Career Services to Multicultural Populations Forum – PWDA

Instructions: Create an original post and describe the major groups of people with whom you work and the backgrounds from which they originate. Identify the key resources that you use with this group.  Then respond to one classmate’s post. You will make a total of two posts.

Remember that our learning group works in a full-value environment: We treat our colleagues with respect and professionalism. Our comments should reflect this culture.

21 thoughts on “Career Services to Multicultural Populations Forum – PWDA”

  1. Aaron Leson says:

    Aaron is the instructor

    1. Marisol Rodriguez says:

      Good morning Aaron,

      I believe I am far behind. However, I am willing to catch up. Trying to navigate through this system. It’s really new to me.

      My thought on “Career Services to Multicultural Population Forum- To serve a diverse population is what my career was built on! It’s educational, enriching, and empowering.

  2. jwalter says:

    In the last year, our EARN program saw a significant increase in serving Refugees. Prior to this increase we only served one. During this stage, we were receiving multiple referrals every week. While some areas in PA have dedicated programs to assist Refugees, Central Region does not. Our EARN team was instructed to enroll Refugees into the EARN program. Recognizing that our team was not trained in knowing what additional services and support is needed to help Refugees, I reached out to a Refugee program in another area, along with requesting guidance from our EARN state advisor. Staff learned about needed documentation, how to apply for citizenship, eligibility for benefits, and agencies who can provide legal assistance. We work closely with agencies who provide ESL classes, educational providers (including reaching out to post-secondary institutions to assist with transferring degrees from another country), employers, childcare facilities, and local churches or community groups who sponsor Refugees.

    I am proud to say that not only have we been successful in helping Refugees, we have also hired a Refugee.

    In addition to Refugees, I have assisted other individuals with varying backgrounds and needs and remain committed to providing equitable services.

    1. mbyrd says:

      That is awesome that your EARN program was able to work with so many refugees after only being able to work with just one. Did you increase marketing and how were you able to communicate with them? I am also glad that training was available and that the state was to help your team to provide guidance in working with people from different backgrounds as well.

      1. jwalter says:

        Great questions! We receive direct referrals from the county assistance office. The increase was due to many Refugees coming to the area and applying for assistance programs through the CAO. We use Propio language services, however many of the Refugees requested communication through their community sponsor. Some participants also spoke English but we still utilized language services, especially when they needed to sign a document.

    2. ldube-scherr says:

      I am always inspired by people who are proactive, and you clearly recognized that you could not adequately serve this new client group without additional training and collaboration with other agencies. While there is a tremendous negative press about refugees in the news these days, their work experience and expertise are greatly needed in a wide range of occupations and areas across the country. I’m sure the clients you and the EARN team work with are grateful for the EARN team’s support, access to resources to help them acclimate to their new country, and welcome the opportunity to join the workforce in central PA.

    3. ajefferson says:

      That is totally awesome! The organization I’m working for doesn’t see as many refugees, but when we encounter individuals that don’t speak English, we start scrambling, because we’re not prepared to handle them. There’s only one person in the entire organization that speaks Spanish, and everyone searches for her whenever someone of that ethnicity comes in for services. The crazy thing about it is that she doesn’t even work in social services. She’s part of the agency’s home weatherization program, and she really gets frustrated with everyone contacting her.. This is such a disservice to our clients because when she’s not around, the client just gets shuffled around, because they don’t understand us, and we don’t understand them. We, as an agency need to do better in order to serve them better! It’s so great that you took the initiative that you did! Great job!

    4. jpaldino says:

      The refugee population presents a unique hurdle when it comes to helping them find gainful employment as well.

  3. mbyrd says:

    The Lancaster County CareerLink® center works with many different people as Lancaster County has several different culture barriers that could have hurt the number people that need to benefit from our services. Before I was hired, they did work hard to hire a range of people with bilingual abilities. We have also worked to ensure that we have google translate options available as well. As for those who have been through the justice system and are still working within the justice system there have been different customer service-based training courses to my knowledge that help to with this as well. The Lancaster County, Pa area is full of all kinds of people from different walks of life and cultures, although mainly white communities it is nice to see that people are finally starting to listen to needs for DE&I in all forms community engagement.

    1. jwalter says:

      Having staff who are bilingual is very helpful! Do your staff need to be certified to provide services in another language? This topic has been discussed in our area but no decision has been made.

    2. shea.zwerver says:

      Having lived in Lancaster, I know there is a large immigrant population from Spanish speaking countries so ensuring your services are available in dual languages is very helpful! I think the state has resources that local careerlinks can use, like a call-in option. Google translate is a really helpful tool!

  4. ldube-scherr says:

    Delaware College of Art and Design serves a diverse population of young adults largely from within a 100-mile radius of Wilmington, Delaware where the college is located. Our student body is currently 60% students of color and come from a range of urban, suburban, and rural areas. While they are diverse in geography, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and social/emotional needs, they find commonality in, being creatives. They are the “art kids” from high school who are now able to pursue an Associates of Fine Arts degree in a school that is small, focused, supportive, but rigorous. We celebrate and encourage diversity in all its many forms and we are an inclusive community that helps them find and define their artistic voice, career pathways, and succeed. They are no longer unicorns as they are surrounded by a like-minded community of artistic and creative people including staff and faculty.

  5. shea.zwerver says:

    I work mostly with people reentering society from incarceration and those who are unemployed or underemployed. The backgrounds they may originate from include but are not limited to, prison or jail, a caregiver who has been out of the workforce, someone who may have had substance abuse issues.

    As an employer, the key resources that are helpful to these populations are mostly the organizations that referred them to our company in the first place. We also provide support internally through an employee call center, an online communications platform where people can ask questions, post empowering messages, and reference company policies. We offer a free GED program so anyone who does not have a high school diploma or GED can obtain one. We have an employee assistance program that employees can access 24/7 to receive mental health support, legal advice, financial budgeting, help in identifying child care providers near them, etc. If someone has been referred to us by an organization and they start facing issues at work such as missing work, lateness, or behavioral, we do try to reach out to the organization to make them aware to see if they can work with the client to address the specific issues.

    1. shellen says:

      Hello Shea,

      Thank you for your post. The depth of resources you offer, particularly the partnership with referring organizations, is a strong foundation for successful reentry into the workforce. The internal mechanisms you have in place, including the employee call center and the online platform, not only facilitate immediate assistance and community building but also empower your employees to become active participants in their professional development. Proactively working with referral organizations to troubleshoot issues such as absenteeism or behavioral changes exemplifies a commitment to not only assisting individuals in finding employment but also to the sustainable betterment of your employees’ work.

    2. lisamarie.benavides says:

      Hi Shea!

      The online communications platform is amazing! I love the idea of connecting individuals to each other to support both their commonalities and to learn from their differences. I also really appreciate the barrier remediation done at your company. Knowing that individuals you work with and/or serve share common barriers and then offering a solution to those is great. It’s even better that it’s an option, not a requirement. To me, that indicates your company isn’t taking a, “one size fits all” approach and is instead allowing your employees to take the services they want.

    3. swhitesell says:

      Hi Shea,
      The amount of resources your company offers to employees is phenomenal! Not only do you employ those who are unemployed, underemployed, and those who are re-entrants, your company offers assistance with many different aspects of their lives and employment. I am especially impressed with the collaboration you have with referring agencies to keep the employee on track. You are truly setting your employees up for success. What a great example of what a company should be! Great job!

  6. ajefferson says:

    Most of the people I’m working with come from low-incomed families and are dependent on public welfare for benefits such as TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid. The majority are African American women with an average age in the low-to-mid 30’s. There is currently one male participant in his 50’s in my group. For many of them it’s a generational cycle. I’ve previously had some of our current participants’ parents when I was an instructor for our Work Ready program years ago. Many of them don’t possess high school diplomas and have very limited communication and job skills. And unfortunately, many of them are not motivated, or have a desire to work, which makes my position very difficult.

    I use various types of resources and techniques for my clients. I’m always trying to think of creative activities for them. My goal is not to bore them with lectures, but to get them to utilize their brains more and focus on their futures. I don’t just focus on them finding jobs because I’m finding that many of them are not mentally prepared to get out into the workforce. Some of them struggle with completing applications, applying for positions online, and basic comprehension.

    We have current event discussions to make them more aware of what’s going on in the world, outside of the box of their neighborhoods. I give them reading comprehension and mathematic exercises. We play trivia games, for example states and capitals, history, etc. I conduct sister circle discussions upon which no topic is off-limits to help uplift each other. I have various employment workbooks and resources which contain exercises for them to complete. I’m consistently searching the internet for materials I feel are beneficial for their growth.

    The funny thing about it is that they complain sometimes about the assignments that they’re given, but in the same token they actually enjoy them. They’ll say things like, “Whew, you made me work my brain today!” At least one participant will ask when they arrive in the morning, Ms. Angela, what are we doing today? This makes me smile, and my response is usually… ‘You’ll have to wait and see!”

  7. shellen says:

    In my capacity overseeing workforce development, I work closely with various community leaders who embody the interests and voices of a diverse population despite a lack of wide personal diversity. This group encompasses local subcontractors rooted in the community fabric, CareerLink® staff adept at connecting employment paths with educational opportunities, business leaders who represent industry needs, and union leaders. Their roles as leaders are defined not just by their expertise or fluency in English but, more importantly, by their representation of a broader demographic—ranging from those mastering English as a second language to individuals navigating societal re-entry, from older adults confronting ageism to individuals with disabilities demanding equitable access.

    Workforce Development is grounded in comprehensive, inclusive resources, with a staunch commitment to ADA compliance, ensuring accessibility at every juncture. This dedication creates a robust referral network of varied needs, such as language support or vocational training. I also actively engage with diversity and inclusion experts, whose insights are integral to refining our outreach and program design.

  8. lisamarie.benavides says:

    In Allegheny County, the PA CareerLink® serves a very diverse population. When asked to identify their race, the largest proportion of our customers identify as Black with the second largest proportion of customers identifying as White. Most customers report to be living at or below the poverty line. Our data shows we serve more men than women, although it’s important to note our current system does not allow for super transparent gender-inclusive reporting. We mostly serve individuals who are between 25 and 55 but the second largest age group is seniors. Recently, the refugee and immigrant population in Allegheny County, much like the rest of the state, has increased significantly resulting in our centers serving more and more individuals who do not speak English or have limited English Proficiency. When something comes up consistently, such as a new language being seen frequently, we adjust our processes to account for the possibility that another customer with similar needs will benefit from.

    The biggest resource we strive for is creating a culture of inclusivity. It is impossible to train on every nuance of every culture/background a staff person might interact with so it’s critical to create a culture of welcoming, understanding, and respect. We train frequently on cross-cultural communication. In the center, we are sure to have resources available in multiple languages and staff trained on the language line. We also have posted that customers are encouraged to share with staff what is needed, such as accommodations for people with disabilities. Internally, we report on and address instances where bias or issues arose as a result of a customer’s identity. This is not to punish staff, particularly because a lot of times it is not intentional missteps, but rather to learn from each other and reinforce the priority of creating a safe space for customers.

  9. swhitesell says:

    One of the major groups of people with whom I work is re-entrants. People with a criminal background have a special set of circumstances that become a barrier to employment. Whether we like to think about it or not, there is discrimination against those with unfortunate pasts who are trying to reinvent themselves. One of the key resources we use with these individuals is the second change employers who are willing to employ those with criminal backgrounds. We also offer information on federal bonding to those employers who are on the fence about hiring re-entrants. This gives the employer a little extra insurance if a new employee “burns them”.
    Another group of people with whom I work are customers of retirement age. This is a very difficult group to successfully find employment for. It doesn’t matter if the customer is 70 years old and works as hard as a 25-year-old. Employers see the age on the application and move on to someone else. As with re-entrants, there is ageism among employers even though we would like to think this is not the case. We can refer these customers to A4TD to maybe get a chance to show that they can do a job or gain some experience in newer technology or a new skill that may be advantageous to know when looking for employment.
    Working with either of these groups takes a toll on the worker as well as the customer. They are dealing with discrimination first and foremost, but then the resources are limited that can be used to help them obtain employment.

  10. jpaldino says:

    One of the issues I come up against in working with the re-entry population is that they have so many co-occuring issue hitting them all at once. Housing, self-esteem, employment, parole officers et cetera. Often times it is tough to keep them on task.

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