Building Professional Online Networking for Refugee Clients

Higher presents a guest post from Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFSN), on their partnership with LinkedIn to provide training for highly skilled refugees.

In today’s professional landscape networking is one of the best ways to secure a job and a professional online profile amplifies your reach. Limited personal connections in the US and narrow exposure to online professional systems present a barrier for newly arrived refugees. Developing a high-quality LinkedIn profile helps clients overcome this barrier and increase confidence by showcasing their skills, education, and experience.

In February 2018, LFSN partnered with LinkedIn to provide refugee clients with a training on creating and updating their LinkedIn profiles, including profile pictures. Guidance on how to utilize LinkedIn profiles in the job search process was also provided.

This partnership was inspired by a Higher blog post describing a jointly produced job fair for immigrants and refugees where participants received guidance from LinkedIn staff. LFSN proposed a similar idea to LinkedIn and was connected with “LinkedIn for Good,” a program promoting access to economic opportunity for underserved communities including youth, veterans, and refugees. LinkedIn for Good helps participants build networks and acquire needed skills for advancement in their fields of interest.

A total of 14 LFSN clients and 2 mentors attended the event on February 17th, 2018. After presenting on how to build a great LinkedIn profile, a LinkedIn Product Education Consultant and three volunteer LinkedIn staff created professional profile photographs for attendees.

Participants had the opportunity to interact with other refugees facing similar challenges in building online and professional networks. With their new profiles, participants report feeling empowered to expand their network and more hopeful of advancing in former or new career pathways. LFSN staff members also gained skills in assisting other clients with creating LinkedIn profiles.

Encouraging and supporting refugees to pursue their career goals is critical to promoting long-term professional development, economic self-sufficiency, and community integration.

For more information on the partnership and event, email Jessica at jploen@lfsneb.org.

How do you incorporate partners to help your clients along their career pathway? Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Women Centered Employment Programming

Across the country, employment programs are engaging more women in their programs. Both PRM and ORR emphasize the need to provide full services to all adult case members. In addition to the usual barriers most refugees face, women may disproportionately face barriers such as access to childcare, lower levels of formal education, and cultural expectations regarding their role in the workplace. Still, there are powerful examples from across the country that highlight women being empowered through employment. For example, a group of women entrepreneurs in Phoenix, AZ are tackling obstacles they face and gaining new skills by selling homemade art, candles, body products, jewelry and more. Their pop-up store allows them to make short-term income and learn valuable business skills.

In Maryland, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) implements a program to provide women additional access to employment services.  IRC’s method is to increase access to classes through gender-specific services and continuing support beyond the initial employment services period.

“It’s not that women don’t want to be employed, it’s that the traditional [employment services] model may not fit their needs,” said Neisha Washington, IRC Maryland Youth and Women’s Employment Coordinator. “We wanted to design something that takes into account the challenges that families are finding as well as the specific barriers that women are facing.”

Neisha and her colleagues surveyed the agency’s female clients and found that nearly 100% want to work. However, many women need additional support and flexibility to balance work, education, and home life. The resulting IRC program is the Youth and Women’s Employment Program (YWEP), serving women in individual and group sessions as needed.

One way in which YWEP addresses self-sufficiency barriers while managing the resettlement process is by providing additional childcare support and long-term case management.

An additional training opportunity offered through YWEP is a women’s only class focused on career coaching, increasing confidence in self-promoting, and creating new social connections. YWEP encourages the women in the class to invite friends to expand social circles and provide grassroots support for those with limited English and work experience. IRC has found that the women’s class gives participants the opportunity to engage in more meaningful ways than in a general employment class.

Providing supplementary training programs centered on women like YWEP in Maryland and the women entrepreneurs group in Arizona can be significant to the long-term success of refugee women.

How does your agency ensure employment success for refugee women? Share your thoughts by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Holiday Outreach Strategy + Holiday Graphic!

Showing appreciation for your employer partners is easier than ever before.

We designed this holiday graphic to provide you with an easy and quick way to send a thank you email to employers and community partners. 

You can do it in three easy steps:

1. Download a high resolution JPEG by right clicking on the below image and selecting “Save As”.

higher-holiday-card 2016

(or Download a PDF here)

2. Add your agency logo and message to an email.

3. Hit send.

Do you have a holiday outreach strategy that works? Please share in the comments below or contact us with the details!  

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The Refugee Olympic Team

The world is cheering for the Refugee Olympic Team as they compete for the gold in Rio this month.  Literally.

To learn more about these ten athletes, check out the UNHCR Refugee Olympic Team page.

Visa, the team’s first corporate sponsor, captured the significance of these games with this short commercial:

The schedule is posted here. Be sure to tune in today as three athletes represent #RefugeeOlympicTeam in the quest for the gold!

Here are a few tips to watch the games for free. Be sure to follow #RefugeeOlympicTeam on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook for live updates.

A documentary about the team will be completed after the Games have taken place. Here’s a sneak peak:

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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Working with Congolese Clients – Video

We’re sharing this video with your mainstream workforce peers today, and we thought you might like to see it too!  Thank you, James Kalunga, for sharing your expertise and client-centered approach with us.

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Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 2

transportationAt a recent Maryland-wide workshop which focused on refugee workforce development, Higher had participants do a brainstorming activity, in which groups worked together to list common barriers refugees face to employment as well as possible solutions.

These types of activities inevitably generate a “wish list” of solutions which are great ideas but not always in our power to implement quickly (e.g. adding staff members, ESL at work sites, home-based self-employment for refugee women).

While there are certainly times to pursue those big ideas, perhaps the best thing about exercises like this is that they allow groups to identify simpler solutions that can be implemented immediately.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share some of these insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement!  Last week we focused on tips for overcoming childcare challenges.  This week we’ll share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of transportation challenges.

Tips for Overcoming Transportation Challenges:

  • Cover transportation options into job readiness training.  Include orientations about public transportation, including information about weekly or monthly bus passes, using smart phone applications to get around, perhaps even information about obtaining driver’s licenses.
  • Develop partnerships with public and private transportation organizations.
  • Be strategic about resettling families closer to job location and/or public transportation hubs.
  • Work with local DMV offices to improve accessibility for speakers of other languages.
  • Encourage your clients to work with you on this challenge, asking them to network within their community to explore solutions.

For more on transportation solutions, click here.

Stay tuned for more tips from MD refugee employment programs and stakeholders. Future barriers will include limited English proficiency, limited computer skills, and unrealistic client expectations.

Feel free to participate in the conversation by leaving a comment below or sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

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August Webinars with E-Verify

everifyU.S. Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS) regularly offers free webinars for clients and employers about completing I-9 forms and other questions related to E-Verify. Some are in Spanish.

Check out the August Schedule here. Many of us can “verify” the value in attending.

Think you already know how this all works?  Click here to take a 5 question quiz. It’s quick and fun.  Your results might surprise you.  Mine did.

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American Job Center Overview

Department of Labor Fact Sheets

  • American Job Center Overview – With nearly 2,800 delivery points nationwide, American Job Centers, also known as One-Stop Career Centers, provide a vast network to address the human resource and employment needs of both job seekers and business in every community.
  • Workforce System Overview – Provides a general overview of how funding flows from the Department of Labor to the local level.
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Hidden Agendas: Stereotypes and Cultural Barriers to Corporate-Community Partnerships

Hidden Agendas: Stereotypes and Cultural Barriers to Corporate-Community Partnerships, prepared by Laufer Green Isaac.

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African Community Center of Denver’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program

During our last webinar (click here to view the slideshow), Donna Kapp, Training Programs Manager for
ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, shared a little bit about how she uses labor market information to inform employer outreach. Afterward, we caught up with Donna to learn a little more about the ACC’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program.

Can you share any successes of the program?DSC02822[2]
CFaSST graduates are often better prepared for work in a commercial kitchen than most Americans! At the beginning of the course, CFaSST participants take a pre-test to determine their familiarity with food safety and to set a benchmark from which to measure their learning. The average pre-test score is 39%. After several weeks of learning in the classroom, field trips, special speakers and applying their learning in a commercial kitchen, every student has passed the post test. In fact, the average score on the posttest is 87% and two participants have scored 100%!

What is the program? What do refugees learn?
CFaSST, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training, is a 100 hour, highly accessible and interactive course on the rules and regulations of commercial food preparation and service in America. It includes information on the importance of food safety, the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them. Participants learn how to prevent foodborne illness by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination, preparing and holding food at the correct temperatures, storing food correctly and cleaning and sanitizing in the commercial kitchen.

They also learn the basics of customer service, how to handle a knife, English vocabulary related to the commercial food industry, and the soft skills employers are looking for in their newly hired employees. Through a dynamic partnership with the University of Denver, the course is offered in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management building on campus. CFaSST participants are able to learn course content in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the event center kitchen.

This partnership also makes possible unique learning opportunities for both students and staff who interact with the CFaSST program on campus. Undergraduate students enrolled in the “Human Capital Management” course develop very close relationships with CFaSST participants. Each CFaSST participant is mentored by one or two university undergrads to learn more about the hospitality industry and how to find and interview for food service positions. For many, this “assignment” becomes a gateway to new friendships as CFaSST participants and university undergrads get to know each other and move forward toward the common goal of employment in the hospitality industry.

While CFaSST participants benefit a great deal from the experience, university students also learn how to interact with and train someone who may be older than they, who might not speak much English and comes from a very diverse cultural background. Students graduating from the university have described this mentoring relationship as one of their most significant learning experiences during their four years at the university.

Check out this article to learn about the program from the perspective of the students and faculty.

How many refugees have completed the program?
Since the program began in the spring of 2012, 46 adult refugees have graduated from the course with certificates of completion, safe food handler cards and their own bimetallic stemmed thermometers.

DSC00370[1][4]Of those that have completed the program, how many have been hired in the hospitality industry?
Since last year, 76% of those enrolled in CFaSST found employment within 90 days of completing the course. Most of those placements occurred within the first 30 days after graduation. 81% of those employed are working in food service related positions such as cook, prep cook, kitchen utility worker, dishwasher, steward and concession stand worker.

We have worked hard to build relationships with various employers in the Denver metro area. CFaSST graduates are working in many different businesses including Chili’s Restaurants, the Sheraton Hotel, Coors Field (where the Rockies, Colorado’s professional baseball team, play), the University of Denver, and many other local commercial food businesses.

What are some of the challenges of the program?
Through experience, we’ve learned that food service jobs are difficult to find right before the holidays. Consequently, we’ve reorganized the schedule so that this fall participants will complete the course and be ready for employment in mid-October rather than late November.  Employment placements are high in Denver right now so it is sometimes difficult to get enough referrals from Volag staff. Fortunately, CFaSST enjoys an excellent reputation within the community and many individuals refer themselves to the program.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone that would like to start a program like this?
Training programs for adult refugees should be closely tied to the American workplace in order to prepare them for employment. That means programs should instruct in the hard and soft skills employers are looking for while building participants’ workplace English vocabulary. Look for employer partners who understand and value the opportunity such programs offer them to contribute to the training content and then hire well prepared employees.

In the classroom, instructors should not be afraid to challenge their students with difficult material while creating a positive and safe environment that encourages learning through a variety of methods and activities. CFaSST participants are always respected as mature and capable learners who, through hard work, rise to the expectations of the instructors.

To learn more about CFaSST, please contact Donna Kapp, donna@acc-den.org or 303-399-4500 x331.

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