Good Ideas for Refugee Youth Employment

refugee youth image

Photo Credit: MYAN Australia

Higher Needs Your Advice about Successful Employment Strategies for Young Refugees

Innovative approaches to refugee youth employment is a priority topic at the upcoming Florida State Consultation in February.  I’ll be presenting several sessions and hope to learn from your advice and good ideas as I prepare.

Are there special  job development strategies, community resources or job readiness techniques that work for you?  How do you help clients think about balancing their dreams of higher education with the immediate pressures of contributing to family self-sufficiency?  How do you adjust your approaches to working with clients to best help refugee youth (ages 16-24)?  Any specific best practices for working with younger Cuban clients?

If you would be willing to share your expertise in an informal email or phone call, please let me know.

Depending on how my presentation shapes up, I might be able to bring in a guest presenter or two via skype and could offer a modest honorarium to help make that possible.

Thanks in advance for your assistance. 



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Guest Post: Manufacturing Hiring Managers Want Hard and Soft Skills

Allie Stoner

Allie Stoner, Supervisor of Employment Services, has been with Catholic Charities Diocese of Chicago for a year and a half. She became interested in working with refugees after traveling to multiple countries and working cross culturally in social services.

I recently attended the 2014 Youth Development Symposium presented by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP). Manufacturing for the 21st Century, a seminar led by Tim Spires, President and CEO of the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers outlined the specific qualities Hiring Managers look for in the manufacturing field.

Here is my summary of Spires’ remarks focusing on what’s important for job developers to know when reaching out to manufacturing employers.

Studies have shown that continued growth in the manufacturing industry creates more jobs for individuals seeking employment. There are manufacturing jobs available across the country for qualified applicants.

The manufacturing field offers stable hours, opportunities for advancement, and the chance to develop transferable skills.

Hiring managers look for a variety of skills when interviewing candidates. Both hard and soft skills are crucial for this type of work.

Manufacturing work is fast paced and difficult. In order to succeed in this atmosphere, refugee clients need to exhibit a sharp, hardworking attitude and approach to tasks. Attendance and timeliness is key, as well as a teachable and trainable response to constructive criticism. Employees should be self-motivated and able to interact respectfully with coworkers.

Refugee clients will succeed in the manufacturing field if they possess the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize tasks. Verbal communication skills are crucial; this type of work is better suited for clients who speak high levels of English. The qualified candidate will be able to make decisions and solve problems as part of a larger team. Data analysis skills and any relevant technical knowledge will also increase applicant competitiveness.

Note: Thanks to Allie for attending this great event and sharing some of what she learned. Thanks also to NAWDP for offering this opportunity to the refugee employment network. Higher and NAWDP recently discovered how much we have in common and are building ways we can collaborate more closely. Look for more in the coming month and check out NAWDP’s website.


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Ebola, Fear of Immigrants and Potential Impact on African Refugees


Dominique Faget | AFP | Getty Images

It’s hard not to feel afraid as the first case of Ebola in the US and rapidly increasing deaths in several African countries are featured in our news.  As we continue to resettle large numbers of Congolese, employers and community members may express concerns about their health.

We should be prepared to discuss (hopefully unfounded) backlash fears with clients, even though many have been here long before the current Ebola outbreak and may not have been in an affected country.

Liberian refugees were resettled before many of us were involved in this work, but they may be among the populations who also worry about friends and family still resident in Africa.

Here are several articles to help you think about various aspects of this issue that might have a direct impact on some aspect of your work in the coming weeks.

If anyone has plans or experience helping to overcome unfounded concerns related to Ebola, Higher would appreciate hearing from you so that we can share experiences and help others prepare just in case.

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When Refugees Can Work: The Case of Uganda

Uganda Refugee Work

Ali Daud Omar will repair your cell phone for $6. He’s one of the refugees benefiting from the Ugandan government’s right-to-work policy. (Photo Credit: Gregory Warner/NPR)

Are refugees who are able to work in their host countries or elsewhere along their journey able to transition more successfully to job readiness when they arrive in the US?

My theory, based largely on experience, is yes.  What experiences can you share that speak to the impact of the right to work in host countries on refugee resettlement success here in the US?

How it Looks in Uganda

Refugees and asylees have had the right to “practice a profession and have access to employment opportunities” in Uganda for 15 years.

Two recent articles and a 7 minute segment on NPR’s Planet Money podcast focus on their diverse contributions to the Ugandan economy as a result.  (Click HERE and HERE for the relevant links.)

According to a UNHCR country profile, the three largest populations of “concern planned for under the Uganda operation in 2014 are: asylum-seekers and refugees originating from the DRC, Somalia and South Sudan, the vast majority of whom have arrived over the past five years.”





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End of Summer Opportunities

back to schoolGet a jump on fall.  Here are ideas to think about NOW.

1.  Fall semester schedules and registration:  Gather information and make it widely available so clients can pursue good quality learning opportunities.  Community college sign-ups and orientation are coming up soon.  Consider sending employers the information.  All of their employees will benefit and they may be more flexible about granting time off to your clients.

2.  Turnover  in Student-related jobs:  There will be turnover in jobs filled by students as their schedules change for a  new semester.  Campus housing, maintenance and food service jobs will be widely available.  Watch for school district hiring fairs for kitchen and lunchroom monitor jobs.  Great for moms who need parttime work around children’s schedules.

3.  Start of busy season for hotels:  Business travel.  Cooler weather.  Dread of the coming holiday slowdown.  Hotels are gearing up for full occupancy now.  Get in touch with your hotel partners.  Approach a couple of new ones.  Consider organizing a special job readiness session focused on preparing for success in back of the house jobs.

4.  Special events staffing:  State fairs.  Fall concerts.  Football games.  All kinds of special events recruit staff to set-up, serve, and clean up.  These opportunities are great for extra income or to build US work experience.  Aramark and Sodexo are national contractors.  A quick google search or phone call should help you identify local contractors.


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Friday Feature: Congolese Family on Dancing With the Stars

Deo Mwano, who was resettled in the US from Congo as a child, was an inspiring keynote speaker at the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) annual conference in May.  Check out this great video that tells his families story and highlights their performance on Dancing With the Stars.

(Every Friday 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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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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Congolese by the Numbers

Largest Congolese Population by State - total 11,009

Slide and statistics by Ally Burleson-Gibson, Data Dissemination Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau

There are more than 11,000 Congolese living in the US, according to the latest US Census data.  The image included in this post highlights the largest populations by State.  These four largest State populations comprise 44% of the US total.

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Seattle Peer Exchange Workshop Day One

PicMonkey CollageA great first day.   50+ attendees from 9 states shared experiences working with Congolese clients and building strong employer relationships.

We learned about three social enterprise models (Muses Conscious Fashion, A Woven Thread and Providence Granola/Beautiful Day).  Check out their websites to learn more and shop!

Went into Seattle’s international district for dinner at a Cambodian restaurant owned by a former refugee.

Looking forward to day two.  Stay tuned to Higher’s blog for more pictures and some tips from the field that you can use, as well.

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Friday Feature: “10 Best” Books about Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo flagWe all continue to learn from our experience with an increasing number of arrivals from Congo.

I wanted to recommend a collection of resources to deepen our knowledge.  It’s difficult to call any of the options I found “entertainment”.  They’re a grim lot, reflective of the long history that contributed to the reasons behind refugee arrivals.

A reading list originally published in The Guardian contained several of the titles I was considering and others I didn’t know about.  Many are written by names you’ll recognize.  It’s worth a look.

And if anyone can recommend something to balance out this heavy list, please let me know.

(Every Friday 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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