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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Free Professional Development Opportunity Next Tuesday, 11/29

wes-webinar

Who: The WES Global Talent Bridge Team

What: Webinar – What Employers Want in a Job Applicant

When: Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST

Why: You’ll hear from employers who will:

  • Share the do’s and don’ts of applying for a job
  • Provide advice on structuring your resume
  • Highlight useful interview skills
  • Offer ways to grow at your current job

How: Register by clicking here

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Coming to Denver? Please Read this Important Update

Tomorrow (Wednesday, October 5th) is the last day to book rooms at the discounted rate for the SpringHill Suites.  Here are three reasons to book your room today:

1: Free Breakfastdenver-hotel

Yes, there is such a thing as a free breakfast and it’s going to be delicious.

2: Everyone Will Be There

We hope all attendees are able to stay at the same hotel to maximize networking time.

3: We’ll Provide Transportation from the Hotel to the Workshop

As well as Transportation back to the hotel.

If you know that you are going to attend but haven’t made any plans, we encourage you to make your hotel reservation now so that you receive the discounted rate of $159 per night (plus tax).

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August Webinars with E-Verify

everifyU.S. Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS) regularly offers free webinars for clients and employers about completing I-9 forms and other questions related to E-Verify. Some are in Spanish.

Check out the August Schedule here. Many of us can “verify” the value in attending.

Think you already know how this all works?  Click here to take a 5 question quiz. It’s quick and fun.  Your results might surprise you.  Mine did.

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Vocabulary Picture Guides

Caritas of Austin, TX produced these great picture vocabulary guides for hotel housekeeping and entry level food services. They have been used with customized short term vocational training programs and target vocational ESL, employer relations and improved workplace communication. The files are large and may be difficult to reformat and print, so have been made available as separate downloads. They are laid out for a half-page format that can be printed on thick paper stock and laminated or bound into a simple double-sided booklet. There are many other language versions that we hope to make available soon. Thanks to Caritas of Austin for sharing this valuable resource.

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African Community Center of Denver’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program

During our last webinar (click here to view the slideshow), Donna Kapp, Training Programs Manager for
ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, shared a little bit about how she uses labor market information to inform employer outreach. Afterward, we caught up with Donna to learn a little more about the ACC’s Commercial Food Safety & Service Training Program.

Can you share any successes of the program?DSC02822[2]
CFaSST graduates are often better prepared for work in a commercial kitchen than most Americans! At the beginning of the course, CFaSST participants take a pre-test to determine their familiarity with food safety and to set a benchmark from which to measure their learning. The average pre-test score is 39%. After several weeks of learning in the classroom, field trips, special speakers and applying their learning in a commercial kitchen, every student has passed the post test. In fact, the average score on the posttest is 87% and two participants have scored 100%!

What is the program? What do refugees learn?
CFaSST, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training, is a 100 hour, highly accessible and interactive course on the rules and regulations of commercial food preparation and service in America. It includes information on the importance of food safety, the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them. Participants learn how to prevent foodborne illness by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination, preparing and holding food at the correct temperatures, storing food correctly and cleaning and sanitizing in the commercial kitchen.

They also learn the basics of customer service, how to handle a knife, English vocabulary related to the commercial food industry, and the soft skills employers are looking for in their newly hired employees. Through a dynamic partnership with the University of Denver, the course is offered in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management building on campus. CFaSST participants are able to learn course content in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the event center kitchen.

This partnership also makes possible unique learning opportunities for both students and staff who interact with the CFaSST program on campus. Undergraduate students enrolled in the “Human Capital Management” course develop very close relationships with CFaSST participants. Each CFaSST participant is mentored by one or two university undergrads to learn more about the hospitality industry and how to find and interview for food service positions. For many, this “assignment” becomes a gateway to new friendships as CFaSST participants and university undergrads get to know each other and move forward toward the common goal of employment in the hospitality industry.

While CFaSST participants benefit a great deal from the experience, university students also learn how to interact with and train someone who may be older than they, who might not speak much English and comes from a very diverse cultural background. Students graduating from the university have described this mentoring relationship as one of their most significant learning experiences during their four years at the university.

Check out this article to learn about the program from the perspective of the students and faculty.

How many refugees have completed the program?
Since the program began in the spring of 2012, 46 adult refugees have graduated from the course with certificates of completion, safe food handler cards and their own bimetallic stemmed thermometers.

DSC00370[1][4]Of those that have completed the program, how many have been hired in the hospitality industry?
Since last year, 76% of those enrolled in CFaSST found employment within 90 days of completing the course. Most of those placements occurred within the first 30 days after graduation. 81% of those employed are working in food service related positions such as cook, prep cook, kitchen utility worker, dishwasher, steward and concession stand worker.

We have worked hard to build relationships with various employers in the Denver metro area. CFaSST graduates are working in many different businesses including Chili’s Restaurants, the Sheraton Hotel, Coors Field (where the Rockies, Colorado’s professional baseball team, play), the University of Denver, and many other local commercial food businesses.

What are some of the challenges of the program?
Through experience, we’ve learned that food service jobs are difficult to find right before the holidays. Consequently, we’ve reorganized the schedule so that this fall participants will complete the course and be ready for employment in mid-October rather than late November.  Employment placements are high in Denver right now so it is sometimes difficult to get enough referrals from Volag staff. Fortunately, CFaSST enjoys an excellent reputation within the community and many individuals refer themselves to the program.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone that would like to start a program like this?
Training programs for adult refugees should be closely tied to the American workplace in order to prepare them for employment. That means programs should instruct in the hard and soft skills employers are looking for while building participants’ workplace English vocabulary. Look for employer partners who understand and value the opportunity such programs offer them to contribute to the training content and then hire well prepared employees.

In the classroom, instructors should not be afraid to challenge their students with difficult material while creating a positive and safe environment that encourages learning through a variety of methods and activities. CFaSST participants are always respected as mature and capable learners who, through hard work, rise to the expectations of the instructors.

To learn more about CFaSST, please contact Donna Kapp, donna@acc-den.org or 303-399-4500 x331.

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