WES Pilot Provides Alternative Credential Assessments for Syrian Refugees

Resettled refugees often face several barriers to formal recognition of their credentials, preventing them from reaching their full career potential. This is especially problematic for refugees arriving without official documentation such as a completed transcript, diploma or other proof. A World Education Services (WES) pilot in Canada has tested an “alternative assessment” methodology using available evidence of educational attainment and professional achievements when these official documents cannot be obtained. WES is a non-profit organization that evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications.

As Canada has resettled more Syrian refugees, local institutions and employers voiced concern that these refugees, many of whom are highly-educated, would not have access to recognized credential documents for pursuing higher education or regulated professions in the future.

“Because Syria had a highly-literate population and a well-functioning education system before the war, we knew many of these refugees would be highly educated, proficient in English or French and determined to resume professional careers or pursue further study. Recognition of previous education in Syria, therefore, would become a priority for these individuals, since it is critical to this goal,” shared Denise Jillions, Associate Director of WES Global Talent Bridge, during a recent webinar about the pilot project.

WES started exploring the degree of support among academic institutions and regulatory bodies for an alternative assessment model allowing for use of non-verifiable or incomplete documents, in contrast to their standard strict document policy. They decided to move forward in testing a new service delivery model among Syrian refugees in Canada to determine the validity and potential utility of alternative assessments. WES received 337 applications for the pilot program between July 2016 and May 2017, and they were able to prepare Alternative Credential Assessments for applicants who submitted at least one piece of documentary evidence.

Preliminary Findings

78% of refugee participants surveyed after the project indicated that the Alternative Credential Assessment will be useful in taking next steps toward their education and/or career goals. About 20% of those surveyed who already have plans for using the assessment indicated they would like to pursue a new profession, with the majority of respondents reporting they would like to use their assessment to pursue higher education, return to their original profession or find a similar position suited to their level of experience and education.

About 73% of end-users, including academic institutions and employers, reported confidence in the alternative methodology for assessing credentials. Some institutions reported that they are already accepting the assessment for admission to colleges, universities and regulated professions, while other institutions are still reaching a decision on how to use it.

WES hopes to expand this pilot program to the U.S. in the future, and will report their final findings and plans when the project analysis is complete. In the meantime, check out their 2016 report, Providing Pathways for Refugees: Practical Tips for Credential Assessment, which includes six steps for credential assessment for refugees and displaced people.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

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Employment Authorization Document Delays Affecting Cuban Entrants

Higher has received several reports that the Employment Authorization Documents or EAD cards are processing slowly in Florida and other states that see Cuban entrants. The current delay is about six months or more, impacting self-sufficiency and enrollment in employment programs.

If you have Cuban clients that have been waiting more than 75 days for their EAD, you may want to inform your National Headquarters (if applicable) and the State Refugee Coordinator, and you may choose to file a report with USCIS. To file a USCIS report, follow the information below.

If your EAD application has been pending for 75 days or more (25 or more if initial asylum), you may create an e-request online, or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. For customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or have speech disabilities which require accommodation: TTY)/ASCII: (800) 877-8339, Voice: (866) 377-8642, Video Relay Service (VRS): (877) 709-5798, to request creation of a service request. Either method will send the inquiry to the USCIS office where your case is pending so that it can be flagged for priority processing.

USCIS offers the advice here, for applicants experiencing delays in the processing of I-765s.

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Friday Feature: The SIV story on This American Life podcast

This Friday we hope you will listen to a podcast with powerful stories of Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients. This American Life is my favorite podcast. The amazing stories of real people always help take my mind off the daily grind. For employment staff who work hard to find better job for those SIVs who are highly educated and often speak English quite well I hope you will enjoy this podcast.

This American Life is an American weekly hour-long radio program produced by WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and hosted by Ira Glass. It is broadcast on numerous public radio stations in the United States and is also available as a free weekly podcast. Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also features essays, memoirs, field recordings, and short fiction.

On January 6, 2017 This American Life aired episode 607: “Didn’t We Solve this One?” This episode masterfully captures the journey of Iraqis who took on the harrowing task of helping US forces juxtaposed against the struggle in Congress to create the SIV program. The SIV program brings Iraqis to the US who served the US forces and now their lives are targeted because of the work they did for the US.

For more information on the SIV program read this post: Afghan and Iraqi SIV Programs

Access the podcast here 

 

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CLINIC Survey: Is Your Program Serving More Haitians?

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), needs information on newly arrived Haitians. Has your office seen the arrival of Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)? CLINIC is ORR’s TA provider on immigration and legal rights for refugees. 

CLINIC plans to offer a webinar in late January or early February that will focus on how to best serve recently arrived Haitians who qualify for TPS. CLINIC has created a brief survey that will inform the content of this webinar.

Click here to take the survey before it closes on Friday, January 13th.

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Workforce Resource: Career Resources for Youth

Jess Wyatt/Refugee Youth Project, Baltimore, MD

Jess Wyatt/Refugee Youth Project, Baltimore

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) includes youth workforce development programs and resources aimed at both in-school and out-of-school youth, with a strong emphasis on out-of-school youth between the ages of 16-24. Since most refugee resettlement programs do not have youth-specific employment programs, being familiar with the resources available to youth through the mainstream workforce development system can be a game-changer for younger refugees. Here are a few key programs and resources to be aware of:

  • Job Corps is a nationwide program that offers free career training in variety of industries. This program is aimed at giving young people the skills they need in order to obtain employment and become self-sufficient. Job Corps is located in all 50 states, but some states have several sites whereas states like Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Alaska only have one Job Corps center.
  • Youthbuild is an organization that is found in 46 states and aims to give construction skills to low income out-of-school youth. The program aims to put the participants on a path to responsible adulthood and teaches them to give back to the local community. The 10-month program pairs classroom learning with construction skills so that teens leave the program with a GED and professional skills. Participants spend about 50% of their time in academic classrooms and the rest of the time is spent on hands-on job training building affordable housing or other community assets. The program serves around 10,000 low-income young people each year and includes mentoring, follow-up education, employment, and personal counseling services.
  • AmeriCorps is a civil service program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, and corporations with the goal of serving local communities. Participants commit to full-time or part-time positions offered by a network of nonprofit community organizations and public agencies, to fulfill assignments in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection.  AmeriCorps is a wonderful opportunity to expose youth to the needs of their own community while also giving them valuable professional skills as well has professional references. Additionally, anyone who completes AmeriCorps is given an educational award with which to use towards an associates, bachelor or master’s degree.
  • Refugee AmeriCorps is a type of AmeriCorps program, that places members at refugee resettlement agencies. Volunteering with AmeriCorps, full or part time, can be a great way to get work experience and give back to the community.  To learn about AmeriCorps volunteer opportunities, visit the AmeriCorps website, or reach out to your local resettlement agencies to learn if they have an Refugee AmeriCorps position available.

In order to gain access to these programs, your agency will need to take the initiative to reach out to these organizations to introduce your population. Like any partnership you will need to consider the cost and benefits of pursuing collaboration with these mainstream programs. For example how much staff time does it take to establish and maintain partnership versus simply doing job development for clients? It may be better to gather other resettlement agencies in your area to act as a larger network when planning partnership with these mainstream programs.

In addition to youth programs, there are also online resources geared towards youth:

youthrulesYouth Rules! – This is a great online resource for tech savvy youth who have a higher level of English skills. The site covers the child labor laws and minimum age for employment in each state. There is a great Youth Worker Toolkit that is basically a 101 on working in the US for youth similar to job readiness training that refugee agencies provide.

All of the presentations are colorful and interactive and there are even helpful free apps for listening to webinars or keeping track of work hours and pay dates.

This resource is a great place to explore different options for part-time work or training. There are forums and blogs and even instructions on how to report violation of workers’ rights.

GetMyFuture is a resource available on careeronestop.org that provides a “dashboard” or “portal” for youth who need information on a range of education and career related topics. For example, youth can get information about writing a resume, applying for college, starting a business, or access assessment tools that will help identify suitable careers based on interest and skills.

All of these programs and websites offer an array of resources related to educational and career resources for youth as well as ideas for topics to cover in job readiness instruction. These resources are easy to navigate but many of them are text heavy and would be difficult for clients without English proficiency to use independently. You may want to consider translating some of the resources into a curriculum for refugee youth or using them during one-on-one sessions between a refugee and volunteer.

For easy links to these and other youth-related resources, check out the clickable Mainstream Youth Employment Resources tool we created this past Spring.

Ask us your questions and share your success stories about working with refugee youth by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Webinar Announcement: International Perspectives On Connecting Immigrant and Refugee Youth to Employment

Looking for ideas and inspiration for connecting immigrant and refugee youth to employment? Tuning in to ideas from other countries resettling refugees can be a helpful way to get some fresh perspective and think outside the box.

This Wednesday at 10:00 AM EST, Canada-based Cities of Migration will host a webinar featuring “enterprising ideas from Stockholm and Paris that are connecting talented young people to jobs while helping businesses tap the diversity advantage.”

The webinar will highlight strategies such as social enterprises, vocational training and mentorship programs that help prepare under/un-employed immigrant and refugee youth for the labour market while promoting the values of corporate diversity and leadership to employers.

To register, click here: http://citiesofmigration.ca/webinar/youthemployment/

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Friday Feature: What’s Changing in Cuba?

cuba

Photo Credit:  Patrick Oppman in CNN

Read, see and hear what Cuba is like now in a multi-media feature from CNN.  Images, a video and article from Patrick Oppman focus on the effects of increased travel and reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.

For all of us who resettle Cuban payrolees, we’ve felt the changes in recent and ongoing surges in Cuban arrivals.  Check out previous Higher Friday Features and other posts highlighting ongoing changes affecting Cuban clients.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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Friday Feature: How to Respond to Islamophobia

Click on this buzzfeed.com article for a simple strategy to respond to Islamophobia when you witness individuals facing harassing behavior.  You’ll also find inspiration in the Iranian-Armenian French creator of the cartoon guide and the positive response to her work via her tumblir site: http://maeril.tumblr.com/

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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Snapshot of Refugee Arrivals Data Through July 2016

The current surge in arrivals portrayed in three graphics that will help you place your own experience into national perspective.

Most states have received some of the 7,500+ Syrians to arrive in the US since the beginning of FY16. Five States – Michigan, California, Arizona, Texas and Pennsylvania – have resettled the highest number of Syrians.  As of the end of July, Myanmar, DRC and Syria were the top nationalities being resettled in the U.S.

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New CORE Videos Offer Useful Employment Stories

SIV Stories:  Starting Anew in the United States

Three new videos from the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) include excellent first hand stories from Iraqi and Afghan SIVs about their employment experience.

They specifically discuss adjusting expectations around starter jobs, realistic hourly wages, career advancement and how many members of a family might need to work.

Each one is 10-15 minutes long, so you might want to first identify where to queue just the part you want to use in your job readiness activities. They’re available in English, Arabic and Farsi.

SIV Video Series

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