Targeted Employment Training: Dream Big and Think Outside of the Box

All photo credits: Caritas of Austin

Estrella Liu didn’t know she would teach healthcare professionals when she was hired as an Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin (TX). Because of her experience in the healthcare field, she quickly took on the Employment Program’s Introduction to Health Professions (IHP) class targeting highly skilled clients.

Intended to provide a U.S. healthcare system overview, Estrella restructured the class adding Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and cultural role-play scenarios of doctor/patient interactions.

She also looked into adding specific job skill training. She decided to focus on phlebotomy training because it is a recognized medical certification obtainable in a relatively short period of time.

Source of Funding

Caritas’ Employment and Development teams worked together to obtain funding for the project.  In three months they secured partnerships with the Topfer Family Foundation and the Sooch Foundation to fund a phlebotomy training course for 25 clients.

Estrella – and Caritas – dreamed big and thought outside of the box to create and fund a new type of training that would open new employment opportunities.

Community Partners

Next, Estrella needed to quickly find an accredited training provider. Central Texas Phlebotomy Institute, LLC agreed to offer a two-day phlebotomy course on-site at the familiar Caritas office and training facility. The course included both classroom instruction and a laboratory practicum.

The course instructors said they had never worked with such an engaged group of students. Estrella and the Employment Team deepened Caritas’ client educational opportunities, while strengthening ties to the healthcare industry.

Expect More from Clients

Estrella and the Employment team decided on the following selection criteria for trainees:

  1. Prior medical background, or dedicated to pursuing a job in the medical field;
  2. Compliant with Employment Program eligibility requirements including
  3. perfect attendance in both Job Readiness and English classes; and
  4. Completion of a prerequisite two day IHP training.

Selected clients demonstrated motivation and interest. Because they were invested in their own success they became full, responsible, and active partners in the educational process.

cassie pic intangibleTangible Benefits

The phlebotomy class drew significant interest from the refugee community because it offered both a certificate in the medical field and hands on experience.  Phlebotomy certification is a recognized credential in every state but California and it never expires.

This transferability and longevity made it an effective resume builder that will assist clients beyond their involvement in the Employment Program.

Intangible Outcomes

Many of the benefits cannot be listed on a resume. Throughout the course, clients asked questions of healthcare professionals to adapt to U.S. work and educational styles.

One of the most important benefits is a feeling of accomplishment and hope for the future, something that Estrella says is key.

“The biggest thing they got was hope…they have something to stand on.”

Hope cannot be measured or included in a cover letter but it boosts client confidence, job search ownership and job retention.

cassie pic next What Caritas Learned and What They’ll Do Next

The Caritas Employment team will offer the Phlebotomy training again, informed by the lessons learned from this first trial program. They plan to cut down on class size so interpretation is easier; and increase focus on targeting employers and job placements.

Amitiss Mahvash, current Caritas Employment Program Manager at Caritas, and Estrella both said that the program graduates still needed additional relevant U.S. work experience and higher levels of English proficiency.

 Program Success Factors

The Caritas of Austin employment team worked hard to create a new and innovative educational opportunity for their clients. They believe in their clients’ ability to succeed and pursued an innovative program rich in both tangible and intangible benefits to their clients, the organization, and the community. The ability to partner with other agency departments, client and other community organizations is based on skill in collaboration and planning.

cassie pic 1Cassie Smith is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. She worked as a Refugee Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin in Austin, Texas from 2010 until 2014.



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