LSS/NCA Shares Career Advancement Employment Strategies

More often than not, the first job a refugee gets in the U.S. is only temporary, as its main purpose is to start generating income to cover living expenses. Many refugees are eager to return to a previous field or pursue other career opportunities, but there may be obstacles that stand in the way: the need for professional-level English, re-certification of degrees or licenses, and the lack of a professional network, to name a few. In this post, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) shares their two-pronged approach to assisting clients who are ready to embark on their career pathway.

  1. Utilizing Volunteers

Twice a month, a professional career coach volunteers with LSS/NCA to provide highly-skilled clients with training on writing resumes, cover letters, and job applications. LSS/NCA also has a growing list of career mentors with industry-specific expertise to provide staff and refugees with networking and other field-specific guidance. These volunteers utilize their own professional backgrounds to assist clients in navigating their chosen career path.

  1. Partnering With Local Service Providers

To address the barriers clients face when pursuing professional employment, LSS/NCA relies on their close partnerships with other community organizations that specialize in career advancement. One of these partnerships is with Your Edge for Success, a career coaching company that provides personalized career services and professional job seminars.

Connecting with American Job Centers and WIOA training programs provides additional routes for refugees to achieve their long-term goals. LSS/NCA partners with the local workforce development center to regularly provide information sessions featuring panelists from a variety of professions. LSS/NCA also has access to vocational training programs in the medical, accounting, and project management fields.

To provide networking support, LSS/NCA works with Northern Virginia Friends of Refugees, a network of faith communities, NGOs, businesses, and public agencies interested in assisting and connecting with refugees. The organization sponsors an annual networking event for refugees that features guest speakers and field professionals offering advice. Last year, the event drew over 100 refugees and SIVs.

Each of these partnerships build deeper connections between refugees and the local community, while providing critical career support to refugees beyond their initial job placement after arrival.

For more information on LSS/NCA’s employment work, contact Lauren Ressue at ressuel@lssnca.org.

To find training in your area, look at CareerOneStop’s Local Training Finder.

What career advancement opportunities do you provide for your clients? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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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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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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