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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Great Advice from Three Employer Partners

omaha employers

Thanks to the three HR Director panelists: Laurie Marco, Salon Centric; Laura Nelson, Quality Pork International and Leandra Collins, Embassy Suites.

Lutheran Family Services, Nebraska (LFSNeb) recently put together the best employer panel Higher has ever seen for the recent LIRS resettlement affiliate conference – and we’ve organized a number of them ourselves.

The strong and carefully tended relationships between these three employers and LFSNeb’s Job Developer, Carol Tucker, is one of the main success factors.

Here are the highlights of what we learned.

 “Make my life easier.”

All three employers and refugee advocates agree that this is THE most important thing we offer to employers. New hire paperwork. Pre-screened candidates. Eliminating transportation barriers. Checking in frequently during the first few weeks of a new hire’s tenure. Providing daylight savings time signage or volunteer-baked cookies during the holidays. Whatever you do to achieve this goal is a win-win.

Reasons for Strong Job Retention Rates

We can all be proud of job retention rates that are higher than the national norm. When asked their opinions about the factors that contribute to this success, panelists agreed on three factors:

  1. Client cultural values – the specifics may be different, but refugees offer motivation, commitment and other strong “soft skill” success factors.
  2. Job Readiness Preparation – this is definitely a part of the mix. Refugee clients benefit from all of the work we do to help them adjust their skills, attitudes and behaviors for the U.S. workplace.
  3. Job Developer’s role – Employment programs are structured differently. The relationship, trust and reliable presence of a person supporting each employer consistently over time is invaluable. Higher continued to identify some intentional focus on job development as a national best practice.
Pre-employment training is worth the effort.

Anything that reduces turnover – and even better, preempts turnover – is welcomed. Job shadowing, short term vocational training and any other strategies that build applicant skills are seen as a benefit and a service. You aren’t asking for a favor. You’re adding value.

Job development persistence pays off.

“When Carol first got in touch, we didn’t have any problems filling our pipeline. When my situation changed suddenly we lost 90% of our workforce at once, I called Carol.” She left a packet and kept in touch. Not too often to be a pest, but enough that the services she offered weren’t forgotten.

On Internal Promotion Potential

We asked for advice for refugees to position themselves for career advancement with their current employer (in addition to learning English).

Here’s how the panelists, all of whom have promoted refugee employees, answered:

  1. Be on time and show up every day. Strong attendance records count a lot.
  2. Demonstrate engagement. Ask questions. Always be ready and able to learn new things.
  3. Express an interest in career advancement. Assertive communication and promote-ability go together.
  4. Help others. Peer leadership from within a team is essential. For example, help others finish their work in addition to completing assigned tasks early and correctly.
  5. Most difficult transition they’ve seen among refugees they have already promoted: Making the transition beyond a friend or advocate role. It’s important to be neutral and comfortable enforcing company policies. (This is difficult for all workers, not just refugees.)
  6. If you are recognized as Employee of the Week or another employee performance strategy we already offer, you’re on our radar screen.  That never hurts.
 “Don’t be offended if I don’t call you back.”

Your employer contacts are busy. They appreciate the attention and the information you might leave in a brief message. If the matter is time sensitive, say that or pre-arrange emergency procedures so neither of you have to wait if the matter is urgent.

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You Can Still Enter to Win an iPad Air

AAA ipad photoHigher’s Online Learning Institute Spring Contest

Our spring contest ends at the end of the work day on Friday, May 8th.

Employment Service Providers enrolled in Higher’s Online Learning Institute have two more days to enter to win.

Just hearing about this contest? Need to enroll in Higher’s Online Learning Institute? Click here to sign up for your free username and password.

Contest rules can be found here. Please contact us with any questions at information@higheradvantage.org.

Stay tuned to learn who won a sleek, new iPad Air!



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Two WIOA Opportunities Available NOW


Graphic Credit: OpportunityNation.org

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunites Act (WIOA) doesn’t go into full effect until July 2015, but it is already creating tangible new opportunities for refugee clients and agencies serving them.

Read below for new detail about a shifted focus in youth programming and a 5 year funding opportunity for healthcare career training.

Click here for additional background information about WIOA in case you missed previous Higher blog posts and a webinar.

Youth Programming:  Significant Shift in Focus to Older Youth

WIOA shifts the primary program focus of Title I youth formula programs to support the educational and career success of out-of-school youth (OSY), ages 16 to 24. A minimum of 75 percent of WIOA youth funds must be spent on OSY, an increase from the minimum of 30 percent under the former Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

With an estimated 6 million 16-24 year olds in this country not employed or not in school, WIOA youth programs will provide a needed continuum of services to help disconnected youth navigate between the educational and workforce systems.

Click here to read the entire Guidance Letter from the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOL-ETA) with clarification and detail about this important new emphasis in WIOA.

These two points included in a list of the possible types of clients speak directly to refugee client eligibility:

  • eligibility is based on age at enrollment, participants may continue to receive services beyond the age of 24 once they are enrolled in the program
  • …an individual [that]…is either basic skills deficient or an English language learner

The letter strongly encourages the mainstream workforce system to begin adjusting programming NOW and begin to identify sources of this newly emphasized population. Many refugees fall into this category.

How You and our Clients Can Benefit:  There are opportunities for us to offer assistance so that refugees can be considered in the planning phase.
“NOW” includes Summer Youth Employment Programs that are likely already advertising for applicants.

Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Family Assistance (OFA) is announcing a large funding opportunity supporting education and traning for occupations in the health care field,…that could also fund child care, case management and other supportive services, as appropriate.

The primary recipients of a previous round of funding (see page 2 of the announcement) were mostly mainstream workforce stakeholders and community colleges.  A possible role for resettlement agencies is outined in the announcement as follows on page 7 of the announcement:

HPOG programs can also include other partners that provide resources or expertise to better coordinate services and improve outcomes for program participants, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, legal aid, and especially services funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), such as Head Start, child care, domestic violence prevention, and refugee resettlement programs.

Download the full application here and visit the Office of Family Assistance/HPOG website for more details.

How You and our Clients Can Benefit:  This could be a great opportunity to build on existing relationships with workforce offices or begin establishing working relationships now.


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5 Things a not-so-Newbie Learned


Photo credit: My Dad

…from Higher’s Intro to WIOA Webinar

Newbies like Sarah from yesterday’s post aren’t the only ones who can learn something new. Experienced employment professionals should, too.

Here are 5 things I learned from NAWDP Executive Director Bridget Brown about what’s important for refugees in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  Listen to the webinar recording and see what else you’ll learn.

1.  All workforce centers will now be called American Job Centers (AJCs).  That will help refugees know where to go for assistance if the outmigrate.  Makes it easier for us, too.

2.  Local Workforce Investment Boards (WIB) are powerful.  Local WIBs control contracts for AJC services.  Many of their meetings are open to the public.  Having contacts and context for how this works in your community is really important.

3.  Interim performance measures are designed to encourage centers to serve the hardest-to-serve.  Our clients are often included in that category.  Final performance measures are still being drafted, reviewed and finalized.

4.  75% of youth funding must be dedicated to out of school youth up to 24 years old.  This likely means more resources focused on work readiness and skill training.  Great for our clients who qualify!

5.  “Sequencing of services” has been eliminated.  Clients can access the service they need without first accepting those they don’t. Here’s a true story(mine) to illustrate why this will really benefit our clients and us.

My client Adell was offered a promotion from his employer if he obtained his commercial drivers license.  He was eligible for free short term CDL training through the local AJC.  First, he had to attend orientation, put his profile into a database, attend two intake meetings with an AJC case worker and attend a workshop.  He needed my help to navigate the system, so I did all of that, too.  Four months later, his work schedule changed before he could start the training and he couldn’t attend anyway.  (Adell is now a long haul truck driver with a CDL and his own truck.  This experience was frustrating for him, me and the AJC staff.  We all really wanted it  to work.  I’m determined to help make things easier for all of us with WIOA!)

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