The Best Resource for Comprehensive Job Development Skills

Job Development Essentials CoverMany social media posts use superlatives that often end up being more hype than substance.  In this case, “best” is a deliberate and valid word choice.  Job Development Essentials:  a guide for job developers is a comprehensive manual for all of the techniques and strategies you need to master.  It really captures the diversity and duality of our roles:

“Whatever the job title – job developer, employment specialist or account exec. – the task of job development involves linking employers with job seekers and job seekers with employers.  Regardless of what they’re called…, all have the same fundamental task:  to find jobs for people who seek them and, in many cases, to help ensure that job seekers remain in the workforce…Certain job developers have the luxury of devoting all of their time to these duties; others juggle a variety of responsibilities.  Acting as the bridge between these two worlds – those of employers and job seekers – is a daunting role…Balancing these competing demands is the art of job development.”

Download this great publication, and companion facilitators guide and trainee workbook here.

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5 Creative Ways to Help Clients Master Job Interview Skills

It’s easy to get bored with a topic you repeat so many times, like teaching newly arriving refugees about interview skills for the U.S. workplace.  However, it is an important topic for every client and there’s always room to improve (this applies to everyone, not just refugees).  Clients get bored with it too.  Here are some ideas you can consider to keep it fresh.

  1. Engage Volunteers:  You might not always be able to spend the time that’s needed on individual interview practice with each client.  Interview practice is a fun and stand-alone task that is perfect for volunteers.
    1. Add Quick Practice Into Job Readiness Class:  As basic interview concepts are being presented, include a few rounds of individual practice.  Have everyone stand up one by one, shake hands with you and introduce themselves.  You can take the same approach to answering and asking common interview questions.  For example, begin every client meeting with a handshake and greeting.
    2. Deepen Relationships with Key Employers:  Offer employer contacts the chance to get more involved.  Schedule a convenient time for employers and clients to conduct a few mock interviews.  Employers often express how much they enjoy these kinds of experiences.  And engaging them more will strengthen the relationship for future hires. Clients will benefit, too!
    3. Assign “Homework” for the Next Scheduled Appointment:  Sometimes clients need more time to think of answers or feel ready to express their thoughts in English.  Give them specific interview questions and encourage them to practice their answers before the next appointment.  This also helps encourage individual responsibility for their own successful job search.
    4. Rethink On-line Screening Questionnaires:  Wait a second – don’t tune out.  Everyone hates them, but screening questionnaires (like at Walmart and Office Depot) can be good sources of questions you can use in interview practice. In fact, they are really the same as an on-line job interview and are becoming increasingly common in today’s job market.   If a client aspires to a customer service job and can’t navigate an online screening questionnaire, they might not be ready for that kind of job.
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Advice from a Career in Workforce Development

Harry Crawford retires as Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin today.  In his honor, we are reposting this summary of two pieces of his advice.  Harry Crawford

” I wanted to introduce you to Harry Crawford.  he’s the Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin – my boss.  He has more than 25 years of experience in workforce development. Lots of times in meetings with outside agencies, I  have to laugh because everyone ends up taking notes while Harry explains something we all need to understand.  Two pieces of his wisdom are counter-intuitive, but they always guide us through difficult aspects of working with clients, so I wanted to share them with you.

Some Clients Have to Hit the Wall: Sometimes, no mater what you do, clients have a hard time reconciling themselves to taking the first available, entry level job.  Sometimes we call it a survival or starter job.  When we’re feeling stress and worry about their family’s financial stability, Harry reminds us that some clients have to hit the wall before they can internalize the need to start in a job that they may feel is beneath them.  When they run out of options and money, they are forced to accept the realities of US work culture and that’s the best thing for them in the long term.

Finding a Job is a Numbers Game: We emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for their own success from our initial client intakes throughout all of our workshops and one-on-one coaching.  We try not to put more effort into a job search than the clients are giving themselves.  A lot of them get really frustrated by applying for lots of jobs and never even getting a response.  It builds their skills and, eventually, if they apply enough places, someone will call and they’ll find a job. ”

 

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Stressed about ObamaCare (ACA)?

Piggy bank, dollar and stethoscopeWe’ve heard a lot of you express anxiety about what the Affordable Coverage Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, will mean for refugees and how to adjust the information and services you offer accordingly.

Addressing family wellness is a huge part of what case managers do for our clients.  Employment professionals need to be aware of those issues and how to address them as barriers to employment.  Most clients no longer receive intensive post-arrival case management by the time their eight month Medicaid eligibility expires and they are eligible for employer-provided health insurance benefits.

No matter how much you explain and help clients navigate our complex system, it remains bewildering.  Even if ACA offers improved coverage for our clients, learning about it and then helping refugees understand and access those benefits seems overwhelming.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and technical assistance provider RefugeeHealth Technical Assistance Center (RHTAC) have already thought about that.  Resources – including translated materials in several refugee languages – are already available to help you understand and navigate the new system, with more to come.  These great resources will help ease the stress now. We’ll point you to additional resources and provide more information as it becomes available.

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provides an overview of ACA, what it means for refugees and links to other related sites.  They also provide a downloadable Fact Sheet that will be useful when advocating for healthcare access rights (i.e. interpretation) with medical service providers or other agencies.

RefugeeHealth Technical Assistance Center (RHTAC) provides a straightforward explanation of ACA and its implications for refugee health care access.  At this site, you can also find downloadable Fact Sheets translated into Arabic, Burmese and Nepali.

Health Insurance Marketplace , the official government site to access ACA benefits, packs alot of information into their site.  The page I found most helpful offers resources in several languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese and Russian. A brief downloadable statement of the right to get information about ACA in your native language includes the 1-800 number to call for language access.  The statement is translated into several languages, including Amharic, Arabic, French, Hindi and Persian.

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How to Use Video for Interview Practice

Fancy Camera graphic for video mock interviewDon’t let fancy, expensive technology  scare you off.  You can use your smart  phone or desk top camera or your daughter’s pink princess flip cam to record  questions for a simple mock interview.  The How-to is outlined in this great piece from The Guardian Online.

Pre-recording interview questions simulates the feeling of responding in real time, which can help client practice feel more real.  We repeat interview questions multiple times for every client.  Using this approach can save time and help you be more than one place at once.  I can think of several ways to use this approach to help refugee clients:

  • I’m often surprised at how soon many clients are able to get a smart phone. You could record a few questions onto their phone and show them how to play them back for practice at home. They might even be able to record their final responses and bring them back in to your next appointment so you could provide feedback.

 

  • Volunteers could use prerecorded questions from you (loaded on to a USB memory stick) to help client practice exactly the questions you want them to work on together.

 

  • You could use this approach in Job Readiness classes using someone other than the instructor as the “interviewer”. This could also help clients practice comprehension with multiple speakers of English.
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How to Use FREE Online Training and Education Resources

ToMortar Boardday, I found a great list of 20 free on-line educational resources through Higher’s FlipBoard magazine that includes some I’ve heard of and others that are new to me.   I wish I had time to investigate each one to evaluate the quality – which varies widely in on-line education and training offerings.  I can still think of several ways we could use these in our work with clients.

Addressing Language Skills:  If a client has already studies a subject in their native language, a basic course could help them learn vocabulary and terminology in English or help them understand what emphasis or application might be different in the US context.  At least one of the sites (Alison.com) offers courses in Arabic language.  The MIT site offers courses translated into Spanish, Persian and several other languages.  There are likely other non-English language resources available from among the list.

Helping Clients Learn Basic (and more Advanced) Workplace Skills:  A couple of the sites offer courses on basic workplace skills and topics like project management, how to find a mentor, health and safety requirements and an overview of the manufacturing process.  These are likely not covered in job readiness class, but many clients could benefit from learning more about them.

Access basic US-style academic courses:  It can be frustrating for clients who yearn to attend college or University, but aren’t quite ready.  Many times, clients sign-up for on-line degrees and don’t understand the financial and time commitment or what it takes to succeed in on-line learning.  Helping clients identify relevant courses could satisfy their desire to learn while working full-time and help them understand the skills they need to succeed in any academic environment.  Some of the sites include standardized test preparation materials, as well.

Figuring out Technical Career Paths:  So many clients say they “know about computers”, but don’t know how those skills are segmented and applied in the job market.  Often, I struggled to figure out career paths and industry leads for technical skills that were completely unfamiliar to me.  With a little research, it seems like you could improve your understanding of these sectors and identify resources for clients to do so.

It would be great to hear from you about which sites you found useful and how you used them.  We’re all busy, but maybe if you can provide the list to clients, they can tell you what was useful for them.

And, stay tuned to begin using Higher’s new on-line training courses in the next month or so.  Our initial topics include  How to Communicate with Employers (for employment professionals) and Workplace Culture (for clients).  If you want to get involved in field testing to be among the first to use this great new resource designed just for us, get in touch at info@higheradvantage.org.

 

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Great Job Opportunity in a Great City and Agency

Higher is considering how we can help advertise refugee employment job opportunities.  Career growth in this field might mean moving to another agency or city.  For agencies, being able to cast a wider net for talent and experience can be costly.  Helping agencies and the refugee employment sector attract and retain people with skills, passion and experience is central to our mission.  We’ll be exploring how best to do that.  Feel free to tell us what you think about this or give us suggestions about other things we can do related to career development for refugee employment professionals.

For now, here’s a link to an exciting position open now – Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin, TX.  The position manages 10 people and oversees employment services to approximately 1,000 (primarily refugee) clients a year in the largest non-profit social service agency in the County.

 

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Research Study Measures Economic Benefits of Job Upgrades Into Professional Career Tracks

It’s often difficult to help refugees with job upgrades or professional recertification, but the added income for refugees and contribution to the US economy make a  significant difference.  Skilled immigrants increased their average annualized salary by 121% (from an average of $16.967 to $37,490) when they begin working in a better job in their field.  A research study released by Upwardly Global in April of this year, documents and quantifies the economic benefits of employment assistance to help skilled immigrants secure job upgrades related to the careers in which they offer skills and experience.    Look for more resources and examples of job upgrade strategies and successes in professional recertification in the coming months at http://higheradvantage.org.

 

 

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Resources from DOL!

We just added some Department of Labor fact sheets to the Resources section of our site. Check them out to learn more about how American Job Centers and the Workforce Investment System can help support refugee workers in your community.

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African Community Center of Denver’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program

During our last webinar (click here to view the slideshow), Donna Kapp, Training Programs Manager for
ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, shared a little bit about how she uses labor market information to inform employer outreach. Afterward, we caught up with Donna to learn a little more about the ACC’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program.

Can you share any successes of the program?DSC02822[2]
CFaSST graduates are often better prepared for work in a commercial kitchen than most Americans! At the beginning of the course, CFaSST participants take a pre-test to determine their familiarity with food safety and to set a benchmark from which to measure their learning. The average pre-test score is 39%. After several weeks of learning in the classroom, field trips, special speakers and applying their learning in a commercial kitchen, every student has passed the post test. In fact, the average score on the posttest is 87% and two participants have scored 100%!

What is the program? What do refugees learn?
CFaSST, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training, is a 100 hour, highly accessible and interactive course on the rules and regulations of commercial food preparation and service in America. It includes information on the importance of food safety, the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them. Participants learn how to prevent foodborne illness by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination, preparing and holding food at the correct temperatures, storing food correctly and cleaning and sanitizing in the commercial kitchen.

They also learn the basics of customer service, how to handle a knife, English vocabulary related to the commercial food industry, and the soft skills employers are looking for in their newly hired employees. Through a dynamic partnership with the University of Denver, the course is offered in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management building on campus. CFaSST participants are able to learn course content in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the event center kitchen.

This partnership also makes possible unique learning opportunities for both students and staff who interact with the CFaSST program on campus. Undergraduate students enrolled in the “Human Capital Management” course develop very close relationships with CFaSST participants. Each CFaSST participant is mentored by one or two university undergrads to learn more about the hospitality industry and how to find and interview for food service positions. For many, this “assignment” becomes a gateway to new friendships as CFaSST participants and university undergrads get to know each other and move forward toward the common goal of employment in the hospitality industry.

While CFaSST participants benefit a great deal from the experience, university students also learn how to interact with and train someone who may be older than they, who might not speak much English and comes from a very diverse cultural background. Students graduating from the university have described this mentoring relationship as one of their most significant learning experiences during their four years at the university.

Check out this article to learn about the program from the perspective of the students and faculty.

How many refugees have completed the program?
Since the program began in the spring of 2012, 46 adult refugees have graduated from the course with certificates of completion, safe food handler cards and their own bimetallic stemmed thermometers.

DSC00370[1][4]Of those that have completed the program, how many have been hired in the hospitality industry?
Since last year, 76% of those enrolled in CFaSST found employment within 90 days of completing the course. Most of those placements occurred within the first 30 days after graduation. 81% of those employed are working in food service related positions such as cook, prep cook, kitchen utility worker, dishwasher, steward and concession stand worker.

We have worked hard to build relationships with various employers in the Denver metro area. CFaSST graduates are working in many different businesses including Chili’s Restaurants, the Sheraton Hotel, Coors Field (where the Rockies, Colorado’s professional baseball team, play), the University of Denver, and many other local commercial food businesses.

What are some of the challenges of the program?
Through experience, we’ve learned that food service jobs are difficult to find right before the holidays. Consequently, we’ve reorganized the schedule so that this fall participants will complete the course and be ready for employment in mid-October rather than late November.  Employment placements are high in Denver right now so it is sometimes difficult to get enough referrals from Volag staff. Fortunately, CFaSST enjoys an excellent reputation within the community and many individuals refer themselves to the program.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone that would like to start a program like this?
Training programs for adult refugees should be closely tied to the American workplace in order to prepare them for employment. That means programs should instruct in the hard and soft skills employers are looking for while building participants’ workplace English vocabulary. Look for employer partners who understand and value the opportunity such programs offer them to contribute to the training content and then hire well prepared employees.

In the classroom, instructors should not be afraid to challenge their students with difficult material while creating a positive and safe environment that encourages learning through a variety of methods and activities. CFaSST participants are always respected as mature and capable learners who, through hard work, rise to the expectations of the instructors.

To learn more about CFaSST, please contact Donna Kapp, donna@acc-den.org or 303-399-4500 x331.

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