NSC staff participate in White House Credential Institute

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, July 08, 2016

Approximately 120 stakeholders came together last week for a daylong White House event highlighting innovative work being done to incorporate immigrants across the United States.

A total of 18 US communities sent delegations to event, termed the White House National Skills and Credential Institute. Each delegation consisted of 4 to 6 members, including municipal and state leaders, community colleges, chambers of commerce, and nonprofit organizations. Attendees had been required to submit letters of interest detailing the work already underway in their communities. The winning communities were selected by White House and federal agency staff to attend the Credential Institute.

Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock was a panelist at the event. Also in attendance were two members of NSC’s National Advisory Panel on Skills Equity, Jeff Carter of the National Coalition for Literacy and John Hunt of LaGuardia Community College. 

Amanda discussed data on how immigrants with degrees from abroad have successfully moved out of low-wage work into career-path jobs. A crucial factor is English language skills – a finding that emphasizes the importance of federal investments in English language classes via the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Other panelists included Jeanne Batalova of the Migration Policy Institute, who presented excerpts from her forthcoming report on the economic impact of under-utilized immigrant professionals, and Stacey Simon of IMPRINT, who highlighted innovative program models tacking this issue.

A second panel featured representatives from the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services highlighting work being done at the federal level. The panel was moderated by Felicia Escobar of the White House Domestic Policy Council. 

  • Johan Uvin of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) emphasized the powerful role of federal funding in supporting immigrants’  English language acquisition, including the 85,000 participants in WIOA Title II-funded programs who have degrees from abroad.  Uvin detailed numerous opportunities for state and local innovation under WIOA and outlined several significant investments being made by OCTAE to support immigrant integration. Finally, he emphasized the importance of English in helping parents and caregivers improve their civic integration, particularly with regard to their ability to participate in their children’s schooling.
  • Portia Wu of the Employment and Training Administration updated attendees on the work being done to finalize WIOA regulations and review states’ WIOA plans. She emphasized the iterative nature of plans, as states are being asked to make adjustments based on federal feedback now, and will also be updating the plans in two years as required by law. Wu also shared information on DOL’s work in the realm of apprenticeships and other areas that are a focus of WIOA.
  • Finally, Mark Greenberg of the Administration for Children and Families outlined the work of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement in supporting refugee skill-building through the Refugee Matching Grant program, which provides federal funding to nonprofits to support refugee employment. He also explained how Individual Development Accounts (a matched savings program) can be used to help refugees afford the fees associated with re-credentialing in their professions, enabling them to move out of low-wage jobs.

Following the panels, attendees had the opportunity to select from a half-dozen peer-led breakout sessions. Topics included contextualized English programs, bridge programs, apprenticeships, “pay-for-success” models, and career pathways.  Space in several of the sessions was standing-room-only as attendees took advantage of the opportunity to hear directly from peers working on the ground. Participants shared their experiences and offered practical advice drawn from their work implementing programs and policies in local communities.

The day concluded with a structured “ideation” session at which each of the 18 delegations clustered with their local colleagues to brainstorm potential solutions for programs and policies that could solve challenges facing immigrant professionals. Following the brainstorming and rapid-prototyping process, each delegation was paired with another delegation to provide and receive peer feedback on their nascent ideas.