strategy in Colorado

CO model photo

Colorado employment staff during start-up training on the new model.

In December, 2013, the State of Colorado Refugee Services Program (CRSP) launched a comprehensive new refugee employment strategy.  Based on six months of planning and preparation, this new model will refine refugee employment and job placement strategies statewide.

The innovative new approach affects funding, collaborative structures and staffing patterns in resettlement agencies.  

Although it’s too early to fully assess the impact on clients and potential implications outside Colorado, CRSP Training and Employment Coordinator Hillary Prag will help us follow the evolution of the model. 

Click here to read an overview followed by an interview with Hillary.  Stay tuned for more over the next several months and send us your questions and comments. 


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Two Job Readiness Models Using Higher On-line Training

Learn how two Employment Professionals are using two courses from Higher’s On-line Learning Institute in their job readiness classes.

Read highlights from their live presentations at a recent Higher webinar to learn about different approaches to job readiness class and several creative ways you can use our on-line training tools to make your work with clients more effective:

Higher:  Can you describe the context and approach you take to using Higher’s on-line trainings?

david roth

David Roth (DR) with Lutheran Services Carolinas started his work as Job Developer in January of this year and is just developing an approach to teaching clients job readiness skills.

Brittani Mcleod (BMc):  We use How to Complete a Job Application in our upper level job readiness class, which includes six classes offered over a two week period.  We conduct an ESL assessment for each client and all three members of my team and I conduct job readiness classes.  We have talking points and are able to pause the training when appropriate to expand or offer practice.

For example, the Job Application training talks about offering a professional voice message so employers can respond to a successful job application.  We pause the training here and help each attendee set up or revise their voicemail messages accordingly.

David Roth (DR):  I have used How to Complete a Job Application and Workplace Culture in a 5-7 person classroom setting with very mixed audiences in terms of ethnicity, level of English and time in the US.  They have both been well-received and useful.  Each session took about two hours with interpreters involved in going through the entire training in a classroom setting.

Higher:  Have you had any trouble with the technology?

Brittani Mcleod

Brittani Mcleod, Senior Job Development Specialist, Catholic Community Services of Utah in Salt Lake City, has worked in refugee employment for five years. Her four person team conducts a well-established job readiness class curriculum on a regular basis.

BMc:  There have been no tech issues.  It’s been great.  We’re well trained on how to use it, so no.

DR:  We offer job readiness classes in multiple locations.  Some of them have limited or no internet access.  I would be able to use it more if it were available off-line.

Note:  Higher is working on the best way to make the training available off-line to make it even more convenient for David and others.  Stay tuned. 

Higher:  How have the trainings been helpful?

BMc:  How to complete a job application is one of the most difficult skills to teach.  They involve lots of vocabulary and take a great deal of time to explain.  Higher’s module is well researched to identify the real struggles and barriers refugees face and breaks those down well.  It’s great.

DR:  I have used both How to Complete a Job Application and Workplace Culture.  For both, I like the positive explanations that build transferable skills and teach concepts, as well as practical details.

The Job Applications module emphasized the importance of communication.  Completing an application that is neat, complete and follows instructions demonstrates those important qualities to an employer.  This concept definitely comes through in the training.

The Workplace Culture module explains the importance of unspoken assumptions and expectations in the workplace.  The training explains that US work culture often values efficiency over patience and creates a positive framework that will help clients navigate situations they will face in the workplace.



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Great ESL Resources from Tacoma Community House

Literate vs illiterate learnersTacoma Community House in Washington State has agreed to share their excellent practical resource for pre-literate adult English learners, called Making it Real:  Teaching Pre-literate Adult Refugee Students.

While it doesn’t focus solely on job readiness, there are many concepts and practical techniques you can easily adapt for your own use.  The important differences between literate and non-literate learners at left is excerpted from the publication.

Tacoma Community House has an entire page full of useful and practical resources.  You can find a complete list at their website.

Last week’s webinar highlight Job Readiness Class Models and Resources offered several great resources and field experience that will be highlighted in blog posts over the next several days.

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Characteristics of “Good Employees”

Concrete star closeThis recent article outlines key soft skills that employers are looking for in today’s job market.

Here is a summary of the list, which you will recognize from your job readiness efforts with clients.

  • accept criticism
  • flexibility
  • problem solving
  • self confidence
  • working under pressure
  • teamwork
  • time management
  • positive attitude

There are so many ways to use these terms to help clients understand the importance of soft skills.  A useful way to frame them is characteristics the employers want in “good employees”.

Repetition of important information in a variety of settings and contexts is the most effective strategy for helping clients learn new concepts and skills.  You can use characteristics in job readiness class, in interview preparation and even in intake sessions.

Read a previous blog post (Practical Strategy for Working with Clients) to learn how one Employment Specialist uses a list of characteristics employers look for and download the list he uses.







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