Resources for Highly Skilled Refugees

Highly skilled refugees are unique from other refugees as they often arrive to the U.S. with higher levels of education, advanced English language ability, or extensive training and experience in a particular occupation. Resettlement sites that see smaller numbers of highly skilled refugees tend to find themselves in unfamiliar territory, without the availability of job upgrade programs or experience in long-term goal setting. Higher is sharing resources that can help sites with limited numbers assist highly skilled refugees in obtaining employment that matches their skill level or, ideally, in their previous field.

Foreign Degree Certification

Job Readiness & Education

  • Higher’s Online Learning Institute is our free online system with courses designed for refugee employment staff and job readiness instructors, many of which refugees could take on their own to reiterate coursework and practice skills needed for the American workplace.
  • Upwardly Global provides career development programming for SIVs, immigrants, and refugees who were professionals in their home countries.
  • WES Global Talent Bridge assists community organizations and public agencies that support skilled immigrants with tools, training and other resources.
  • Utilize volunteers in your community to support job readiness classes, career mentors, in-home tutoring for spouses, access to childcare, transportation orientations, and more.

Job Development

What are some unique approaches you use with highly skilled refugees? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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BRYCS Youth Career Readiness Resources

Do you work with youth or young adults seeking employment? Your ORR technical assistance provider Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services (BRYCS)  can help.  Check out these Career Readiness Resources! The resources may be helpful for clients seeking higher education, training or certification in a particular field, or career advancement opportunities.

Did you know that ORR funds several technical assistance providers to help you improve your services? To learn more, click here.

How do you provide career readiness for youth? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Get to Know Your State’s SNAP Options

Refugees in the United States can access many federal and state supportive programs upon arrival. One of those programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides funding to assist eligible, low-income families to purchase food each month based on household income and size. For more information on the funding amounts supplied per household, see the updated 2018 Income Eligibility Standards. Although SNAP is federally funded, states have some flexibility to tailor the program to best meet their local communities’ specific needs.

As a refugee employment specialist, you need a solid working knowledge of the SNAP program and how employment income affects this benefit in order to accurately calculate client self-sufficiency and to educate your clients about the changes they can anticipate upon starting work. The SNAP State Options Report provides specific information on how your state’s SNAP program is executed, and can help you identify changes from previous years and make comparisons to other states’ SNAP programming. The October 2016 report is the most recent edition, and you can view past reports on the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website in order to make the comparisons with previous years.

The SNAP State Options Report is broken into two sections. Both sections highlight the same 27 categories of program options, such as work requirements and disqualification policies, reporting systems used, and availability of online SNAP applications. Here is how to use each report section:

  1. National Option Profiles (p. 2 – 28) show visual map comparisons of how state programs operate. This section also provides explanations of the different SNAP program options, such as defining “Simplified Income and Resources” and clarifying how SNAP certification workflow and case management differ among states.
  2. State Agency Profiles (p. 29 – 81) show state-by-state charts of SNAP information. This section is most helpful in seeing a snapshot of how your state’s SNAP program is set up.

The National Option Profiles demonstrate the various aspects of each option that the state agency profile highlights in section two of the report. For example, one option highlights the Work Requirements and Disqualification Policy on page 19. This allows one to see the specifics on the national minimum requirement, how each state exceeds the requirements, and requirements of termination from SNAP. This information is crucial when looking at specific state information in section two, State Agency Profiles, because each option is not provided with definitions.

For the purpose of this review, two states (Arizona and New Jersey) were chosen as examples to reflect how the report can be used.

In section one, the map on page 19 shows which states fall under which category of disqualification policy. The State of Arizona chose that the entire household could be disqualified from SNAP based on becoming ineligible for benefits along with the regulatory minimum. The “minimum periods set by law are 1 month for the first instance, 3 months for the second, and 6 months for the third.”  While the state of New Jersey however, chose only the regulatory minimum.

For section two:

On page 31, one can look at the SNAP State Agency Profile for Arizona. State-specific information includes:

  • SNAP program is administered by the state rather than individual counties in AZ. (Identified in the Program Administration option)
  • Arizona households can apply for SNAP and TANF with one application in some cases. (Identified in the Joint Processing – TANF option)
  • All household income and deductions are counted toward SNAP eligibility, even if the household includes ineligible non-citizens who cannot receive SNAP benefits. (Identified in the Treatment of Income and Deductions of Ineligible Non-Citizens option)
  • Clients in AZ can apply and recertify their SNAP eligibility using an online application. (Identified in the Online Application option).

On page 60, one can look at the SNAP State Agency Profile for New Jersey. Examples of information found are:

  • SNAP program is administered by the county rather than the state in NJ. (Identified in the Program Administration option)
  • New Jersey households can apply for SNAP and TANF with one application in some cases. (Identified in the Joint Processing – TANF option)
  • All household income and deductions are counted toward SNAP eligibility, even if the household includes ineligible non-citizens who cannot receive SNAP benefits, with the exception of prorated SNAP months. (Identified in the Treatment of Income and Deductions of Ineligible Non-Citizens option)
  • Clients in NJ can apply for their SNAP eligibility using an online application. (Identified in the Online Application option).

Be sure to check out what options your state chooses and how they implement the policies. You can find more SNAP information and further research here.

Questions on how to use the report or access data? Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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How to Stay Organized as a Job Developer

  1. Make lists. Start each day by prioritizing a list of tasks that need to be completed. This can assist you in identifying what is urgent and what is not. When emergencies do come up (as they often do) and you drop tasks to deal with it, knowing what other responsibilities must get done today versus what you can finish tomorrow can keep stress levels down.

  1. Use a planner. A paper planner or one on a device or computer can help track appointments and tasks. Keeping appointments with employers and clients is crucial to success. Not attending a scheduled appointment is a good way not to impress a potential employer.

 

  1. Schedule basic tasks. Scheduling time in your day for activities like case noting, returning phone calls and emails, and travel can prevent projects or daily tasks from overwhelming you. Look ahead at deadlines and add reminders in your planner to stay prepared. If setting aside time each day is not possible, try using a “theme” for different days of the week. For example, designating Fridays as case note days and Mondays as staff meeting days increases consideration for the theme selected for that day. While scheduling tasks, remember a 30-minute lunch break can provide relief, recharge your mind and lead to a fresh perspective on tasks for the day. Taking care of yourself is crucial to staying organized and assisting refugees. Stop eating at your desk while responding to emails or eating a granola bar on the way to pick up clients for an interview! Take the 30 minutes (or even 15!) to focus on yourself, eat, and maintain your mental health. Even if you have to schedule a break in your day, you will thank yourself later.

 

  1. Extra Documents. Keep copies of documents on hand that you need every time you meet with prospective employers or current employers. These could include outreach materials, a flyer on the benefits of hiring refugees and business cards. Having extra copies of documents in your bag or car will help you to be prepared for those days when you aren’t.

 

  1. Use Technology. Check out Higher’s previous post on 4 (Free) Productivity Tools for the Busy Job Developer for some technology that can save time and help you organize. As applications for devices change frequently, we selected four additional applications that may interest job developers:
  • Mileage IQ can track your mileage on a monthly basis.
  • TinyScan can help you scan (take a picture) of a document, save as a PDF, and share via email, all from your cell phone.
  • Dropbox and Google Drive are two other tools that make creating, editing and sharing documents simpler but keep in mind client confidentiality and privacy when using them.

 

  1. At the end of the day, clear your desk. A clean or organized office can clear your mind, looks good, and can support you to focus on the important tasks of the day. You can do this by sorting piles, putting documents away in file folders, or placing items into your shred box under your desk (get one if you already don’t have one). While you are cataloging files, remember to make note of any outstanding tasks or create an “urgent” stack of documents.

Starting to get organized can be the hardest part and while every day brings a new challenge to tackle, as job developers, using strategies like these to become and stay organized will reduce stress and benefit clients.

What are some ways you stay organized? Share your tips with us at informaton@higheradvantage.org.

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New Online Service from the EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC is the federal agency to call if your clients are experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.  Impacted individuals may now file and manage a complaint through an online portal.

On November 2, 2017, the EEOC launched the EEOC Public Portal to provide online access to individuals experiencing possible employment discrimination. Each year the EEOC receives over 300,000 inquiries over the phone, so a move to the digital era will allow them to respond quickly to inquiries.

The new system enables individuals to digitally sign and file a charge prepared by the EEOC on their behalf. According to the press release from the EEOC, “once an individual files a charge, he or she can use the EEOC Public Portal to provide and update contact information, agree to mediate the charge, upload documents to his or her charge file, receive documents and messages related to the charge from the agency and check on the status of his or her charge.” An EEOC investigation can take anywhere between 8 weeks to 10 months.

EEOC information should be included in your job readiness curriculum so clients know their rights as workers and know where to turn to in order to seek justice if their rights are violated.

For more information on the EEOC and how to file a charge visit this page.

 

Need further assistance on how to file an EEOC complaint? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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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

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Building a Story Bank to Support Your Program’s Success

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. –Robert McKee

The recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Workforce GPS webinar, Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Success, provided some great ideas for collecting stories that can inspire our clients, encourage employers, and inform the community.

Why are personal stories important? Research indicates that people remember information better when it’s delivered through a story. Potential employers learning about refugee employment services may be more likely to connect with you by hearing a story about a client overcoming barriers to reach their career goals rather than hearing just the facts about your team’s outstanding placement numbers and retention rates. Most importantly, make sure you obtain every client’s consent on a document that they sign. Without a client’s consent their story cannot be shared.

Sharing stories requires having them available. Presenters Lenora Thompson and John Rakis of Coffey Consulting LLC shared these tips for building and maintaining a story bank:

  • Have a variety of stories ready to meet a variety of audiences. Save your stories by theme or by audience for ease in locating the right one.
  • Ensure your materials are high-quality, whether the story is delivered verbally, in written format, through photographs or by video.
  • Protect your client’s identity as needed by using a completely different first name.
  • Have accompanying media releases on hand.
  • Keep your story bank up to date so that it’s relevant to any current issues occurring in the news.
  • Enlist volunteers to build your story bank – journalism students, retirees or videographers would make great candidates!
  • Share the stories far and wide in your agency’s newsletters, website and social media pages, as well as in community presentations, job readiness classes and in one-on-one conversations with employers and clients.

Interested in learning more about crafting an effective story? Check out the complete power point presentation and a downloadable list of additional storytelling resources on the DOL’s Workforce GPS website. You can also visit the National Storytelling Network’s website to find story collections, additional resources, and for information on small grants that could be used to help build your agency’s story bank.

Do you have an example of an effective employer or client story? We’d love to share it! Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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New Mapping Tool from IMPRINT

Looking for resources and partners that can help you serve highly skilled refugees? Our friends at IMPRINT recently released an interactive map that allows you to see what organizations and resources are available for skilled immigrants in your area and nationally.

The tool also provides state-by-state data about college educated foreign-born individuals, based on 2015 American Community Survey data.

Explore this awesome tool by clicking on the map below:

 

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Sleep and Self Care. Both Important for Our Work.

Cross-cultural communication. Driving all over the place. Difficult conversations with employers. Frantic calls from clients. Training clients on public transportation. Long meetings. Cold-calling. Working in refugee employment is rewarding AND exhausting!

Most of the time we look to techniques, best-practices and strategies to make us successful in our work, but we often forget about the importance of self-care. If we burn out, our clients won’t get the services they deserve.

Effective self-care requires discipline and means forming new habits. Developing a new rhythm won’t happen overnight. But one thing that can happen overnight is you getting enough sleep! Here’s a video from Fast Company to inspire you to take this first small step towards being healthier and more productive at work.

Start with this “baby step” and then spend some time exploring other self-care strategies. The University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work has developed a “Self-Care Starter Kit” that provides many helpful suggestions and resources.

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