Allison has been a STEP Instructor (Skills That Employ People) at LSS Refugee and Immigration Center (RIC) in Huron since August. In January she’ll be moving to Washington, D.C. to attend Georgetown University and study International Relations. Before she heads east, I got a chance to sit down and talk with her about her classes and experience with the RIC.
What are STEP classes?
STEP classes are employer-specific job training. These classes are offered through various grants serving newly arrived refugees in Sioux Falls and Huron. The purpose is to better clients’ chances of being hired…to increase their opportunity for employment.
What is the process for developing these classes?
First, U Ronald, Job Developer with LSS in Huron identifies potential employers in the area. Then, we meet with the managers of these companies to offer them an opportunity to work with refugees. We discuss the challenges refugees face applying for jobs and together we identify the necessary skills to become potential applicants for jobs in their companies.
If the employer is receptive to hiring refugees, then I gather as much information as possible for curriculum development, such as employee handbooks, visual aids, manuals, blue prints…I’ve been given parts and taken tours…I gather as much “real” material as possible. In the classes I use language specific to that company so clients gain familiarity. Clients are not promised jobs. The classes help them develop skills needed to be successful in a specific job and increase their chances of employment.
What classes have you developed in Huron?
Each class is thirty-six hours long. I have taught two housekeeping classes involving four employers in the hotel industry. There’s been one food service class involving four employers: a hotel/convention center, a restaurant, a nursing home, and a catering company. Another class was for a specific local manufacturer. And another was a general manufacturing class focusing on companies who manufactured prison materials, equipment for mines, and spare parts for farm implements.
Students are put in “pods” of two to four depending on the current hiring trends of the specific company. In these pods we identify strong leaders with high communication skills and they act as translators for lower-level students. The hope is that these pods will interview together and be hired together, helping each other be successful at each stage of the process. This pod system was first implemented in Sioux Falls because of the many different languages of our clients and has been very successful both for employers and our clients.
What did you enjoy most about your position?
I enjoyed working directly with employers, helping them understand the challenges of being a refugee…advocating for refugees. I enjoyed giving students immediately relevant skills. And of course, being with the Karen in Huron. They are awesome.