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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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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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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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 Pathway to Nursing in Minnesota

Employment programs can offer a variety of services to refugees in a range of ways, including career pathway opportunities. Career pathway programs are centered on moving a refugee through the steps of a career, taking into account the barriers, short term or long term goals, education requirements, and labor market projections in local areas. Career pathway programs offer assistance for refugees at different stages in their resettlement.

At Higher, we like to spotlight successful career advancement programs that can give clients access to job upgrades and provide more tailored services, like the Medical Careers Pathway (the Pathway) at the International Institute of Minnesota (IIM). The Pathway assists refugees and immigrants interested in pursuing a career in nursing or who are enrolled in nursing programs throughout the Twin Cities and Minnesota. The Pathway began with the Nursing Assistant Training (NAR) program in 1990, as a way to provide skilled workers for the growing need for certified nursing assistants in the area. Over the next nine years, NAR received requests regarding advancement training, so the Medical Career Advancement Program was created in 1999. Due to the need for additional educational support, the first College Readiness class began in 2000. Extra support services have grown over time as populations have changed, industries have evolved, and education has become more readily available.

Today, the Pathway supports participants in these ways:

As practical nursing programs take at least one year to complete and registered nursing programs take at least two years to complete, the Pathway focuses on preparing students for making the most of their time in these rigorous programs. Because many students enrolled in the Pathway are simultaneously working as nursing assistants or in other entry-level positions, it can often take 3 to 5 years for them to complete training, especially if they are English language learners. The Pathway is dedicated to assisting those with barriers to upgrading their first job and with career planning for lifelong career growth.

The Pathway students who gain employment in various nursing positions, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) or Registered Nurses (RN), are tracked for one year and can return for additional support as they move through higher degree programs.

Program Funding and Costs

Scholarships are available for up to two semesters of tuition assistance for the MCA program, which specifically provides support for those who have already been accepted into college-level nursing programs. MCA tuition assistance is available to all students who qualify. In 2017, MCA awarded $54,200 in scholarships to nursing students. NAR is free for participants outside of costs required for transportation, uniform, and $130 for a background check and state test fee. The Pathway is partially funded through a grant called Minnesota Job Skills Partnership from the Minnesota Department of Education and Economic Development (DEED) and received community support from the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Partnerships

The Pathway partners with Saint Paul College and Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning to offer the College Readiness Academy (CRA). CRA provides free college readiness classes which include college navigators to assist new Americans entering the U.S. college system, and the Academic Advantage program, , which provides support classes for nursing pre-requisites and a Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) preparation class. CRA students pay a minimal fee of $20 for books. Scholarship funding for nursing students is provided through private donations and government grants. The Pathway has created relationships with employers to hire program graduates as nursing assistants, practical nurses, and registered nurses.

The Pathway Graduate Success Story

Kushe came to the United States from Burma and enrolled in the Nursing Assistant training program. After excelling in IIM’s training program, she began working as a nursing assistant in the long-term care industry. Kushe enjoyed her work, but found that she wanted to be able to do more for her residents; she needed to become a nurse. She returned to IIM for a College Readiness grammar course that strengthened her English in preparation for college courses. IIM’s Medical Career Advancement program awarded Kushe scholarships and connected her with tutors as she pursued her nursing degree.

Today, Kushe and her family are thriving. In 2015, Kushe passed her licensed practical nurse board exam. She and her husband bought their first home, and their three children are in school programs for gifted children.

NAR Program Achievements

The Pathway accomplishments are shown through quantitative proof as well as success stories; of the 140 Pathway Nursing Assistant Training graduates, 98% pass the Minnesota Nursing Assistant certification, and 85% are placed in jobs. The Pathway program graduates are earning higher incomes, too—their average starting wages were $13.96 for Nursing Assistants. Those completing the MCA or CRA are earning $21.90 for LPNs, and $29.47 for RNs.

For more information regarding the Pathway, contact Julie Garner-Pringle, Admissions and Client Services Manager, Nursing Assistant Training 651-647-0191 x314 or JGarnerPringle@iimn.orgor Michael Donahue, Medical Careers Pathway Director, 651-647-0191 x318 or MDonahue@iimn.org.

Creating a career pathway program such as IIM’s Medical Career Pathway or Hospitality Careers Pathway Program is a way to provide more intensive client services, provide trained groups of potential employees for vacant fields or needy employers, and employ labor market information to project growing industries to have long-term success.

 

Does your office have a great career pathway program you want to share? If so, please write to us at informaton@higheradvantage.org

 

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Hospitality Training Programs in Minnesota

Employment in the hospitality field is one of the top three industries for newly arrived refugees in the United States. However, housekeeping can be more than just a refugee’s first job, it can also be a career. The International Institute of Minnesota knows that refugees can grow into a variety of positions in this field with the assistance of their Hospitality Careers Pathway Program (HCPP). The HCPP provides three different courses; Hotel Housekeeping, Supervisor Training and College Readiness in Hospitality. Hotel Housekeeping is a 6 week course focused on training hotel housekeepers on the basics of job. Supervisor Training is a 6 week course that helps people currently working in the industry to move into supervisory positions with a focus on managing employees, data entry and personal development plans. College Readiness in Hospitality is a 16 week course to prepare students for the Hospitality Pathways Program at Normandale Community College. The course accompanies students through a career-focused college hospitality management course, helping students to earn 8 free college credits.

HCPP uses an empowerment-focused model that draws on student experiences, allowing students to shape the classroom leadership curriculum and provide advice to each other about navigating the American workplace.  In addition, all participants are able to practice customer service industry-specific English and soft skills.

In order to register for the Hotel Housekeeping class, students need to be motivated to work in the hospitality industry and read and write in English. Hospitality experience is required for the supervisory or college readiness courses. All courses are free and include a 1-month bus pass to offset transportation costs. Program costs are primarily funded by Women United under the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

A Success Story

Dorcas is an asylee from Liberia who came to the US in 2013. After completing Hotel Housekeeping at IIM, she obtained her first job. Dorcas continued to take Supervisory Training after starting her job and she now works as the Director of Housekeeping at a hotel. She is also enrolled in Hospitality Pathways Program at Normandale Community College, pursuing a certificate in Hotel Operations. Read her entire story here.

For more information regarding the Hospitality Careers Pathway Program, contact Julie Rawe at jrawe@iimn.org or Najma Mohamud at nmohamud@iimn.org.

 

Does your office have a great career pathway program you want to share? If so, please write to us at informaton@higheradvantage.org

 

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Employment Authorization Document Delays Affecting Cuban Entrants

Higher has received several reports that the Employment Authorization Documents or EAD cards are processing slowly in Florida and other states that see Cuban entrants. The current delay is about six months or more, impacting self-sufficiency and enrollment in employment programs.

If you have Cuban clients that have been waiting more than 75 days for their EAD, you may want to inform your National Headquarters (if applicable) and the State Refugee Coordinator, and you may choose to file a report with USCIS. To file a USCIS report, follow the information below.

If your EAD application has been pending for 75 days or more (25 or more if initial asylum), you may create an e-request online, or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. For customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or have speech disabilities which require accommodation: TTY)/ASCII: (800) 877-8339, Voice: (866) 377-8642, Video Relay Service (VRS): (877) 709-5798, to request creation of a service request. Either method will send the inquiry to the USCIS office where your case is pending so that it can be flagged for priority processing.

USCIS offers the advice here, for applicants experiencing delays in the processing of I-765s.

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