Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 4

digital literacy 1At a recent Maryland-wide workshop which focused on refugee workforce development, Higher had participants do a brainstorming activity, in which groups worked together to list common barriers refugees face to employment as well as possible solutions.

These types of activities inevitably generate a “wish list” of solutions which are great ideas but not always in our power to implement quickly (e.g. adding staff members, ESL at work sites, home-based self-employment for refugee women).

While there are certainly times to pursue those big ideas, perhaps the best thing about exercises like this is that they allow groups to identify simpler solutions that can be implemented immediately.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share some of these insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement! So far, we’ve focused on tips for overcoming Limited English Proficiency (LEP) challengestips for overcoming transportation challenges and tips for overcoming childcare challenges. This week we’ll share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of Computer Access/Digital Literacy.

Tips for Overcoming Computer Access/Digital Literacy Challenges:

  1. Connect clients to local computer labs and/or digital literacy training opportunities. Suggested Resource: The Literacy Directory lists free resources to help adult students reach life goals in areas such as improving reading, math, and science skills, learning English, building job and job search skills, becoming a U.S. citizen, and finding adult education, child, family, and digital literacy programs.
  2. Help clients access low-cost computers. Suggested Resource: EveryoneON is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected Americans. A true digital literacy initiative, they aim to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans – regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level. Let’s help them do this!
  3. Educate clients about affordable internet options. Suggested Resource: ConnectHome is a public-private collaboration to narrow the digital divide for families with school-age children who live in HUD-assisted housing. ConnectHome is the next step in President Obama’s continued efforts to bring affordable broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and electronic devices to all Americans.
  4. Utilize interns and/or volunteers to help clients improve their computer skills. Suggested Resource: DigitalLearn.org is a collection of self-directed tutorials for end-users to increase their digital literacy, and a community of practice for digital literacy trainers to share resources, tools and best practices.
  5. Encourage your clients to work with you on this challenge, asking them to network within their community to explore solutions.

Stay tuned for more tips from MD refugee employment programs and stakeholders. The final part in this series will address unrealistic client expectations.

Do you recommend any additional digital literacy resources? Feel free to participate in the conversation by leaving a comment below or sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Workforce Resource: Online Tool for Identifying Prospective Employers

Source: http://allstarluxury.com

Source: http://allstarluxury.com

Welcome to the second post in our series featuring some of the tools, resources and programs available in the mainstream workforce system, shaped by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and delivered through the national network of American Job Centers serving all U.S. job seekers.

It’s a complex, resource-rich system underutilized in refugee employment services. Higher is determined to change that so our clients benefit from new opportunities and employment services.

We’ll do the research you don’t have time for amidst managing client case loads and employer relationships.  You can focus on using highlighted resources to help your clients succeed in the U.S. workforce.

In our first post we highlighted The Department of Labor, Education and Training Agency’s Industry Competency Models, which provide detailed information as well as easy to understand visuals explaining the skills needed to advance in a variety of industries.

In this post, we’ll share another online resource that will give you valuable information about a variety of industries and help you identify local employers to target in your job development efforts.

Workforce Resource: Online Tool for Identifying Prospective Employers

The “Explore Careers” section of Careeronestop.org, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, offers several online tools including career profiles, detailed industry information, and occupation comparisons.

Explore Careers 2

Several useful tools for job development can be found on the “What’s hot” page under the “Learn about careers” category (see photo above). In this section you can run several reports including:

Using These Tools to Discover Prospective Employers and Pathways for Your Clients

One of the most helpful features of these reports is that they allow you to filter the results by education level (some high school up to master’s degree or higher). This feature can be used to find opportunities based on client’s education/skill level or to show clients the education that will be necessary to obtain to accomplish their career goals.

Select Education Level

Once you select which type of trends you want to see and the education level, you will get a list of occupations, which you can filter by state. This will give you a general idea of what industries might be worth pursuing in your region. Here’s an example of the Top 25 Fastest Growing Occupations from the state of Ohio for job seekers with an education level of “some high school”:

Occupations

How You Can Find Thousands of Employers to Target!

From the list of occupations (above) you can click on the links to see Occupation Profiles which will give descriptions of the occupations and highlight national and state trends. To find actual employers to contact go to the dropdown menu in the top right hand corner and choose “Business Finder” which will redirect you to another page where you can search for businesses by occupation and city.

So let’s say you want to search for construction laborers in Columbus, OH. Here’s what you get:

Construction Laborers

4,021 employers to add to your prospecting list!

Do you need to expand your employer network and create some new opportunities for your clients? There is no better way to go about accomplishing this goal than to identify local industries that are growing, need people, and offer jobs that fit your clients’ skills and/or educational backgrounds.

This tool is a great place to start!

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Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Co-location at Two American Job Centers

Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington, VA (CCMRS) stations two Employment Specialists part time at two American Job Centers.  This strategy delivers expanded refugee access to mainstream workforce resources and illustrates success factors that make colocation beneficial for clients, American Job Centers and CCMRS.

Read the case study online or download a PDF version if you prefer. You will learn

  • the advantages of locating Employment Specialists in an American Job Center;
  • how one CCMRS client accessed entrepreneurship training and, as a result, was able to open his own small business;
  • some of the program details and service access that can be adjusted for seamless client service access; and
  • the American Job Center perpective on this successful collaboration strategy.
About Higher’s Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series

This case study, written by professional writer and former CCMRS Job Developer Erin Voorheis, is one of five that Higher will make available over the coming months to help us all learn from each other about successful strategies for strengthening our collaboration with the mainstream workforce system so that refugees can better access workforce services provided across the country for all U.S. job seekers.

If you are collaborating with the workforce system in your community and want to share what you’re learning with peers across the country, get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

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Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Ready for Retail Training for Refugee Youth

Photo Credit: ACC-DEN

Photo Credit: ACC-DEN

ECDC’s African Community Center of Denver, CO (ACC) shares what they have learned through a very successful training program for refugee youth that partners with two American Job Centers, funds ACC’s retail customer service training program and builds workplace skills for refugee youth.

Read the case study online or download a PDF version if you prefer. You will learn

  • how and why ACC began partnering with mainstream workforce centers;
  • how to register as an Eligible Training Provider to gain eligibility to receive WIOA training funds for participant training;
  • how ACC’s Ready for Retail training program developed over time and what participants say about how they benefitted; and
  • some of the lessons ACC learned that you can replicate in your own efforts.
About Higher’s Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series

This case study, written by Higher Peer Advisor Carrie Thiele, ACC Training Program Manager, is the first of five that Higher will make available over the coming months to help us all learn from each other about successful strategies for strengthening our collaboration with the mainstream workforce system so that refugees can better access workforce services provided across the country for all U.S. job seekers.

If you are collaborating with the workforce system in your community and want to share what you’re learning with peers across the country, get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

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Request for Peer Support for Higher

money tree

How are you collaborating with the mainstream workforce system?  We want to learn what’s working and share it with our network.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) legislates the mainstream workforce system encompassing 2,500+ resource centers governed by local and State workforce boards.

WIOA is getting alot of buzz and includes lots of buzzwords. American Job Center (AJC). Workforce Development Board (WDB). Out of School Youth (OSY). On-the-Job-Training (OJT). 

Just the terminology alone can be confusing and overwhelming.

No matter what terms you use, refugees deserve increased access to the resources available for all U.S. job seekers.  We – the national refugee employment network- are in the best position to start building stronger bridges between the refugee resettlement network and the mainstream workforce system that houses all those resources.

There are a few well-known and long-standing examples. Higher has already begun to collect more from your peers in Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia.  We know there are more examples, but we need you to help us find them.

Call to Action

Before 2015 comes to a close, send a quick email to information@higheradvantage.org or get in touch with Lorel, Daniel or Sarah. Nothing formal required.  Just tell us about your experience or that of another refugee employment program.  We’ll take it from there.

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11/4 Workforce Collaboration Webinar from ORR

peertaand an opportunity to help your peers and be a Higher guest blogger!

On November 4, 2015 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)  will host a free webinar “Connecting Refugees to Workforce Development Opportunities: Promising Partnerships and the New Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).”

Higher and 120 of your peers from around the country will be in Omaha for our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop.   Here’s how you can help the refugee employment network (and Higher) so none of us miss this opportunity to learn.

  1. Register to attend the 11/4 webinar. (Click here.)
  2. Get in touch with us at information@higheradvantage.org if you’re interested in one or more of the following: Take thorough notes, call Higher to talk about what you learned or draft a blog post to share  with the network.  We’ll be offering modest honorariums as a thanks for your help. 

The webinar will highlight the opportunities for refugee organizations to enhance services and develop new partnerships with workforce development agencies with the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Common areas of service, performance metrics, and populations will be discussed to showcase the potential for national, state and local refugee agencies and organizations to enhance collaboration, partnerships, and deliver enhanced workforce programs for refugees.

Additionally, a speaker from the San Diego, California – International Rescue Committee will discuss the coordination and partnership between their organization and their local workforce investment board through their Connect2Work program, their Workforce Accelerator Grant, and Health Professions Opportunity Grant (HPOG) program in connecting youth and adult refugees to employment programs.

 

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Workforce Resource: Industry Competency Models

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 6.44.35 PM

Welcome to the first of a new blog post series featuring some of the tools, resources and programs available in the mainstream workforce system, shaped by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and delivered through the national network of American Job Centers serving all U.S. job seekers.

It’s a complex, resource-rich system underutilized in refugee employment services. Higher is determined to change that so our clients benefit from new opportunities and employment services.

We’ll do the research you don’t have time for amidst managing client case loads and employer relationships.  You can focus on using highlighted resources to help your clients succeed in the U.S. workforce.

Workforce Resource: Industry Competency Models

Career pathways for upward mobility in a particular sector or industry are built on a mix of soft skills and technical expertise gained through a combination of education, training and on the job experience.

The Department of Labor Education and Training Agency (DOL-ETA) has worked with a range of industry stakeholders to create 25 industry competency models in 10 industries, which are:

  1. Manufacturing,
  2. Health care/social assistance,
  3. Professional,
  4. Scientific and technical services (e.g. engineering),
  5. Energy/Utilities,
  6. Construction,
  7. Information (IT, Finance and Insurance),
  8. Accommodation and Food Services,
  9. Transportation and Warehousing,
  10. Retail Trades, and
  11. Other (Entrepreneurship)

You can access all of them through a web-based Clearinghouse that includes instructions, resources and examples of how they can be used. They are intended to identify industry needs and serve as resources for curriculum development and to develop programs to support career ladders in those industries.

Each of the models includes specific skill requirements for achieving lifelong career success in the featured industry, including specific management-level competencies.

A clickable link to ONet’s listing of occupational competencies is also included. Many of you already use ONet to research types of jobs within an industry, identify specific skill requirements employers want in qualified applicants and find concise language to include in client resumes.

Food Service Industry Example

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation contributed to the development of the Food Service Industry competency model.

This model includes expanded management-level skill requirements and you can also see career advancement pathways at a glance.

How You Can Use This Resource
Define Customer Service

Customer service is a common soft skill we talk about with clients in all kinds of job readiness activities. The competency models link to details of four specific customer service competencies (skills): Understanding customer needs, providing personalized service, acting professionally and keeping customers informed.

Demonstrate Career Ladders

Each competency model clearly outlines the required skills for success and advancement. For example, if a client doesn’t have those skills, yet, they can explore lower level career options or think about how to acquire the skills for future job upgrades. If you’re working to help higher skilled clients adjust their expectations, competency models will help them see how a starter job leads to the career they want. If client dreams are not fully informed by reality, they can quickly spot new skills they aren’t interested in and begin to understand that this career might not be the best fit for them.

Increasing the Results of Your Work

You can use the information to better understanding employer needs, craft better client resumes or applications and design job readiness training or in-house vocational training curriculums.

Showing these models to clients when you discuss their employability plans will add credible official information to reinforce what you tell them or give them a resource to learn more as they are ready for job upgrades or professional development.

Let us know if this new blog feature is useful for you and tell us how you were able to use it in your work at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

 

 

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Cleveland, OH: Making the Case for Collaboration

cleveland_rocks 640x480Collaboration is a buzz-word in the non-profit world, but as we all know, it is “easier said than done.” There are many factors in our work that make collaboration tricky, and at times it doesn’t seem worth the effort. Before you give up on collaboration, however, consider this example from Cleveland, OH.

The Refugee Services Collaborative (RSC) of Greater Cleveland is a group of organizations (14 in total!) that have been working together since 2011 to better serve the rising numbers of refugees resettling in Northeast Ohio. The RSC includes three refugee resettlement agencies, area school systems, healthcare providers, and community and faith-based organizations.

In order to get a little insight on what collaboration has looked like in Cleveland, Higher spoke to Janus Small, president of Janus Small Associates and the Facilitator of the RSC:

How and why did the RSC get started?

The purpose of the RSC is to make Cleveland the best place in the country for refugees to be resettled and to make the individual organizations that serve refugees successful in the work that they do.

We got started when a group of refugee service providers came together back in 2010-2011 to inventory what services were being provided, what services were being duplicated, and also to identify gaps that existed.

We started with a survey of 14 organizations and had such a positive experience that we decided to formalize the collaboration, and in January of 2013, after receiving a generous grant from the Cleveland Foundation, launched a full calendar of joint activities.

 What does the collaboration actually look like?

The RSC meets on a monthly basis. We have task forces that are working on different projects.

For example, one group recently worked on a public awareness campaign which commissioned 5 local film makers to make short documentaries on refugee families. These films were shown as part of our World Refugee Day celebration and have also been screened and discussed in local “town hall meetings.”

At each RSC meeting we have someone from an outside organization present information that will be relevant for RSC members. We also host quarterly professional development workshops that help service organizations refine their skills (e.g. workshops on data management, developing excellent volunteer programs, board development, community outreach, and strategic development).

Collaboration is not easy to pull off in the non-profit world. Why has it worked in Cleveland?

One thing that has really worked for us is to have a neutral, objective, 3rd party facilitator that is not on staff at one of the refugee service organizations.

Additionally, there is not a lot of money involved, and the money that is involved is a result of multiple RSC organizations working together on certain grants.

For example, we collaborated on a grant that allowed us to do an economic impact study that helps document all the ways that refugees and immigrants contribute in Cleveland.

What are some concrete ways that you have seen refugees better served as a result of the RSC?

We’ve formed a refugee advisory council that meets monthly. This was important to us because we wanted to make sure that we are not only serving the refugee service organizations, but also the refugees themselves.

We’ve also worked together as a collaborative to build relationships with employers and landlords so that there will be more employment and housing opportunities for refugees in Cleveland.

Many thanks to Janus Small for sharing this collaboration success story. Keep up the good work Cleveland!

For another example of successful collaboration check out this 2013 Higher post about the Refugee Employment Coalition in Kent, WA: http://higheradvantage.org/refugee-employment-summit-in-kent-wa-increases-collaboration-among-all-stakeholders/.

We’d also love to hear about your successes and challenges in developing collaborative partnerships related to refugee employment. Let us know at information@higheradvantage.com!

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6 Talking Points to Convince Your Boss to Send You To Omaha!

raiseJoin us at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop, 11/4-6 in Omaha, NE!

1. There’s no risk involved and results are guaranteed.  Attendance at Higher peer workshops have been a proven strategy for new hire orientation and professional development for refugee employment professionals for 18 years.

2. At only $250 + expenses, it’s a very affordable learning opportunity. Pay now or after the start of the next fiscal year.

3.  You’ll bring back tons of new ideas and information to benefit the entire team.  For example, we’ll offer two sessions you can replicate at a staff meeting and in your own job readiness classes.

4.  Your clients will benefit from significantly expanded job opportunities. You’ll learn from the international consultant who has helped peers in Colorado and Nebraska, who will share what’s working for them.

5. We’ll hear about the latest academic research on refugee career advancement strategies based on impact research from Dr. Faith Nibbs, Director of the Forced Migration Innovation Project at SMU in Dallas, TX.  (New session just confirmed.)

6. It’s easy to learn more and register.  Click here, visit our homepage or get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org with any questions.

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5 Easy First Steps to WIOA Opportunities

Job Seekers from a Refugee Background

Our first Refugee Employment Infographic! Created by Sarah Vail.

If you aren’t feeling a little overwhelmed by all the webinars, toolkits and helpful information swirling around about the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), you haven’t been paying attention.

You’re not alone.

WIOA creates space for us to engage with the mainstream workforce system.  It’s also complex, confusing and implemented by a huge Department of Labor-funded system unfamiliar to many of us. The mainstream workforce system is gearing up to understand, interpret and implement WIOA, too. Now is the time to engage.

Where to start?

Here are the five things you can do this week. They’re all easy and draw on skills you already use every day in this work.

1.  Make contacts at your local Workforce Center.  The people working there share our goals of helping people find jobs.  They live in your community.  Some of them are probably your neighbors. Go to their office.  Meet them face to face.  Start a dialogue. No interpreter required.

2.  Prepare your case like you would for employers.  Think about what’s in it for THEM. You and our clients have alot to offer, but many workforce staff don’t know anything about us. It’s up to you to speak their language and convince them that refugees add value, just like we already do in our job development work.

3.  Download an Infographic Higher created to help you. 23 attendees at our NAWDP conference presentation thought these statistics were well-targeted and convincing. Be sure you leave contact information and a plan for next steps to keep the momentum going. (Our own infographic.  So cool.)

4.  Do your homework. There is a lot of information available.  Type WIOA in Higher’s home page search feature for links to the information we think will be most helpful.  You’ll get more out of the meeting if you’re well prepared.  Sounds like what we advise clients as they prepare for job interviews, right?

5.  Listen. Learn. Ask more questions about their work than you tell about your own. Try to understand their structure and identify other people you need to know – and convince. Think of it as an employability assessment that starts adjusting expectations.  Nothing new or scary about that.

Good luck.  Let us know how it goes at information@higheradvantage.org.

Job Seekers from a Refugee Background

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