As Welcoming Week begins, a fresh look at adult education and immigrant integration

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, September 16, 2016

Today marks the start of Welcoming Week, an annual celebration comprised of hundreds of events nationwide that celebrate the integration of immigrant newcomers and longtime residents in American communities.

In recognition of Welcoming Week, National Skills Coalition is spotlighting two recent resources that explore the role of adult education and workforce development in facilitating immigrant integration.

Both publications are from World Education, the nonprofit organization that led the recently concluded federal Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative.  (NSC Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock served on the technical work group advising the initiative.)

Funded by the US Department of Education, the initiative provided technical assistance to networks in five local communities: Boise, ID; Fresno, CA; Lancaster, PA; Providence, RI; and White Center, WA. Each local network was comprised of multiple organizations, including at least one adult education provider as well as other partners such as workforce development agencies, libraries, and refugee resettlement organizations.

The first publication is a detailed report on the process and outcomes of building these five local immigrant integration networks. Adult Education and Immigrant Integration: Lessons Learned from the Networks for Integrating New Americans Initiative provides an extensive analysis of how the networks came together, identified common interests, overcame sometimes significant challenges, and formed enduring relationships that helped advance integration in their communities.

Usefully, the publication includes several appendices in which initiative partners share an operations plan, job description, and program indicators to aid other organizations that may wish to use these materials.

The second publication is a shorter fact sheet. Workforce Collaborations Build a System of Supports for Immigrants highlights several practices that paid off for initiative partners. Among other results, partners found that:

Coordinating services across adult education and workforce development agencies helps build a comprehensive system of supports that connect immigrants and refugees to employment.

For example, the Lancaster County Refugee Coalition:

  • Invited one-stop staff members to provide input on the strategic plan of the adult education partner organization.
  • Collaborated to station a transitions counselor from the adult education organization at the one-stop center. The counselor assists English language learners in applying and qualifying for job training, and assesses the language supports needed in training program classes.
  • Contracted for an exchange of services in which the one-stop center provides job readiness training for adult education students, and the adult education organization provides math and reading classes for one-stop center clients.
  • Began planning with local job training providers to collaboratively develop integrated, short-term certificate trainings for welding, tow-motor operation and other occupations.
  • Participated in planning led by the local workforce development board to implement joint orientations for jobseekers, who would then be referred to the appropriate education or training services.

In addition, the partners found that collaboration builds awareness of the role adult education plays in immigrant integration, and increases access to funding.

Several of the local networks funded under the initiative were able to leverage their collaborations to obtain new funding. For example, Neighbors United worked in collaboration with Idaho labor officials to compete successfully for a US Department of Labor Job-Driven National Emergency Grant (JD-NEG), resulting in a $320,000 subcontract over two years to support dislocated immigrant and refugee workers.