Pima Community College Transition to Jobs

 Name of Community College Pima Community College

Title of Program Transition to Jobs

Type of Program (i.e. ESL, workforce training/career development, community outreach/partnership, providing access/support to undocumented students, citizenship/civics preparation, etc)

ESL, workforce training/career development

Primary Division(s) or Department(s) involved: Adult Basic Education for College and Career (ABECC)

Key Partners (if applicable, please note other outside agencies or organizations involved in the program)

Pima College ABECC began teaching Transition to Jobs in July 2016 after the program was transitioned from JobPath, a non-profit workforce development organization. Transition to Jobs provides support for immigrant and refugee residents of Tucson and Pima County who need assistance transitioning to college-level education and job-training programs that lead to a living wage. Transition to Jobs helps adult students through job/career skills development, and education.

JobPath had success with the program prior to 2016. Since transitioning to ABECC, volunteer teachers have been training, curriculum has been reworked, recruitment has expanded and the majority of students in the class have gotten jobs or entered training programs.

1. Need for Program (Briefly outline the significant need or problem that the initiative addresses and how long the program has been in place.)

Pima County has a high immigrant population, many of whom come with education and/or credentials from their home countries. The program aims to help accelerate immigrant’s abilities to get jobs, especially jobs in their fields, by assisting with navigations of the United States’ systems and helping immigrants understand what is needed for their education and credentials to count in the U.S.

2. Brief Description of Program (Briefly explain the purpose of your program, including whether it is an academic program [credit or non-credit] or student service.)

Transition to Jobs is a class for highly skilled immigrants who are able to speak, read and write English at an intermediate level or higher, and have either some college, or career/professional background from their country of origin. The class focuses on introducing US job culture and practices for working in the US including: writing and practicing a job-related biography elevator speech, writing a cover letter and resume, interview practice, and learning about US laws as they apply to employees and employers.

The 2-hour class, held on Friday mornings, was taught by five trained volunteer teachers. Participants work with an Immigrant Career Navigator to design a personal plan to guide them more quickly towards career pathway jobs as well as advanced educational opportunities. The Immigrant Career Navigator and Volunteer Coordinator provide support and guidance.

Transition to Jobs is a non-credit program.

3. Specific Population Served

The class is for highly skilled immigrants who are able to speak, read and write English at an intermediate level or higher, and have either some college, or career/profession background from their country of origin.

4. Goals and Objectives (Describe the broad program goals, and then identify major objectives that define how these goals will be accomplished.)

Systems navigation

  • Introduce US job culture and practices to be prepared to work in the US
  • Learn about US laws as they apply to employees and employers
  • Learn about how the education system works
  • Learn about and practice how people find jobs, including the concept and practice of networking
  • Learn about and initiate translation of transcripts and/or credentialing

Career/Skill Development for entering employment and/or post-secondary

  • Write and practice a job related biography elevator speech
  • Write a cover letter and resume
  • Practice Interview skills
  • Practice advanced English language skills

US work experience through volunteering

  • Learn ways to connect with your field
  • Explore how to gain new US-based job experience
  • Explore local community career options

Ultimately, the goal is for each student to transition from the program to post-secondary education or a job.

5.  Outcomes (What has the program improved / corrected / increased / decreased by addressing this need, e.g. retention, student performance, student services, work force training, language acquisition etc? Please include any data regarding outcomes e.g. completion rates, employment, economic impact)

From September 1, 2013-April 2016, there were 92 participants served by JobPath. In 2014, of the 31 active students, 13 got jobs in fields such as Small Business, Microbiology, Business Administration, International Trade, Education and Accounting. IN 2015, of the 33 active students, 16 got jobs in fields such as dentistry, Accounting, Chemistry, HR and Waste Water Engineering. Countries represented included China, Columbia, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Syria, Togo and Ukraine.

Many students repeated session and some even returned as volunteers to help teach others.

Since ABECC has taken over the class in July 2016, 14 students have been served. We hope to serve 60 students by 2020. Countries of participants include Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Japan and Mexico.

To date, including the years with JobPath, 12 ten-week sessions of Transition to Jobs have taken place.

Students report that interviewing skills are the most difficult and helpful parts of the curriculum. Practical and applicable awareness of the US hiring laws and practices help students reframe what to share during interviews and on resumes. Students appreciate group class time and in-depth one-on-one time with a volunteer teacher. One-on-one time might include resume and cover letter editing, interview practice, support with electronic job searching, growing awareness of professional associations and opportunities in the community (to grow awareness and ability of networking).

When mock interviews are conducted, the class participant is interviewed by two coaches who ask the top ten most commonly asked interview questions.  Feedback and suggestions are given immediately to the interviewee, who is asked to incorporate it and plan to be interviewed by another two coaches the following week.  The intention is to film the interviews for the next session.

Also In the future teachers will plan field trips to introduce students to professional organizations and setting and to assist students in connecting with volunteer opportunities.

One challenge is continuing to stay knowledgeable and assist students in having transcripts translated and credentials evaluated. Most students are not aware of the processes or costs, nor do they understand that their experience in their home countries is potentially valuable and important to obtaining a job within their field. Teachers help calm frustrations and fears regarding time and costs for these processes. Managing expectations can be challenging.

Thus far, successes have included:

  • Job acquisition in their students field
  • Job acquisition not in the field, and continued work to find connections and a career pathway within the desired field
  • Acceptance to post-secondary occupational programs, such as the Health Professions Opportunity Grant program at Pima College for a certificate
  • Moving to TOEFL preparation class and applying to university
  • Acceptance into AmeriCorps for a year of service in education/teaching field
  • Moving to more advanced college transition classes and Adult Secondary Education in preparation for the high school equivalency exams
  • Continuing in the class to build more skills

6.  Collaboration (If applicable, please note the role of each key partner organization—both internal across the college campus and external—involved in the program)

We plan to develop deeper relationships with community college career centers/advising, public libraries, as well as working with the Pima County OneStop Centers to assist with job search, career counseling and training as needed for student job-seekers. As students bring their experience and individual needs, volunteer teachers will continue to help them get connected to professional organizations and resources. For example, a student in the architecture field was supported by the teachers to connect with local architect professional organizations as well as individual architects through networking while awaiting his transcript evaluation.

7.  Success Factors (What factors have been most critical to the success of your program?)

Class location and schedule – The location chosen has a high number of immigrants in ESL classes, and is home to the Refugee Education Program. Class times were considered based on student focus group feedback and avoiding conflicts with ESL classes that the students may attend to improve their language skills. An evening class is being added because of the vibrant ESL population at night.

Volunteers and teamwork: dedicated volunteers have supported students as teachers and as one-on-one career coaches. They wrote the curriculum, continually search for resources and job leads to share with students. The support of a team of dedicated people, volunteer teachers, an Immigrant Career Navigator and the Volunteer Coordinator provide wrap-around serves for students. The classes are run by three volunteer coaches who have been through orientation and training. They come from diverse backgrounds, social work, education and a career development/program management. All are retired. They bring a wide range of experience and are dedicated volunteers committed to participant success. JobPath volunteers reported developing relationships with students that extended beyond the classroom. No outside of class relationships have developed for our volunteers/students yet—partially because of our success in getting folks working.

The Transition to Jobs team meets weekly or bi-weekly to debrief, plan and assess how the class is going.  A sense of team, and teamworking skills are critical in the training of volunteer teachers. Beyond the orientation, classroom observations and interviewing with the volunteer coordinator, these three volunteers worked together with an ABECC English Language Instructor who also serves as a Career Navigator specifically for immigrants and the Volunteer Coordinator to develop their team. It took just a few weeks for personalities, talents and skills to gel, and then they got to work together to talk about curriculum. Once the class began, curriculum revision along with reflection have been critical to maintain cohesion. However, eventually the teaching was turned over fully to the volunteers. They are supported through the meetings and debrief opportunities, a monthly volunteer newsletter, and having access to Pima College trainings and in-services as appropriate.

Student success and feedback: Students have said that the mock-interview practice is very helpful. They appreciate the time dedicated toward practicing and polishing interview skills. They also report appreciating the one-on-one time they received. And—many of them have gotten jobs.

8.  Challenges Faced and Overcome Were there factors that created challenges?  If so, how did you work to overcome those?  Please note any current challenges as well.

Recruitment and marketing: both informing the community about the class in order to bring in qualified students as well as finding the right number for student-to-volunteer ratios have been challenging and we continue to work toward balance.

It is a struggle to find a class schedule that works for students and does not interfere with other ESL classes that student may benefit from.

9.  Funding and Sustainability (How was the program funded? If the program was funded through a grant, how will the program be sustained?)

The program is funded using local dollars.

10. Contact Information

Title: Vice President for Adult Basic Education, Regina Suitt

Organization: Pima Community College, Adult Basic Education for College and Career (ABECC)

Email address: rsuitt@pima.edu

Phone: 520-206-6500

Read more in CCCIE Issue Brief Helping Skilled Immigrants and Refugees Transition to Jobs