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.

 

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!

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.

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

 

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

 

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.

Three Ways CORE Certification Courses Can Benefit Refugee Employment Services

Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) has developed a series of certification courses[i] to support refugee resettlement staff and volunteers who cover cultural orientation (CO) topics in their day-to-day roles. While lessons have a CO focus, several courses contain information and concepts helpful to employment volunteers and staff. Each self-paced lesson, which can be completed in approximately 20-30 minutes, covers key concepts through an interactive audiovisual interface, and includes links to online resources for further reading. Here are three ways your employment team can benefit from this free resource:

 

  1. Volunteer Training: Incoming volunteers can gain an overview of the refugee resettlement process in the first CORE lesson. The Refugee Resettlement Journey covers topics such as the differences between refugee and asylee status, durable solutions to address the needs of refugees, and the vetting process. Understanding the basics of refugee resettlement is crucial for volunteers working with clients on job readiness and job placement, and with potential employers of refugees.
  2. Working with Interpreters: Staff working with interpreters on a regular basis to complete employment plans, teach job readiness class, or foster conversations between employers and clients should consider the Working Effectively with Interpreters lesson. Concepts – such as why family members should not be used as interpreters, ensuring cultural sensitivity, and the importance of meeting with your interpreter ahead of time – promote more effective, respectful communication with clients.
  3. Job Readiness Facilitation: The first of several adult learning strategy courses is now available. Knowles’ Six Principles covers unique characteristics of adult learners, such as being internally motivated and self-directed. This lesson includes “expert insights” from seasoned adult education trainers. The next course will cover the difference between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches.

You can register to access the courses here and sign up here for the CORE newsletter to stay up to date on future certification course offerings as they are available. You can also check out the CORENAV resources for refugee self-learning on a variety of topics, including employment.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

 

These resources[i] were developed under an agreement financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State, but do not necessarily represent the policy of that agency and should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Paid Writing Opportunity for Refugees

Here’s an opportunity for your clients to boost their resumes, make some money, and share their perspective with others. The Refugee Center Online is looking for refugee and immigrant authors to write Refugee Voices articles on a variety of topics.  You can see more details and the upcoming monthly themes here.

While you’re visiting the Refugee Center Online’s website, check out Dyan’s inspirational story and consider sharing it in your job readiness class.  Dyan came to the U.S. as a refugee from Burma and has worked as the Karen Cultural Specialist at the St. Paul Public Schools district headquarters. He was recently selected as a Bush Fellow and will use the $100,000 grant to pursue a Doctor of Education degree in leadership   and enhance his network to better help immigrants and refugees become well-educated, prosperous members of their new community.

Post written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele

A Focused Approach on Job Upgrades and Skills Certifications

Bu* started as a counter and sorter at a laundry service company and over time earned a promotion within the company to reach a job that he loves in maintenance. Amal* came to the U.S. with an engineering degree from Iraq and is currently studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam while working as a Civil Engineering Inspector.

These are just two of many client success stories from Laura Honeycutt, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in North Carolina (USCRI-NC) Employment Specialist. Laura helped launch a Career Enhancement Opportunities (CEO) program last year at USCRI-NC with funding from ORR’s Targeted Assistance Grant and private funders.  The CEO program provides targeted employment support for clients with professional experience and clients seeking job upgrades.

The CEO program has now been in operation for about a year, serving approximately 40 clients during that time. The program focuses on:

  • Job upgrades and raises: When clients have established a job history in the United States, USCRI-NC works with employers to see if clients are eligible for a promotion or wage increase at that company.
  • Career pathways to new certifications, re-certifications, and higher education opportunities: Some clients come to USCRI-NC with a specific training goal in mind and others learn about the opportunity as they talk through their career options.

Having a dedicated employment specialist to focus on job upgrades and highly skilled clients has provided additional one-on-one attention for a group of clients that can sometimes be overlooked.

Clients in the CEO program have seen successes, ranging from certification and placement in security guard positions to a promotion at Panera Bread. Another client is working at Cisco after earning recertification in Cisco Certified Network Associate and Cisco Certified Network Professional. Some CEO participants are becoming registered with the state as HVAC technicians, and several clients have earned their commercial driver’s licenses and are now work with trucking companies.

How does your team go above and beyond in seeking out job upgrades and serving highly-skilled clients? We’d love to hear at information@higheradvantage.org.

*Names changed to protect client privacy.

Post written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele

Collaborative Job Fair: Connecting Employers and Professional Refugees and Immigrants in Silicon Valley

Twenty-one employers and more than 140 job seekers attended the first Employer Meet and Greet hosted by the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County in April 2017. It was such a success that a second fair is planned for November 9.

The 31 public, non-profit and individual members of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County noticed that refugees with professional experience start in entry-level jobs when they arrive to the U.S. and can get stuck there. Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at Pars Equality Center and the Chair of the Forum, has a passion for seeing professional refugees and immigrants attain better jobs, “We found a need to really pay attention to this group and not let them fall behind due to very few connections when they first arrive,” said Ellie.

The first job fair made quite an impression on the local refugee and immigrant community, as well as employers. “The excitement in the room was so amazing, from both sides,” said Ellie. Job seekers who attended told organizers they had never been to a job fair with such high-level employers, including Cisco, Airbnb, Bank of America, and Comerica.

Employers who previously never imagined they could find the talents and skills they need among newly-arrived refugees and immigrants are now signing up to join the second Employer Meet and Greet. When asked how the Forum was able to get commitments from so many employers for the pilot event, Ellie admitted, “It was hard!” She said it took the support of the entire Forum sub-committee—each member personally reached out to connections to secure commitments. The organizers emphasized that hiring a refugee is not just about doing a good deed, but that the invited employers have a lot to gain by having access to so many educated professionals.

The Forum sub-committee continues to learn from the successes and challenges of planning a collaborative job fair. The upcoming fair will add a resume workshop for job seekers who want additional feedback on how to best frame their education and experience for a job in the U.S. This event will be held at LinkedIn, which is also providing complimentary profile evaluations for the first 50 job seekers who arrive. Attendees will receive feedback on how their profile compares to others in Silicon Valley. Ellie says they hope to have 30 employers and increase the number of job seekers in attendance.

Although the meet and greet fair has proven invaluable in fostering connections and awareness, one challenge has been the difficulty in tracking how many people were hired from connections made at the fair, a data point the Forum hopes to report after future events.

You can learn more about the career pathways promotion efforts of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County here.