Bridging Refugees to In-Demand Careers
The project in brief
International Rescue Committee
United States of America
IRC began piloting this program model in 2011, programming continues to present.
This program is still ongoing, specific projects (e.g. focused on a specific occupation or industry in a specific municipality) have varying start and end dates.
This programming supports refugees to enter in-demand occupational training programs through a short “bridge” program that provides contextualized basic skills, soft skills, and career-aligned training.
Profile of refugee participant in this programming can be found here.
- Offering community-based, culturally and linguistically accessible on-ramps to occupational training that leads to in-demand jobs in the local economy.
- Contextualized skill development to refugees so that they are able to be successful in the host country occupational skills training program; this includes support for the development of basic skill, soft skill, and industry-specific career knowledge.
- Refugees complete both the “bridge” program and the occupational skills training successfully (including earning a credential or certification if required) and are placed in a job that offers family-sustaining wages.
- Occupational skill training programs funded through the Department of Labor and Department of Education
- Dedicated funding to support the bridge programming and supportive services in advance of the refugee enrollment in the occupational skills training
- Federal, state and municipal policies that prioritized job training for non-native English speakers
- Department of Labor (including state and municipal workforce development boards)
- Post-secondary education institutions and vocational training providers
- Private philanthropy
- Labor unions
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Designing bridge programming for a very broad array of skill levels (including pre-literate)
- Requirements regarding attainment of secondary education credential by some educational institutions even though the specific occupational skills training program/license did not require it
- Refugee ability to devote time to the bridge and occupational training while need to work to cover living expenses
How they were overcome
- Skill screening of refugees prior to enrollment in the bridge and establishment of specific parameters for enrollment
- Policy advocacy around requirement(s) for secondary education credential and a focus on developing some programs that focused on occupation(s) that specifically did not require a secondary education credential (e.g. some types of nursing)
- Stipends, condensed time formats, and weekend/other creative scheduling of classes
Results of the Good Practice
- On average, refugees participating in these programs saw wage increases of 25% from the time of intake and 70% earned an industry-recognized credential that is recognized by the host country and has labor market value
- Host communities have benefited from workers to fill in-demand jobs, particularly in sectors such as healthcare and transportation and logistics
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Leveraging existing skill and job training institutions mitigates the pressure on host countries to implement dedicated, skilled training opportunities for refugees only.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The focus on preparing refugees for in-demand jobs and equipping them with credentials/certifications that are recognized by the host country labor market supports their ability to be self-reliant in the short and long-term; nurturing basic skill development (which includes language acquisition) also contributes to long-term self-reliance.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
By presenting a way forward for effective labor market integration, this practice has the potential to increase interest among existing and new third country partners.
This is an ongoing program area at IRC with specific project(s) implemented across different states and regions, pending resources.
Erica Bouris, Sr. Technical Advisor Economic Empowerment, International Rescue Committee