Syrian Refugee Employment: Facts and Characteristics

syrianwelcomeLearn several insights about some of the expectations and cultural differences we will need to consider when helping Syrians successfully enter the U.S. workforce. Syrians are as diverse as any client population we resettle, so these are only general observations and trends.

The information is summarized from expert presentations heard last week in Detroit, Michigan from a resettlement agency’s statistics and experience resettling 18 Syrian families, the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Director of a program that works with refugees in Egypt, including Syrians.

First, a few statistics about the 2,290 Syrians resettled in the U.S. since 2011.

  • More than half (1,680) were resettled in the past fiscal year.
  • 59% are families (with at least one adult and at least one child).
  • 54% are under the age of 18. 1% are over the age of 65.
  • Less than 3% are single women-led households and less than 2% are single men not part of a family.
  • Less than 4% are Christians*

*Only 10% of all Syrians are Christian. Many live in relatively stable areas of the country and have chosen to remain. A significant number of those who did flee are in Lebanon, where the U.S. is not currently able to process refugees for resettlement in the U.S.

  1. Expectations and Technical Skills. Syrians have high expectations that they will be able to work in jobs that use their skills and training. Many bring experience and training in agriculture or skilled trades like construction, plumbing or electricity. We might find fewer professional certifications or advanced degrees than with other recent Middle Eastern populations we’ve resettled.
  1. Lifestyles and Quality of Life. Syrian heads of household are motivated to accept early employment so they can provide their families with a similar lifestyle to the one they were forced to leave behind. Across rural/urban settings as well as class and economic status, Syrians enjoyed a relatively high quality of life.
  1. Traditional Roles for Women. In general, women are not expected or accustomed to working outside of the home. The ability for them to play the role of homemaker is related to cultural values and perceptions of a high quality of life. Their educational attainment is likely to be less (middle school) than that of men (high school).
  1. English and Driving. Syrians are very aware of the importance of English language skills and the ability to drive for achieving the quality of life and success they want. They are motivated to learn these skills, which are not as common upon arrival as we might have expected.


Please follow and like us:

Friday Feature: Soup for Syria

soupforsyriaClick here to support Syrian refugees, stay warm as winter settles in and buy holiday presents at the same time.

Nearly 80 acclaimed chefs have contributed soup recipes for a humanitarian cookbook project whose profits will be donated to UNHCR to provide urgently needed food relief for Syrian refugees.

(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.)


Please follow and like us:

How Can Refugee Employment Professionals Respond to Paris Attacks?

parisWhat are any immediate effects you’re hearing related to client jobs and employer partners after the horrible events in Paris this weekend? Please share what you’re experiencing and how you’re responding at

Employers may have questions and concerns. Refugee’s work colleagues may be afraid or angry and react accordingly. Refugees may fear real or imagined consequences.

You could check in with key employers and working clients who might need extra support.  When you know what’s going on, you can consider how to respond.

We’ll collect advice and experience from the network and share employment services strategies to consider.

Meanwhile, here is an excellent step-by-step explanation of the rigorous security process that every refugee being considered for U.S. resettlement must complete before we receive them. Thanks to USCRI for making it widely available for all.


Please follow and like us:

Friday Feature: Imagine Dragons, #One4 Campaign

As part of a campaign called #One4, Grammy Award-winning band Imagine Dragons recently released a single on iTunes called “I Was Me” with all proceeds going to the UNHCR to help with the refugee crisis in Europe. Read this op-ed on cuepoint to hear lead singer Dan Reynolds talk about his band’s passion for this cause, or watch this video:

To download the song on iTunes click here.

(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.)

Please follow and like us:

Refugee Employment: European Conversations and Innovations


Photo credit: @e5bakeshop

There is so much news swirling around about the Syrian refugee crisis.  It’s sometimes difficult to identify specifics that are immediately relevant to refugee employment.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlights European conversations about the same issues we discuss in our work. Topics you’ll recognize include foreign credential recognition, professional re-certification, adapting to new work place culture and long term support for language acquisition.

It’s worth a read, although some of the innovations it references are not completely replicable in the U.S. refugee resettlement context.

Here are four more innovations related to workforce skills and employment solutions we’ve spotted in the mix.  Many of them are initiated and led by the private sector.

  1. e5Bakehouse (Britain), a small bakery and coffee shop partners with a local nonprofit to employ refugee women in a fresh bread subscription delivery service, offering them marketable skills, income and inspiration for future career opportunities.
  2. Two aspiring online Universities in Germany, Wings and Kiron target refugee access to post-secondary education and language studies.
  3. (The Netherlands) offers coordination for home sharing options modeled after Airbnb.
  4. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will work with UNHCR to increase internet access in refugee camps.



Please follow and like us:

How the Refugee Employment Network Can Help Syrians NOW

Tsyria-map-21he Obama administration will increase the number of refugees the United States is willing to accept in 2017 to 100,000, a significant increase over the current annual worldwide cap of 70,000. Under the plan, the limit on visas for refugees would be increased to 85,000 in 2016 from 70,000 now. Syrians would be among the beneficiaries.” Click here to read the NY Times report about yesterday’s announcement from Secretary of State John Kerry.

We’re all at the front line of the U.S. response to the growing global refugee crisis that includes Syrians, Eritreans, Rohingya and many more.  We’re already in the midst of a surge in arrivals, many of whom need our service to successfully enter the U.S. workforce with a strong foundation for future career laddering and community integration.

If you’re like me, you’re feeling like a potential super hero and a deer caught in the headlights.

You’ve got this.

Our commitment, creativity, employer partners and employment service delivery expertise are assets that make a difference in refugee lives every day. We have a proven track record of adjusting all of these assets to accommodate new client populations.

The current Syrian crisis is unique, but the need for flexible, culturally-appropriate service delivery is the same. The most important thing we can all do is focus on what we know works for our clients no matter their country of origin.

The crisis is still growing.  There are no easy answers and our work won’t be easy, either.  Here are three places to start:

  1. You’re already innovating in response to the arrivals surge.  Find out about some of the strategies others are using in a previous Higher blog post.  
  2. Capitalize on growing public awareness about the global refugee crisis to deepen and expand your network of employer partners. Employers want to respond to the crisis, but might not know how.  As always, you can offer them solutions. Hiring and integrating refugees into their workplaces now will expand opportunities for refugees – including Syrians – as arrivals increase.
  3. Conduct an objective assessment of your services, policies and processes.  Small adjustments or enhancement to case documentation protocols, intake and assessment processes, job readiness class curriculums and your own skills will all add up to increased efficiency and effectiveness for all of your clients now and going forward.   
What are you doing to prepare for increased arrivals and a new Syrian population?  How can Higher support you? Tell us at






Please follow and like us:

Friday Feature: Khebez Dawle (Syrian)

Khebez DawleWhen their drummer was killed, the remaining members of Khebez Dawle (State Bread) fled Syria.  So far, they’ve passed through Lebanon and Turkey and are thinking about where next.

Read about their journey and hear music they were never allowed to perform in public in Syria.

(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.)

Please follow and like us:

Experience Difficult Choices Along Syrian Journeys

syrianClick here for an interactive feature on the limited and difficult choices Syrians are forced to make when fleeing toward safety.

There’s so much information out there now.  It’s difficult to discern what it really means for Syrian safety and a timeframe for increased arrivals.  The numbers and need just keep growing.  The time required to process US arrivals with all of the critical security and processing steps can only be rushed so much.

What do you think?  What are you hearing?  Higher would appreciate hearing from you about information you can contribute or the type of posts that would be useful as we all prepare for increases in Syrian arrivals.  Comment on this post or email


Please follow and like us:

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Photo Credit: Giles Duley

Refugees by definition are among the most vulnerable people in the world.  Those facing additional physical disabilities face even more challenges. Treatment options are even less accessible in camp settings and mobility can be a challenge.

This video highlights some of the complications facing refugees with disabilities.  It also shows you every day life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, where security concerns delay set up of the processing infrastructure required for eventual resettlement in the US.

The hope and resilience of everyone you’ll meet in the video will mirror what we see and admire every day in our clients.


Please follow and like us:

A Different Take on Global Refugee Issues

Photo credit: Giorgio Perottino, Reuters

There is value in considering opinions that take you beyond your comfort zone.

A recent blog post forwarded by a Canadian-Nicaraguan reader raised questions and some feelings of discomfort for me.  Click here to hear from an alternative perspective.

In 2014, at least 40,000 Syrians crossed the Mediterranean to seek asylum in European countries via Italy. But approximately 35,000 Eritreans also made the voyage – a sharp increase from 10,000 in 2013.  

Higher welcomes comments about the opinion put forward in the linked article from, which “deliberately challenge(s) and destabilize(s) received wisdom about the African continent and its people in Western media.”

Please follow and like us: