Tips from the Field: Safety Training – Safety Gear

Having an understanding of the importance of workplace safety rules and gear helps prepare refugees for work in the United States. Below are two activities, provided by network agencies, which may help you to incorporate safety training into your job readiness or ESL classes.

World Relief DuPage/Aurora

Dan Peterson, Higher Peer Advisor and Early Employment Specialist, says that World Relief DuPage/Aurora developed several lessons that includes safety as a part of their six-week job readiness training course. Each lesson is taught by an ESL teacher in the daily sessions and reinforced with a once a week workshop taught by Employment Counselors.  Dan shares one of the safety gear activities here:

  • Safety Gear Review: “We bring in lots of safety gear and have an interactive lesson where clients examine the gear, guess its use. Participants also learn what equipment might be required and supplied by various companies and which equipment is often required, but must be purchased, by the employee.” The picture of safety gear on the left shows the types of equipment that might be included in this activity.

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, says that she has incorporated safety training into Vocational and work-related ESL classes because a majority of clients will encounter it on the job and need to understand what it is and why it is important. Here is one of the safety gear activities Jessica uses:

  • Safety Gear Race: “I put clients into two groups, and they pick one person to put the safety gear on, and the group labels each piece. The team that finishes first, wearing and labeling the gear correctly, is the winner.” Clients not only practice vocabulary for safety gear in this activity, it also ensures they know how to correctly wear the gear.

Safety gear is an important aspect of safety training that may be highlighted in job readiness or ESL classes. Providing opportunities to see, wear, or touch real safety items will assist refugees in understanding how United States workplaces function.

Follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for more information on safety gear standards for various workplaces.

Look for our next blog post where we will discuss how teaching specifics on workplace safety can continue to prepare refugees for new positions that have specific regulations and rules on safety.

What are some ways that you incorporate safety training in your job readiness curriculum? 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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Worker Rights Review

At Higher, we frequently receive inquiries about the rights of refugee workers. To address those past and future inquiries we have compiled a list of worker’s rights and associated websites.  These rights are important topics for job readiness classes and may enable refugees to recognize instances of discrimination and unsafe working conditions.

Right to be paid – in most instances, workers have the right to be paid federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and to receive overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week. If workers do not receive all of the wages for the time they actually worked, they can take action to recover those wages. Note that many states have minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage.

Right to be free of discrimination – it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against or harass workers based on race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin or sex.

Right to organize – in most workplaces, it is illegal for an employer to punish or threaten workers for organizing with others to improve their working conditions.

Right to be safe on the job – workers are protected by workplace health and safety laws at their worksites.

Right to benefits if injured on the job – in most states, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to the protections of state workers’ compensation laws.

Right to unemployment payments – in most states workers who are fully or partially unemployed, looking for work, and have valid work documentation are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Right to choose which documents to show your employer for employment eligibility verification (I-9) – for example, your employer cannot demand that you show them a green card. If you do not have a green card yet, you may show your employer your driver’s license or ID and Social Security Card (SSC).

Right to begin work – if you do not have your Social Security card but can provide other documentation of status such as an I-94, you can still begin working unless e-verify is required, in which case a SS number or card is needed at time of employment.

Right to a work environment free of harassment – if you encounter harassment in the form of sexual aggravation, taunting and bullying, or hazing, you may file a report with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel.

Right to report unfair hiring or work practices – you can report any offenses to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel by calling their hotline at 1-800-255-7688.

For more information, check out these resources:

How do you teach refugees in your job readiness classes about their rights in the workplace? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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A Collaborative Approach to Career Development

Higher presents a guest post from the Refugee Career Hub, operated by Friends of Refugees in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. RCH employment staff share their best practices for helping clients find immediate income while encouraging long-term career growth and fulfillment.

Refugees have limited time after arriving to the U.S. to become self-sufficient. Clients often have limited time to complete job readiness courses before starting work. Here are our team’s tips on how to maximize short- and long-term career planning in just a few visits:

Partner with Refugees in Career Development

Refugees arrive in the U.S. with varying expectations, dreams, and previous experience. During the first employment meeting with a client, it is essential to honor a client’s work history and input in designing a career pathway. Staff should not assume that clients understand the refugee employment process, such as accepting entry-level employment or needing to have their education evaluated. Likewise, staff should not expect that clients will seek out a job upgrade on their own to move out of an entry-level position. Creating a career pathway plan that addresses both short- and long-term goals may help to solidify the relationship between employment staff and the client. Check out an example of an employment plan strategy on Higher’s blog.

It is vital to explain procedures, process, and systems to help answer client questions like, “Why am I being referred to a different job than my neighbor? Why is my friend taking a computer class, and I wasn’t referred? Why is someone else having their credentials evaluated when my career counselor told me it is not the best use of money?” For some clients, the differences behind career specific development steps can be elusive. With greater programmatic transparency, clients will have an easier time staying motivated as they navigate through the job market.

Know the Field

The best way to properly advise and connect clients with their next career steps is to know the employment outlook for local industries. Because clients’ backgrounds vary, employment staff must be familiar with employers in a variety of industries and fields. Researching industry information, such as labor market statistics and publications from professional organizations and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as anecdotal information, helps staff understand the specific training, education, and skills needed to move clients forward in particular careers.

 

Promote Personal Responsibility

Very few people are able to reach a fulfilling career by having someone else do the legwork. An easy way to determine if a client is ready for the next stage of his or her career pathway is to see whether or not the client is willing to put in the necessary effort. At RCH, every client goes home with homework. For example, RCH may give a client an employment manager’s business card and encourage them to email their resume to the employer. This allows RCH to see if the client has the motivation to follow through on the assignment and if they are comfortable sending an email with basic professional courtesies and an attachment. If the client returns to RCH and has not sent the email, RCH staff follow up with the client to determine if the issue is a lack of skills or motivation.

Promoting client responsibility and empowerment helps clients take ownership of their own job search and career pathway.

Explain Networking

While clients are incredibly resourceful in making connections, they often do not leverage these relationships in their job search or long-term career pathway. Taking the time to explain career networking and its benefits is highly productive. Clients often say that they feel alone and disconnected when looking for employment, so RCH created a professional networking activity for clients to identify and leverage relationships with friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers. RCH challenges clients to contact their connections and learn where they work and if their employers are hiring. This is another way for clients to take ownership of their career pathway.

RHC hopes that these suggestions will be helpful for other refugee employment programs in their efforts to help clients move from survival jobs to career fulfillment.

Tirzah Brown is the interim employment services manager at Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, GA. She is currently earning her Aaster’s of Public Administration and plans to work on anti-trafficking policy and survivor rights.

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Interactive Games for Developing U.S. Workplace Skills

The U.S. workplace often emphasizes three skills—speed, accuracy, and organization. Refugees, as well as other applicants, need to be prepared to finish tasks quickly, yet pay attention to details and follow specific instructions. One strategy from the field, to evaluate and expand these capabilities for clients and prepare them for jobs, is to use interactive games and activities such as Legos or Tetris in job readiness classes.

In Ohio, the Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley’s (CSSMV) employment team learned of several tests, which were games, employers were using in the hiring process that fit well in job readiness classes or one-on-one skill assessments. The team decided to implement several corollary games to help build client’s confidence on skill based tests given during interviews. Introducing these games to refugees in job readiness classes is fun, and can be useful for building and evaluating job skills.  These games are accessible to a wide range of English levels. Using them in multi-level classes where pre-literate and highly skilled participants are present might optimize time and efficiency when preparing refugees for the U.S. workplace.

Perfection: the goal is to match each piece into the correctly-shaped slot within a specific time frame. This game is used with refugees preparing for work at industrial laundries, distribution centers, electronic assembly warehouses and other positions that require finger and hand agility. Perfection was introduced to the employment team by a hiring manager at a local linen supply company.

Legos: the goal is to build and match the color and shape of Legos models within a specified period of time. Legos are used as a hiring test by an Ohio company that designs and builds electronic motors which are sold internationally. Practicing Legos in job readiness classes helps employment staff to evaluate if a client was ready to move forward in applying for certain types of jobs.

“My favorite activity is a group Legos session where clients race the clock (and each other) to build small trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, etc. The directions for the Legos models are just pictures and arrows in sequential order. If you are working with clients who are non-English speakers, or may speak some English but read very little, you can still get a good measure of the skills needed for certain jobs,” said Gretchen Pfaff, Employment Coordinator at CSSMV.

Memory Match: the goal is to turn over two cards of the same picture from an array of cards. You can create your own set of memory cards including basic vocabulary for industry tools, foods and shapes, allowing clients practice of key English words at the same time. This game is used by employment staff to help build a client’s ability to concentrate, learn key words for particular jobs, and practice English.

 

Tetris: the goal is to rotate shapes to form continuous lines. This game is used by a particular employer that required staff to load and unload boxes off and onto trucks.

Job Ready Bingo: Job ready Bingo is used in job readiness classes to practice employment vocabulary such as documents needed to work, job cycle, and shifts. The goal is for each participant to quickly identify the called word on their game card and cover the space with a marker. This game helps to evaluate a clients’ understanding of the material taught in class, listening skills, and the ability to follow directions, and it reinforces key English vocabulary.

What games or interactive activities do you use to teach everyday U.S. workplace skills with your clients? Share with us at higherinformation@lirs.org.

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Career Planning: How to Make SMART Objectives and Goals Work for Refugees

While working with job seekers it is important to make the most out of the time shared. Using SMART objectives and goals[1] can be an efficient way to help the job seeker identify specific steps to achieve self-sufficiency and longer-term goals. It is a clear, concise way of goal setting to help clients focus their efforts.

Often times during the first employment intake, an employment team member will hear that a job seeker’s goals are, “I want to work any job” and, “I want to learn English.” Those are good thoughts, but not specific enough to provide an action plan. They are not SMART. SMART objectives and goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Example: Claude is a recently arrived refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who speaks fluent French and some English. Claude completed Secondary School (High School) but never received his diploma or certificate. Claude arrived with his mother and six siblings. During his employment intake Claude shares that his long term goal is to become a human rights lawyer, but he also understands the immediate need to financially support his family. The Employment Specialist (ES) suggests seeking work at a local warehouse that often hires new Americans. Claude agrees and is ready to embark on the job hunt.

Objective #1: Obtain employment at the warehouse within two months.

 

Specific Claude begins the job cycle process of applying and interviewing with one particular employer.
Measurable Claude will either have the job or will not in two months’ time.
Attainable The ES already has connections to the employer and knows they are eager to hire newly arriving refugees.
Relevant Claude wants to start working right away to support his family and have money to be able to achieve his long term dream of becoming a lawyer.
Timely Claude needs to be able to pay bills before his family’s initial funding assistance runs out.

 

 

Objective #2: Enroll in General Education Diploma (GED) training course within one year.

Specific ? The objective does not outline explicitly where Claude will enroll.
Measurable Claude attending a GED training course within one year from intake is measurable.
Attainable ? There are several questions that must be answered to know if this objective is attainable.  Is the training free? If not, how will Claude pay for it? How is Claude’s English proficiency in reading, writing, and other subjects? If he needs additional preparation, where will he get it and how long will it take?
Relevant Claude’s long term goal is to become a lawyer, having a GED or High School Diploma is required and therefore relevant.
Timely Claude can keep his job to meet basic needs while going to GED class simultaneously. He seems motivated to do it all.

 

 

 

It is important when creating SMART objectives and goals to consider each step required while keeping in mind the client’s immediate needs and barriers. There are several additional objectives that Claude must achieve in order to reach his longer-term goal of becoming a human rights lawyer, including:

  1. Ensure proficiency for GED training courses
  2. Enroll in GED courses
  3. Obtain a GED
  4. Apply and be accepted to college
  5. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
  6. Apply and be accepted to law school
  7. Obtain a law degree
  8. Obtain a job in the human rights field

Going through each objective required to meet longer-term goals utilizing the SMART technique may help the ES, as well as the client, understand the pathway of a career and its feasibility for the client.

Look out for activities on career planning and SMART objectives and goals in Higher’s upcoming Job Readiness Toolkit!

What are some ways that you teach goal planning when working with refugees? Share your best practices with us at Information@higheradvantage.org!

[1]Objectives are the measurable steps an individual takes to achieve his/her goal(s).

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Identifying Job-Getting Personal Qualities

Refugees looking for their first job in America often underestimate the value of informing potential employers about personal character qualities that bolster their employability.  The following exercise helps job search clients identify their own employment-worthy character traits and develop greater confidence in their own ability to get a job in the United States.

Introduction:  In order to ‘sell’ oneself in the job market, it is necessary to know exactly what it is that one has to offer.  In this exercise, participants will identify their own positive personality traits valued by American employers.

Time: 5 – 10 minutes

Materials: Copy of “My Personal Qualities” (below) for each participant.

Procedure:

  • Distribute a copy of the handout to each job search client. It may be helpful to provide a bi-lingual version to help clients learn the meanings of the English terms.
  • Ask participants to check off all the personality traits that they possess.
  • Once they are done, ask them to identify the top 5 traits that they possess and that relate to the job they hope to do (e.g. if one hopes to be a truck driver, then “dependable” may be a more important personal quality than “cheerful”).  Ask clients to think of a time when they successfully used each of these 5 traits (on the job or otherwise), and to be prepared to talk about it.
  • Ask participants which 5 personality traits they think most employers most look for when hiring a new employee. There is no one right answer to this question, but for the following are qualities that many employers look for when considering to hire someone:  positive attitude, punctual, works well with others, self-starter, adaptable, and self-managed learner.

For a variation on this discussion ask participants which top qualities they would look for in an employee if they were the business owner.

My Personal Qualities

Put a check beside the words that are true regarding you…

___  Well-organized                                         ___   Hard-working

___  Ambitious                                                   ___  Active

___  Flexible                                                      ___  Energetic

___  Cooperative                                               ___  Responsible

___  Punctual                                                     ___  Neat

___  Alert                                                            ___  Friendly

___  Motivated                                                   ___  Polite

___  Honest                                                        ___  Independent

___  Efficient                                                     ___   Relaxed

___  Confident                                                   ___  Intelligent

___  Dependable                                              ___  Competent

___  Knowledgeable                                        ___  Thorough

___  Adaptable                                                   __  Curious

___  Disciplined                                                ___  Helpful

___  Mature                                                        ___ Caring

___  Creative                                                    ___  Open-minded

___  Funny                                                        ___  Patient

___  Careful                                                      ___  Respectful

___  Reliable                                                     ___  Willing to learn

___  Positive Attitude                                       ___  Works well with others

___  Self-starter                                                ___  Self-managed learner

Now, list your 5 top personality strengths and think of an example of a time when you successfully used each one.

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Do you have any creative games you use in Job Readiness class? If yes, please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org

This post was written by guest blogger Daryl Morrissey, Cultural Orientation Coordinator at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

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Want a well-paying job with benefits for your clients? Consider apprenticeships!

According to experts on National Public Radio’s (WAMU 88.5) program that originally aired on June 12th titled How To Earn Six Figures Without A Four-Year Degree, by 2025 there will be two million jobs needing skilled labor that will go unfilled if today’s labor market conditions hold. The program featured four experts from different backgrounds who discussed the merits of apprenticeship job training over more traditional forms of education.

The takeaway for you:

  • Many jobs do not require four year college degrees and pay middle income wages, including some in the six figures
  • Many positions are most easily accessed via apprenticeships

What is an apprenticeship?

  1. It is typically a three to four year training program where you are learning the building blocks of a specific job, leading to mastery in an occupational area and professional certification that travels with you. Some apprenticeships are for a set amount of time, while others are competency-based, allowing apprentices to complete their training as fast as their aptitude allows.
  2. You are working and getting paid while also completing academic coursework that is tailored to the position and provides a foundational and conceptual framework.
  3. You are learning under direct supervision of a skilled expert.
  4. You are training to take an available job with that same company.

Apprenticeships have been around for centuries but in the last century they lost favor as the four-year college experience was increasingly sought after and promoted by parents and school guidance counselors. This trend appears to be reversing however. Factors including an aging American workforce, the career preferences of younger American workers, and the emergence of new technologies requiring specialized skills have all contributed to an ever-increasing gap between available jobs and good candidates for those jobs. As a result, there is a renewed interest in apprenticeships as a strategy for incentivizing workers and filling labor shortages.

Panelist Robert Lerman, a Fellow at the Urban Institute and a founder of the American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship, discussed the difficulty of the school-based-only approach for some young people.  Courses in a four-year degree program do not always feature relevant, skill-based learning, so why spend the time and money? To illustrate this point the program spoke with Cory McCray, a current Delegate in the Maryland House of Representatives and former electrician who completed an apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. As an apprentice in the construction trade McCray did not assume the levels of debt accrued by his peers who went to four-year colleges because he had fewer classes and completed paid work as part of his training. He argues that the academic coursework he did have was motivating because it led to a quality performance on the job.

Other panelists spoke about the challenges of making an informed decision about a career path without some significant exposure in the workplace. For example, businesses in the tech industry find that hands-on workplace learning is essential to helping staff gain mastery in their field. Ken Hitchcock, Director of the Pickens County Career and Technology Center in Liberty, South Carolina stated that many apprenticeships provide additional support to those that believe they have poor math abilities or those that need English language support by providing remedial classes.

In what industries are apprenticeships located?

According to guest Nicholas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, there are lots of opportunities in a variety of industries: manufacturing, IT (including cyber security), health, finance, aeronautics, mechanics, electronics, culinary arts, and construction.

Finding national and state registered apprenticeship programs in your area.

Check with your Workforce Development Board for the resources in your community. As an example, check out this great resource produced by the Oakland County Workforce Development agency in Michigan and provided by Jennifer Llewellyn, Manager of the agency.

You will find general and location-specific information on apprenticeships here at the Department of Labor Apprenticeship USA website.

So let’s get to work for our clients of all ages!

Additional Resources                                                      

See previous blog post on apprenticeships from Higher:

http://higheradvantage.org/workforce-resource-registered-apprenticeship/

National Apprenticeship Week is November 13-19

https://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/NAW/

This post is written by Guest Blogger Alicia Wrenn, Assistant Director of Integration at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Does your agency utilize apprenticeships for clients? If, yes please let Higher know by writing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

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Driving in the United States: A Resource from the Refugee Center Online

Every state across the US requires you to get a driver’s license if you want to get behind the wheel of a car.

It is not uncommon for Americans to drive more than an hour each way to work, and 77 percent of Americans drive alone to their jobs, while an additional 11 percent carpool.

Driving may be a mode of transportation to work for some of your clients.  Thus, educating refugees about the local licensing process is very important and should be included in Cultural Orientation and Job Readiness Courses.

Clients need to know and understand the licensing rules, before beginning the process to legally drive. To help clients understand the intricacies of driving in America, The Refugee Center Online has put together How to Get a Driver’s License: Translated Driver’s Handbooks in over 20 languages.

In the United States, the issuance of licenses is the authority of individual states (including Washington, D.C. and all territories). Drivers are normally required to obtain a license from their state of residence, and all states recognize each other’s licenses for temporary visitors.

Any questions about driving should be directed to state DMV offices or local police.  If you have any additional resources you would like to share please contact us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Don’t forget to buckle up!

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