What We Can Learn From Canadian Immigrant Employment Programs

imprint webinar post graphicLast week’s Imprint webinar highlighting Canadian models for supporting skilled immigrant employment was just as valuable as I had hoped.

There is so much we can learn from the Canadian experience that I’m still processing how to share it in Higher’s blog.

To get started, I will share the impressions of three readers who attended.  Stay tuned for more takeaway’s from the Canadian experience.

 US refugee employment networks can pick and choose parts of the webinar that are beneficial to refugees.  I plan to incorporate ALLIES Creating Impact Locally model with our skilled refugee professionals.

Here in Portland, Maine our refugee employment networks already utilize the Inter-governmental Roundtable model. The City of Portland, the Department of Labor, Adult Education, Community Colleges, the Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Hotel/Inn Keepers Association have been working together for the past 6 months about training and hiring skilled refugees to work in that sector.

Catherine S. Yomoah, Maine State Refugee Coordinator

Several points resonated with me as an employer.

I like the mind set of moving the employer toward the culture of the refugee versus only making the refugee more Canadian.  In my experience, hiring refugees is definitely a two way learning curve.

I like the concept and terminology of an Employer mentoring program as opposed to volunteer mentoring programs.  Employers will be sold on the benefits for them,  including identifying hidden talent and developing cultural competencies in their staff.

I’m going to think more about the term “artificial poverty” describing poverty that is driven by the system.

Harry Brigham, Former Subway franchise owner and employer of 70+ refugees in Baltimore, MD

The presenter mentioned employers as successful spokespersons for the value of our clients in the work place.  That’s something we are doing a bit through our refugee forum that creates networking opportunities between refugees and employers.

Sadly, I got pulled away right in the middle to follow-up on an unexpected job opportunity, so I’m looking forward to learning more from Higher.

Bonni Cutler, Employment Supervisor, Catholic Charities, San Diego, CA


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Study Confirms Mentoring Works

Mentoring Study HighlightAcross the country, mentoring programs are an increasingly common strategy to boost employment outcome and client success.  Some programs target new arrivals.  Others focus on clients ready for job upgrades or professional recertification.

A 2013 Canadian study of a mentoring initiative targeting newly arrived immigrant professionals offers evidence to support what we already believe.  Mentoring really works.  In the 12 months of the study, participants working in their professional fields went from 17% to 71%.  Incomes, employment and full-time employment also rose significantly.   Download the full report on our website.

ALLIES (Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies) is a project jointly funded by Maytree and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. ALLIES supports local efforts in Canadian cities to successfully adapt and implement programs that further the suitable employment of skilled immigrants

Higher will continue to follow the progress of a very successful employment mentoring pilot project at Lutheran Refugee Services of Lancaster, PA, which will be replicated in a few more sites over the next year.  The current issue of Higher’s newsletter, just released yesterday, highlights another great example from USCCB Affiliate Catholic Charities Maine in Portland.  If you missed it, click here for a link to the article.





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Update: Lancaster, PA’s Employment Mentoring Pilot Project

A lot has been happening in the Lancaster, PA employment mentoring pilot program we’ve highlighted in previous posts.  Eight months into an initial one year pilot, the third group of 12 more refugee-mentor pairs is being finalized to reach a total of 30 teams.  Here are a few stories and valuable lessons learned through our ongoing partnership with Lutheran Refugee Services (LRS) of Lancaster, PA and LIRS.  The project seeks to deepen refugee social integration through employment-focused mentoring.Mentoring snip one

Job shadowing, community college orientations and informational interviews are just a few of the opportunities being generated through the program.

One mentee has been preapproved for a home loan and is going through the learning experience of buying a home with the help of his mentor.

All of the refugees participMentoring Khem and Alating in the program are gaining community ties, opportunities to practice English and confidence in their ability to engage and interact with their new communities.

For example, Khem and Pramila Subedi and Khem’s mentor Al Duncan, CEO of Thomas E. Strauss, Inc. attended a recent LIRS Board Meeting to talk about their mentoring experience.  (See their photo at left.)  Khem says that through his participation in the mentor program, “I am getting wider every day.”  Al feels that mentoring is a common and valuable experience in our country and it’s not so different to involve refugees.

It’s hard to capture in writing the energy and motivation present in the room whenever the teams get together, as they did this past Saturday to discuss an important lesson learmentor snip twoned so far.

The initial thinking was that each pair would follow a very unique path based on the opportunities available to work towards achieving specific career goals.  Computer skills, advanced ESL and the ability to access additional education and training suggest the need for some common resources and steps to achieving any individual career goals.

At Saturday’s meeting, mentor outreach consultant Ellen Willenbecher provided all of the mentors with a packet listing resources already available in the community.  That helps create space to leverage more


of the unique skills mentors can offer.  For example, mentor Angela Harnish, an ESL instructor at the University of Delaware, offered a workshop on easy strategies for working on accent reduction.  The room was packed with refugee mentees and their friends and families (See photo at left.)












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