Partnering on Corporate Days of Service

Partnerships with employers beyond job placements are a strategic way to maintain and grow business relationships. Businesses support refugee resettlement programs through employee giving, event sponsorship, donations, and grants, but did you know that many firms also sponsor employee volunteer days? Many companies offer their employees 1 to 3 days per year to go out into the community and provide volunteer service.  For example, TripAdvisor allows their employees to take up to five days of paid leave to volunteer their time and skills at any nonprofit organization, including those working with refugees. Before reaching out to an employer with a proposal, Higher recommends that refugee programs prepare a list and description of short-term volunteer roles that would be appropriate for such an event. When providing options, be mindful of corporate preferences such as volunteer opportunities that might be done at the business’s location or one-time large group projects.

Here are just a few ways in which refugee employment programs might utilize corporate volunteers:

  • Have the company put on a fair or job readiness class where refugees can learn about different aspects of American workplace culture. This event can also include informational interviews and interviewing or networking practice for clients.
  • Have the company’s employee’s act as career mentors for refugee clients.
  • Seek out professional volunteers that might offer their skills for special projects such as database creation, grant writing, social media, or marketing.

Related Resources from the Higher Blog:

A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

Targeted Volunteer Recruitment- for Employment Programs

4 Ways to Utilize Volunteers in Employment Services

Do you have a great corporate partner that you would like to share with us? Please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Raleigh Immigrant Community: A Refugee Community-Based Program

Community organizations led by former refugees have a unique perspective for working with refugee populations. In Raleigh, NC, Raleigh Immigrant Community (RIC) capitalizes on this unique perspective to provide complimentary resettlement services to refugees for up to five years after arrival in the U.S. RIC provides employment services, cultural orientation, case management, interpretation services, community referrals, and English conversation round tables. Elias Njiru, Program Director of RIC, spoke with Higher about their services and how they support refugees beyond initial resettlement.

Like most new organizations, RIC was formed to respond to perceived gaps in services. RIC received initial assistance to address the mental health needs of refugees from a group of University of North Carolina (UNC) students and Refugee Wellness, a UNC Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative.  Now with the support of a grant from ORR’s Ethnic Community Self-Help Program RIC is able to focus on key areas of effective integration, such as employment, language proficiency, and cultural orientation, in addition to mental health. As a refugee led and focused organization, refugees comprise over 60% of their board of directors and their staff is primarily refugees and immigrants. RIC’s client recruitment occurs directly in the Raleigh-Durham community through collaboration with the local resettlement agencies.

  • Client Success: RIC enrolled a refugee with substance abuse challenges who was homeless and on the verge of losing their employment. RIC provided a referral to treatment and rehabilitation, a connection to transitional housing, and an employer intervention. Today, the client is working full time and maintaining sobriety.

By offering free interpretation services to employers who hire refugees, RIC forges successful partnerships with businesses. Interpretation is available in Swahili, Lingala, Chiluba, Sango, French, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashtu.

  • Employer Success: One local employer has hired over 30 refugees through RIC. Due to the needs of their new employees, the employer modified their orientation process. The employer also uses the RIC interpretation services to communicate pertinent employment information to their new employees.

Partnering with community-based organizations like RIC benefits refugees throughout the integration process.

For more information on RIC, email raleighimmigrant@gmail.com.

How do you partner with community organizations like RIC? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Showing Appreciation to Employer Partners

Maintaining long-lasting employer partnerships is vital to any resettlement employment program. Higher presents a guest post by Ellie White with World Relief Seattle on how to show appreciation and stay connected to employer partners.

Years ago, our team at World Relief Seattle threw an Employer Appreciation Party for our employer partners. We thought it was such a great idea – an opportunity to show our appreciation, connect or reconnect with employers, and find out about new job leads or updates.

We sent out invitations, prepared food, and hung a thank you banner. Our employer partners, however, were either too busy, or uninterested. Only one or two came to the event. We tried again the next year, and got the same response.

We still wanted to appreciate and connect with our employers beyond an email or card, and realized the only way to do so was not to invite them to us, but to go to them!

Ever since, our team has hosted an annual Employer Appreciation Event that involves a visit and a small gift. Our team divides into small groups, armed with thank you mugs or small desk plants, and travels throughout the region visiting our employer partners to say thank you and connect.

This past year, our team visited over 30 employer partners. We chose them based on the amount of interaction our team had with them over the past year, and if we anticipated an ongoing relationship with them. We cannot visit all of our employer partners, therefore we send thank you cards to the employers that we do not visit, but who have recently hired our participants.

We are greeted with smiles, updates, and the opportunity to connect beyond our typical day-to-day correspondence. Some of our employers have had the gifted plants on their desk for years, and have started to expect the annual visit from World Relief with a new thank you gift. Sometimes we learn about current openings that we can take back to our job seekers.

It’s a low-budget, low-time commitment way to stay connected with employer partners, and to take just a few minutes to recognize the important role they play in the welcome and integration of our job seekers. Especially if we have not recently had any candidates for the employer, this visit provides a way to stay connected and continue to develop a healthy and on-going relationship with the employer.

 

What are some ways that you stay in touch with employers? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Refugees in America: Employment Skills Training

As part of their ORR funded refugee employment program efforts, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) of Dayton, Ohio has explored a variety of employer partnerships. For example, CSSMV forged a partnership with a staffing agency that works with local clothing manufacturers in need of skilled sewers, and a volunteer sewing teacher to create vocational sewing classes. Together, this partnership serves to prepare refugees with the skills required for employment as Industrial Sewers. With Dayton being the home of several niche market clothing manufacturers, the classes have played a significant role in preparing a trained workforce for this market.

Class Set-up

The vocational sewing classes started in spring of 2012 when a staffing agency approached CSSMV refugee employment staff about the need for skilled sewers. The staffing agency reported needing a large number of experienced sewers for a new employer they had recently contracted. Thus, a program intern who had sewing experience was tasked with providing one-on-one training to clients in the basement of the CSSMV office using donated materials and sewing machines. The demand of refugee trainees and employers quickly outgrew this informal arrangement and the Employment Coordinator approached Pam, a local schoolteacher and ESL volunteer about teaching sewing to clients in a more structured setting. Pam a dedicated, compassionate advocate for refugees agreed and began working with a few clients. Pam and the Employment Coordinator worked together to build a program focusing on sewing skills and job-specific vocabulary. The sewing classes quickly filled up with clients recruited by the refugee employment program, with Pam teaching 6-8 students at a time, two evenings a week.

Refugees in the CSSMV classes are now taught on basic sewing machines and industrial equipment donated by community partners and a local employer. The entire CSSMV training process usually takes eight weeks, but varies depending on the individual’s ability to master the necessary skills. Once participants pass employer skill tests, continued training takes place at the job site, and if necessary, clients can return to CSSMV classes for additional training.

A Partnership that Benefits Everyone

Since its inception in 2012, more than 200 refugees (men and women) primarily from Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo and Sudan) have completed the CSSMV training with most transitioning to full-time company employment and some participants being promoted to team lead and supervisory positions leading to increasing wages and opportunities over time.

Do you have any volunteer-led vocational training in your community? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org

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How to Keep Employers Engaged

Higher presents a guest post from Ellie White with World Relief Seattle.

In the World Relief Seattle employment office, the employment team uses a whiteboard to keep track of job leads and prospective applicants. Black pen indicates companies that have open positions, while colored pens (each color representing a different employment program) indicate employment program participants who are interested in applying to the corresponding company.

Usually, the board has a healthy balance of companies and job seekers. However, sometimes there is more black than colored ink, which highlights the imbalance between the number of employment opportunities and available candidates.

How can your employment program best navigate this situation?

Be Honest

Always try to stay positive when an employer partner reaches out with a job opportunity. “Thanks for checking in,” one might say, “I’ll pass this along to my team and we’ll let you know if we have any great candidates for you.” Even if your agency doesn’t have a client for the position, it’s important to remember that one of your teammates might have recently connected with a new or former program participant that would be an excellent candidate.

If after three days to two weeks of looking for candidates (depending on the timeline of the employer) results in no job applicant prospects, check back in with the employer and let them know that you don’t currently have any available candidates. End the conversation by asking the employer if they would like you to continue to identify candidates for the position. In this situation, checking in by email occasionally often works best (depending on the employer). A quick message of, “I hope things are going well?” often gets a response of, “Thanks for checking in – we’re good at the moment,” or, “I’m glad you asked -we’re still looking to fill two positions.”

Communicate with honesty to maintain a strong and trusting relationship.

Keep the Long View

Employment programs thrive when employment staff focuses on cultivating employer relationships. Your goal is a mutually beneficial long-term relationship with a local employer partner – never a single job for an individual program participant.

The company values your communication, service, and history of providing excellent candidates and follow-up support, even if you don’t have applicants for current openings.

Refer Employers to Other Employment Programs

A few years ago, a collection of refugee employment service providers in King County, WA, gathered together to create the Refugee Employment Coalition (REC). The coalition meets together for professional development, special projects, and to share employment leads.

When World Relief has no job applicants for an employer partner, they contact the service providers in the REC and share the job leads. World Relief sees this as an opportunity to strengthen its relationship with the employer and the other service providers. However, before referring your employment partners to other service providers, make sure you are able to vouch for the quality of their employment services.

Refugee employment work is a giant puzzle with moving parts that sometimes fit together and sometimes do not. As this puzzle shifts with client arrivals, the job market, and a variety of other uncontrollable factors, we can do our best to provide excellent service to our employer partners so that they continue to have a wonderful experience hiring newly-arrived refugees!

Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org about all the creative ways in which you are keeping employers engaged.

 

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Labor Market Information Strategies: Wage and Benefit Negotiation

Labor Market Information (LMI) is an excellent source of national and state job market data that resettlement programs utilize to make informed decisions on employers, particular industries, and wages. LMI might seem complicated and overwhelming to jump into; however, the benefits to you and your clients are well worth the effort.  Here is an example from Atlanta.

Lutheran Services of Georgia

Lutheran Services of Georgia Matching Grant program has been using LMI to empower their job developers with knowledge and tools for self-sufficiency success. Job Developer Meron Daniel shows us how. Meron noticed that while most families in LMI’s Matching Grant Program are self-sufficient and are financially comfortable enough to pay their bills, many are  unable to save enough money to make major purchases such as a house or car, and may not have a financial cushion in case of an emergency. Thus, Meron explored ways to increase client wages.

Meron started by gathering information on pay and benefits from employers that were already hiring refugees. Then, she used LMI to compare that data to wages for the same industries in the Atlanta area.  Armed with this information, Meron was able to demonstrate to a potential hotel employer offering a starting wage of just $8.50 an hour, that other hotels were paying $9.50 to $10 per hour for the same position. As a result, the hotel came onboard at $11 an hour – clients are happy and the hotel is competitive with its peers and has improved employee retention. A win-win outcome for everyone.

Suggestions

When negotiating on behalf of clients, Meron advises having your pitch and LMI data ready, being transparent with the employer, highlighting all the costs a particular family may have, emphasizing the services your agency provides, and stressing how vital it is for the family to be self-sufficient. In Meron’s experience, Human Resource recruiters have been open to negotiations and may even use the LMI data to make the case for higher wages to their corporate bosses. Meron recommends that if an employer cannot immediately increase pay based on the LMI information, perhaps they will be willing to offer other employee benefits such as free transportation or expanded health care benefits.

Finding LMI for your area

Higher’s Guide to Labor Market Information tells you how to access specific LMI and offers specific examples on how to use the data in  negotiations. LMI databases, like CareerOneStop or O’NET, have tools available to find wage information for industries in particular areas. Additionally, each state has an LMI expert that is available to help create reports or answer questions.

How do you use labor market information when meeting with employers? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Baltimore Healthcare Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a valuable solution to creating a path for refugees to get started in a new field, upgrade a current position, or get back into a former field. The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH) has created an apprenticeship program that provides an opportunity for just that. BACH seeks to create a pipeline of qualified frontline healthcare workers in the Baltimore area by collaborating with local employers and community colleges to provide training opportunities to interested individuals.

To engage refugee participants in the program, BACH collaborated with the International Rescue Committee Maryland (IRC) to provide an opportunity for refugees with higher levels of English, extensive education, or work history.

As part of their BACH apprenticeship, participants are paid and work part-time at an area hospital while completing on-the-job training and classroom training provided by Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). The on-the-job training is competency-based, so not every participant is at the same level or moves through at the same speed. The program’s flexibility allows refugees with backgrounds in healthcare to progress through the training more quickly. As apprentices complete a designated set of competencies, they receive wage increases. Once participants complete their apprenticeship the hospital moves them into a full-time position.

The first apprenticeship cohort by BACH was for Environmental Care Supervisors at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital. The initial cohort includes four refugees.

The training starts at $15 an hour, with competency completions adding raises, and pay starting at $20.29 an hour for those who complete the program.

A new BACH apprenticeship program for Surgical Technologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center will launch in Spring of 2018. The program will follow a set full-time schedule with twice a week CCBC classroom work and three days in the hospital. Both of these apprenticeship program specialties provide refugees with backgrounds in healthcare an opportunity to re-enter the hospital environment without having to forgo work for school or having to pay tuition.

The BACH program is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s ApprenticeshipUSA program through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.

For those interested in starting a similar program, Janie McDermott, BACH Program Manager for Apprenticeship, suggests that the first step is to find employers that are on board and willing to be fully engaged.week CCBC classroom work and three days in the hospital. Both of these apprenticeship program specialties provide refugees with backgrounds in healthcare an opportunity to re-enter the hospital environment without having to forgo work for school or having to pay tuition.

For more information on BACH contact Janie McDermott at jmcdermott@baltimorealliance.org.

What kind of training or apprenticeship programs do you use for refugees? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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U.S. Employers’ Guide to Hiring Refugees

Higher presents a guest post from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) announcing the release of an employer guide in partnership with the Tent Foundation

LIRS has produced in partnership with the Tent Foundation, the U.S. Employers’ Guide to Hiring Refugees, a manual to assist U.S. businesses that are interested in hiring refugees and have questions about the logistics and practicalities of doing so. The Guide contains essential information on a variety of topics related to refugee recruitment and employment, including:

  • An explanation of who refugees are and how they arrive in the United States
  • The benefits of hiring refugees
  • The logistics of finding and hiring refugees
  • Common barriers – and solutions – to refugees entering and maintaining employment
  • Highlight the organizations that businesses can contact if interested in bringing refugees into the workforce

Leading businesses throughout the United States have already experienced the many benefits of hiring refugees, who are authorized to work immediately upon arrival in the United States – including lower workplace attrition, increased diversity, and a strengthened brand and reputation.

In the coming weeks, the guide will continue to be updated to provide an accurate list of refugee resettlement offices that businesses can contact to connect with refugees interested in immediate employment.

We hope that our national resettlement partners will find the contents of this Guide useful for the employers in their communities who have yet to hire refugees. Sharing this guide with employers in your community could be extremely beneficial to building bridges between local agency offices and surrounding businesses.

 

For more information or clarity, contact employ_refugees@lirs.org. The guide is also available on the Higher website.

What strategies or materials do you use when seeking new employers? Share your plan with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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WeWork Pledges to Hire Refugees

WeWork is an American company which provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and existing small and large businesses. Founded in 2010, it is headquartered in New York City with many other locations (here).   On Tuesday November 14, the Washington Post reported that WeWork will hire 1,500 refugees globally over the next 5 years. This could be a great opportunity for refugee clients. Check out the full article here.

 

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Three Critical Factors for Developing Occupational Training Programs

How do you decide which refugee occupational training programs to develop when there are countless options?

Huda Muhammed, IRC Baltimore Program coordinator

Maryland has found a winning strategy that includes labor market evaluation, employer input, and consideration of client interests and past experience. ORR’s Targeted Assistance Program (TAP/TAG) grant is given by Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) to Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MIMA).

MIMA works with training program providers to ensure contextualized Vocational English language training (VELT)and industry-recognized credentials (where required by employers) are part of each program.

MIMA chose to subcontract a portion of its funding to the International Rescue Committee to provide industry recognized training programs, in addition to placement and case management services. The IRC is using the funding to partner with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and different vendors to provide medical front office, welding, and forklift training programs, all adapted for the refugee community.

The focus areas for these short-term occupational programs were chosen very carefully. Huda Muhammed, Program Coordinator at IRC, says, “The first thing I do when thinking about training in the Baltimore area is go to O*NET and research occupational growth projections, average salaries, and for potential employers in the area.”  The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration and is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Muhammed then validates her data with local employers, she shares ideas on training programs, and she gauges employers’ interest in hiring training program graduates. This ensures training programs respond to real workforce needs.

A final step in the selection of trainings to develop is to “always look at the background of your clients and the jobs they’ve had before,” said Huda. Many of her clients have welding experience and were very interested in obtaining a welding program certification in the U.S., confirming that it was a solid training focus.

The process has paid off – the average wage for graduates of any of the training programs was more than $13 per hour in July 2017.

We’d love to hear about short-term occupational programs in your state. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

Guest post by Carrie Thiele.

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