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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Refugees Make Great Employees: New Report Surveys 100 Employers on Working with Refugees

The Tent Foundation and the Fiscal Policy Institute have published a new research study entitled, REFUGEES AS EMPLOYEES, Good Retention, Strong Recruitment. Read it here.

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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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Three Steps to Consider Before Crafting a Resume

Resumes are vital to the job search process, whether it is for a first job or a job upgrade. Generally, resumes should be one page and include a detailed history of the applicant’s ability to meet the needs of the employer. The skill set of the job seeker should match the job description. Resume writing is a critical topic that should receive ample coverage in your interactions with clients.

Recently, Higher presented posts on Cover Letters and Resume Writing for Entry-Level Positions. Today, Chris Hogg, an employment counselor and job-readiness instructor at Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) in Columbus, Ohio, offers his advice on how to prepare for a client resume writing session in three steps:

Step One: The Interview

Personalization of a resume for each refugee can be challenging when working with the number refugee clients that employment staff are assigned. To add individualization to each resume, there needs to be a thorough and far-ranging interview with every client. While it may seem that employment staff can use a resume template, fill in the blanks, and crank out several bullet points to create a complete resume, such an approach defeats the purpose of a resume and ultimately does the client a disservice. The client needs to understand and articulate what an ideal job (or three) looks like for him or her before staff can even think of putting pen to paper.

Step Two: Skills and Limitations

Identify the client’s skills, experience, and knowledge as they apply to a particular job objective. Identification of soft (transferable) skills is essential because in most cases, and certainly, for the first job, soft skills (teamwork) almost always supersede hard skills (sewing). For example, a refugee may have excellent communication skills (the ability to listen, read body language, to ask questions, give feedback) even though they may have minimal English ability.

Further, discover the client’s barriers and limitations before preparation of a resume. A client may have the physical strength to work in a fast-paced distribution center, for example, but may be easily distracted or become confused if the job requires a wide variety of functions in a short period. Religious and cultural factors also must be identified and resolved.

Step Three: Uniqueness

Resumes should be crafted individually for each client to support the client’s job goals. Thus one could be working with two clients who are very similar (say, civil engineers), and yet craft two resumes that are significantly different in form and content. Resumes can be written in a “human” voice using, when appropriate, the pronoun “I” and including wording such as, “I am seeking my first paid employment ever (I am 21-years-old) – I want to work, I want to do good work, and I want to help my employer be successful.”

Now you’re prepared to craft a focused client-specific resume that will be more likely to result in a client in finding and obtaining a meaningful job.

 

Does your agency have a unique approach to writing resumes with clients? If so, please share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Continue to follow Higher’s blog, for another post on resumes for advanced positions.

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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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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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Resume Writing: For Entry-Level Positions

At Higher, we receive many inquiries from the network on how to write a professional style resume with refugee clients. While this can be a time-consuming task, below is a sample illustrating vital areas to focus on for streamlining this process.

Start from the beginning. Explain to your client what a resume is and how to use it in their job search. Show visual examples of resumes and describe all the information that they will need to include. 

    1. Review what personal information is essential to ensure that prospective employers will be able to contact and stay in touch with the candidate.

     

    1. This section can also be titled Professional Experience. Providing accurate information and keywords is extremely helpful to employers. O’NET may be useful to gather descriptions of your client’s specific career or jobs.

     

    1. Include past education, as well as education and training that your client is currently undertaking. It is important to emphasize training and education that is relevant to the desired position. Including English Language classes for non-English speakers shows potential employers that the applicant is committed to learning.

     

    1. Listing skills that are crucial to particular industries may help a client get the job. Use Cultural Orientation Resource Center (CORE) lessons on identifying skills.

     

    1. Professional references are not always required on a resume, but they may provide a way for an employer to reach out to your agency to address concerns and give you the opportunity to advocate on your client’s behalf.

     

    1. Once completed, ensure that the client understands the resume’s description of their experience. Additionally, the client needs to know how to tailor resume revisions to job openings.

     

    1. Practice interviewing with the completed resume, as employers will likely use the resume as a basis for their interview.

     

    1. Finally, work with your clients so that they can understand how to identify accomplishments and responsibilities and update their resumes as they move from their first job and beyond.

For more information on resumes, see CareerOneStop’s online Resume Guide to help your client’s build a successful resume. Additionally, Higher has resources on our site and look for Higher’s Job Readiness Curriculum, coming soon!

What are some tools or ways your write resumes with your clients? 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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Colorado CAREERS Program: Apprenticeships for Highly-Skilled Refugees

Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, CO, has worked with the Colorado Refugee Services Program (CRSP) to develop Career Aligned Refugee Education and Employment Readiness Services (CAREERS), a program for highly skilled refugees. It includes promoting apprenticeships and other career pathway opportunities.

 

CAREERS Program Setup

The CAREERS program began in October 2017, with funding through the CRSP office. Individualized career plans for each participant are developed by assessing the client’s English level and making personalized recommendations based on his or her interests. Recommendations might include:

  • Short-Term Occupation Training Programs (STOT)
  • Transitional field-specific courses
  • On-the-Job training opportunities
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Longer-term options such as entrance into a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program

 

Making the Most of Apprenticeships

When CAREERS program participants are referred to apprenticeships, Emily Griffith Technical College connects students with businesses offering “learn while you earn” programs. Emily Griffith Technical College serves as the intermediary, providing support to companies and their apprentices by completing the administrative paperwork and providing college credit for the educational component of the work experience. While most apprenticeships require evidence of high school education, Emily Griffith Technical College has worked with some businesses to waive the requirement (this may not possible if a trade Union is involved).

“The advantage of an apprenticeship is to be in the workplace immediately, doing something that is meaningful for a career,” said Heather Colwell, an Emily Griffith Technical College Language Learning Center Student Navigator. “With apprenticeships, refugees get paid while working towards a better future. It’s really about meaningful work and a pathway that helps them meet their goals.”

Emily Griffith Technical College reports that refugees need more explanation about the apprenticeship time commitment and the competitive salaries that can be achieved relative to alternatives. “While an apprentice might start at just $15 an hour, wages often increase throughout an apprenticeship,” says Heather Colwell, Emily Griffith Technical College Student Navigator.

Another benefit which is sometimes missed when clients consider apprenticeships versus traditional educational programs is the comparative cost savings. In Colorado, refugees have access to higher education upon arrival; however, if they enroll in college before being considered in-state residents, they have to pay higher non-resident costs. Apprenticeships through Emily Griffith Technical College allow newcomers to start learning in-demand skills while earning an income AND saving on tuition fees.

 

Early Successes

While the CAREERS program is relatively new, the initial successes look promising. One refugee participant in an Emily Griffith Technical College apprenticeship program, whose background is in engineering, recently started a four-year sheet metal apprenticeship program making $16 an hour.

“Apprenticeships can fill a need for these high-skilled professionals,” said Tiffany Jaramillo, Emily Griffith Technical College Pathway Navigator.

 

Have you successfully referred clients to apprenticeship programs? If so, share your story with us at informaton@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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