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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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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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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Holiday Gift Guide – Any Recommendations?

Do you know of any businesses or products that should be featured in Higher’s annual holiday gift guide?  We have a great list started for this year’s guide, but it can always be better!  

Stay tuned for our annual holiday gift guide blog post. We’ll put all of your recommendations into one post to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible.  

Please submit your recommendations by commenting below or by contacting us.

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Upcoming Learning Opportunities

Friday, October 7, 2016 – American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) Conference

What: This Friday, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) will hold their second conference, Integrating Migrants into the Workforce.  Bringing together nonprofit, educational, corporate, and federal and local government actors from the United States and Germany, this conference will highlight both countries’ strengths of educating the workforce (Germany) and integrating newcomers into society (United States). To learn more about this event, visit the AICGS website.

Where: Washington, DC

When: Friday, October 7, 2016 from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm (EST)

How: Register to attend here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 – Free Webinar: Job-Ready, Set, Go! Connecting Immigrant and Refugee Youth to Employment

What: Cities of Migration is hosting a free webinar to explore enterprising ideas from Stockholm and Paris that are connecting talented young people to jobs while helping businesses tap the diversity advantage.

Where: Online – learn more about this event here.

When: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 10 am (EST)

How: Register to attend here.

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Workforce Resource: On-the-Job Training

On the Job TrainingWelcome to the third 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 caseloads and employer relationships. You can focus on using highlighted resources to help your clients succeed in the U.S. workforce.

In our first two posts we highlighted online tools that you can utilize in your job counseling and job development efforts. In the next few posts we want to shift to highlighting programs within the mainstream workforce system that can help your clients break into career fields that they are interested in.

Breaking into a Career through On-the-job Training

Breaking into one’s field of choice can be a challenge, even for native-born Americans. On-the-job Training (OJT) is funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and is one strategy for obtaining or updating skills and securing employment.

OJT is a win-win situation in which the OJT participant receives training and employment and the employer is reimbursed for the training costs (usually calculated at half the pay rate for the agreed-upon training period- although under the new WIOA legislation states can choose to increase employer reimbursement up to 75%).

OJT & Refugees

For refugees, OJT can be a strategic way to either re-enter one’s former industry or gain new skills that will put them on a stable career path in the US.

Because OJT is a comprehensive skills training program, it will be most useful for refugees with higher levels of English and literacy. Some programs, however, have found success placing LEP clients in OJT placements when there is a strong relationship between the employer and the refugee employment program in which they work as a team to make sure the OJT training is successful.

From the research Higher has done so far, refugees with backgrounds in “blue-collar” industries (e.g. construction, manufacturing) seem to be a particularly good fit for OJT, because of the experience they bring to the table, and because the federal reimbursement opportunity is attractive to small and medium sized business in these fields.

That being said, there have also been successful OJT placements with both high skilled refugees with more professional backgrounds and low-skilled refugees with little to no work background (see examples below).

Places Where it’s Worked

OmahaOmaha, NE:

Partnership: Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (Omaha) with WIOA Contractor Goodwill Industries of Omaha, NE

Population: Afghan SIVs

Industry: Construction

 

“With [WIOA/OJT] dollars and Lutheran Family Service’s reputation and connection to the community, we’re able to put together a package that speaks to a hiring manager or organization…and it’s quick—participants are getting enrolled in our program and within 3 or 4 weeks they’re working. We use our dollars to pay for tools, steel toed boots—whatever they need to be successful on the job, as well as paying money towards the employer for hiring through our program” –Justin Dougherty, (former) Director of Workforce Services, Goodwill Industries, Inc., Omaha, NE

Orlando__Lake_Eola_1Orlando, FL:

Partnership: Catholic Charities, Orlando, FL and local employers (Catholic Charities operates the OJT program in house using WIOA funds)

Populations: Cubans, Haitians, and Iraqis

Industries: Dentistry (Dental Assistant), Childcare (Assistant Teacher), Logistics/Warehouse, Hospitality (Maintenance Technicians and Front Desk), Food Processing

“OJT is a good option because it provides employment that is higher paying than most entry level positions, gives some clients an opportunity to continue in their field, and gives others a great ‘stepping stone’ job.” –Daisy Clemente, Employment Services Coordinator, Catholic Charities, Orlando, FL

Salt Lake CitySalt Lake City, UT:

Partnership: IRC, Salt Lake City, UT with Utah Department of Workforce Services Office

Populations: Sudanese, Burmese, Iraqi

Industries: Sewing, Construction/remodeling, Glass recycling

 

“We keep OJT in our back pocket as an incentive for employers who are a little hesitant [to hire refugees].” –Nolan LaBarge, Employment Specialist, IRC, Salt Lake City, Utah

Tips for Success

In talking to these 3 sites, some common themes emerged in terms of what made their OJT efforts successful:

  • Commit to learning the system: If you don’t already have someone on staff who has a background in mainstream workforce development, identify someone who can commit the time to learning the process and be the liaison between your office and the American Job Center (AJC). Additionally, look for allies within the mainstream system who are excited about your work and can give you an insider’s perspective on how to navigate the system.
  • Strong job development makes strong OJT placements: Often times it’s the employers you already have strong relationships with who will be most interested in placing your clients in OJT. You can also use OJT as a selling point when approaching new employers. Either way, you can put the opportunity on their radar and if they’re interested, you can can make the connection to the AJC to continue the process.
  • Provide good marketing materials for employers: In the same way that you provide employers good information about refugees, consider also leaving them with a nice brochure about OJT. Give them something to think about, and follow up with them shortly afterwards.
  • Offer employers additional support (coordinating interpretation, etc.): Let them know that you not only can provide them with strong candidates, but you are available to provide reasonable support to them to help with some of the challenges that come along with hiring refugees.
  • Make the right match: Always remember to take your clients past experience and skills into account when recommending them for OJT. While OJT may at times provide an opportunity for someone to learn completely new skills, the OJT program is primarily designed to be a skills upgrade program, and trainees are expected to begin contributing as productive workers on day one. The refugee programs that have found success with OJT have done so largely because they capitalized on skills their clients already had.

Getting Started & Learning More

If OJT is new for you, the best place to get started would be to contact your local American Job Center (AJC). Click here to find an AJC near you.

Once you identify the OJT resources and process in your community, you can begin marketing the program to employers that you work with.

The Employment Training Administration (ETA) is in the process of updating its’ OJT Toolkit which will be made available soon on the new Workforce GPS website, but in the meantime click here to access a recent webinar entitled “Strategies for Implementing OJT Simply and Effectively” as well as an OJT Training Brief and Resource Guide by the same name (you can find it in the left hand column called “Related Resources”).

Coming Soon…

Also, keep your eyes out in the next month or so for the next edition of our Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series, which will take a deeper look at the OJT partnership (highlighted briefly in this post) between Lutheran Family Services and Goodwill Industries in Omaha, NE.

Have You Placed Clients in OJT?

It’s impossible for us to know everything that everyone is doing out there. If you’ve placed clients in OJT, please let us know so that we can learn from your experiences as we continue to look at this strategy for refugee employment! Send us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

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