Cultural competency affects us all, nearly everywhere – in the health care system, in the welfare system, in the education system, and more. Issues related to cultural competency also come into play in employment training and placement, and we are proud to be a part of change in the system.
On November 10 we held an all-day seminar for the Be-Atzmi organization, which assists thousands of unemployed and underprivileged men and women every year to integrate, on their own, into stable and appropriate workforce opportunities. Since Be-Atzmi often works with populations on the geographic and socio-economic periphery – including Israelis of Ethiopian descent, the Ultra-Orthodox, and Arab populations – a culturally competent approach to employment training and placement can be critically important for the program’s successes. Thus, this year the organization dedicated its annual professional development seminar to cultural competency.
The seminar was held for all workers who come in contact with clients from throughout the country – some 150 people – and was held at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo. The day included teaching the different skills required to deal with different issues in a culturally competent manner. These included, for example, cultural objections to going out to work, refreshments during the Muslim month of Ramadan in mixed groups, integrating husbands into decisions, etc. The seminar dealt mainly with ‘personal cultural competence,’ which means how cultural competency affects individual people. For instance, a case worker suggested what seemed to be a perfect job for a Bedouin woman – working as a maid in a hotel. The pay was above minimum wage, the wages included full benefits, and the hotel provided transportation to and from work. The one problem – in Bedouin society, working as a hotel maid is not something ‘good girls’ do. It is considered to be ‘working in the bedroom,’ just one step up from prostitution (!) The solution – all the job seekers must be interviewed to see what kinds of jobs they’d be willing to take, and it must be made sure that cultural and religious norms are not infringed upon.
Other issues that were discussed were interviews, and the different ‘western codes’ of what is acceptable and not acceptable to say in an interview, being on time, involvement of the husband in decision-making – there is a gap between what the facilitators are used to and what the clients need.
As a result of the positive feedback received by organizers and participants, we will also begin to work with Be-Atzmi in developing their organizational cultural competence as well. This means ensuring that all forms and informative publications and signage be produced in a number of languages to fit the clients’ needs, that different culture’s holidays are respected, etc. In short, it means making sure that the broader picture that is the organization thinks in a culturally competent manner.