Transportation is one of the most significant barriers that refugees face in obtaining initial employment and advancing in their careers.
Tackling this barrier requires a multi-faceted strategy:
1.) Incorporate community navigation into job readiness training
Being able to navigate one’s community is important. There’s nothing more isolating and paralyzing than not having the ability to venture beyond your own home.
Helping clients develop a mental map of their community and ensuring that they are able to use the public transportation system should be a key learning objective integrated into Job Readiness instruction.
2.) Ensure that employment opportunities are easily accessible to clients
This is easier said than done, but very important. In order to set clients up for success resettlement, programs must consider likely employment possibilities when finding an apartment for refugee families. Employment teams and R&P teams should be in constant communication about preferred neighborhoods that would be most conducive to accessing employment opportunities.
Sometimes due to financial constraints, limited housing, or the preferences of refugee communities themselves, you may not be able to place new families in the most ideal locations for employment opportunities. In these cases, it’s up to you to put in the additional effort to identify employers that will be easy for clients to reach.
While it’s easy to stick with your go-to employers, putting in the work to find employers that are convenient to different neighborhoods will help you diversify your employer network and create better employment situations for your clients.
3.) Think outside the box
Every situation is different, and the reality is that you often have to make less-than-ideal employment opportunities work. For example, in New Orleans, most of Catholic Charities’ clients prefer to live in an area of the city that is not particularly convenient to employment opportunities, resulting in long commutes on multiple bus routes.
Catholic Charities has been able to minimize the impact of this challenge by purchasing affordable bicycles for their employment clients from another local non-profit which teaches at-risk youth bike repair skills. The clients then are able to do part of their commute by bike which can cut their commute time in half or make it possible to take just one bus instead of two.
In addition to facilitating bicycle access, consider other creative alternatives such as car pool solutions, ride share services or employer-sponsored transportation.
4.) Recognize that transportation is connected to career advancement.
For those clients with the desire and ability, make sure that your agency provides resources (in their language if possible) for obtaining driver’s licenses. Also consider asking volunteers to help clients prepare and practice for driver’s license tests.