Job Corps Provides Opportunities for Refugee Young Adults

Refugee young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 24 may have narrow educational and career training options due to low English language proficiency and a lack of formal education. Job Corps can offer refugee youth the opportunity to learn and live with American students, perfect English language skills, and ultimately achieve educational and employment goals. Job Corps is a free program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, available to help young people improve their livelihood and career prospects by empowering them to obtain professional jobs and become financially independent. Participants in Job Corps live on-site at one of 131 locations across the country, learning academic skills and training for a chosen career path. After students spend their morning in the classroom, they spend the afternoon learning a specific trade. Each location has different training programs based on the needs of the communities.  For example, programs might include, advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, culinary arts, or transportation.

Job Corps is a self-paced program that takes between 8 months and 2 years to complete. When participants are close to finishing the program, Job Corps provides employment support, including job coaching, resume and application assistance, and networking referrals.  These services continue for up to one year after graduation. Most students graduate with a job or enroll in college.

Job Corps and Refugees

The key to success in pairing refugee youth with Job Corps lies in creating a relationship with your local Job Corps center. For example, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) in Dayton, OH, worked with Job Corps admissions and career counselors to help create a space of welcome for refugee youth. CSSMV refugee program has been working with the Job Corps program in Dayton, OH since 2010, according to Teena Davis, Outreach and Admissions Counselor for Job Corps.

When CSSMV is advising a client on whether Dayton Job Corps would be appropriate, the two Job Corps components are considered: education and employment. Job Corps provides the educational component by assisting youth in obtaining their high school diploma or GED in addition to a trade. However, not every Job Corps site offers ESL.   In Dayton, CSSMV facilitated a partnership between Job Corps and a local English Language program.  As a result, ESL classes are now available for refugee participants.

Interested in connecting with a local Job Corps center? Ellenne Abraham, Job Corps Career Counselor, suggests that resettlement sites offer to assist with recruitment and work with their local Job Corps to find innovative low cost methods to offer ESL.  Abraham also advises resettlement sites to refer refugee community members for Job Corps center position openings. Those staff members can be ambassadors to help avoid miscommunication and cultural mishaps.  Refugee employment staff should also continue to be available to assist referred refugees when needed.

Success Story

Bior was resettled in 2016 when he was 18.  At school in the Kakuma refugee camp, Bior dreamed of becoming a scientist. After arrival in Dayton, Bior realized that in order to achieve his dream, he would need to take an indirect route. Bior’s Employment Coordinator at CSSMV spoke with him about Job Corps.  Three months later, Bior entered the high school diploma program at Job Corps and then began the Medical Assistant trade program. Bior completed his high school diploma and Medical Assistant training in a year. Today, Bior continues to reside at Dayton Job Corps: “I work at a Pharmacy after classes and I am now in college studying Aviation Technology. Job Corps provides me with everything I need and everything is free, including books and transportation.”

You can learn more about the Job Corps program by visiting their website or by reaching out to your local admissions office.

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FREE ESL, GED and Vocational Training in More than 100 Career Fields

Job Corps LogoIf this sounds too good to be true, maybe you haven’t yet discovered Job Corps.  Back in the day, it had a reputation as reform school for juvenile delinquents and high school drop-outs.  That’s outdated information.

Job Corps is a Department of Labor program with a national network of 125 campuses offering career development services to at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24.  A high percentage of our clients fall into this age bracket.  The Bureau of Refugees, Population and Migration (BPRM) estimates that approximately 25% of Congolese arrivals will be in this age range.

Most of our clients will qualify based on income eligibility.  Many crave education and need a range of skills to get an entry level job with career potential.  Job Corps is an unmatched opportunity.

Many locations offer a campus setting where housing, meals, spending money and a range of extra-curricular activities are provided at no cost.  Without the pressure of having to earn enough money to pay rent, clients can focus full time on perfecting their English, getting a GED and earning a certificate in one or more skilled trades.  It’s a great way to learn social skills and meet other young people from different backgrounds, as well.

How to Proceed? 

Identify Job Corps locations in your area here.  The recruiting website has all of the basic information you need to get started, including a contact form that will get a rapid response from a recruiting office in your area.  Other resources include YouTube and Facebook pages.  Much of the recruiting information is available in Spanish.

Higher recommends developing a relationship with the recruiting office and touring the facilities before beginning to publicize the opportunity with clients.  When you have applications, contacts and comprehensive knowledge of the steps involved, you can develop a plan to move forward.  As you learn more about the different career training offered, you’ll be able to screen clients more effectively and help them think about which option might be the best fit for them.

Consider beginning with a small initial group with intermediate English language skills or who share a common language and culture.  This will make it easier to provide initial interpretation and will build in an initial comfort level for the clients, their families and community.  The word will spread and you will soon be fielding a high volume of interest.  It helps to be prepared in advance so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

What’s the Catch?

There are a few issues that require a bit of strategic thinking.  These are definitely manageable and are far outweighed by the benefits.  The enrollment process can take some time.  Some traditional families might need to be provided with information so they can feel comfortable with the decision.  For in-demand career tracks, there can be a several-month wait to enter the program.

Stay Tuned for Additional Help from Higher

Higher is developing a webinar focused on Job Corps.  Watch our blog and website for an announcement early next year.  If you have experience helping clients access this great opportunity, please get in touch as we gather success stories and expertise from within the refugee employment network.



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