Lessons on Integrating Immigrant Workers into the Economy

September 16, 2014

On September 17, I joined three leaders in the field from immigrant-serving organizations for a webinar, Lessons on Integrating Immigrant Workers into the Economy, organized by Living Cities. The three leaders, Gustavo Torres from Casa de Maryland, Cristina Tzintzun from Workers Defense Project and Hilary Stern from Casa Latina provided information about the low-wage immigrant workforce in their communities and the strategies they use to improve the skills and working conditions for that workforce.

The immigrant labor force is a growing and important part of the U.S. economy, yet little attention has been paid to education and occupational training programs that assist immigrants and English learners in gaining skills that lead to better jobs. I discussed the labor force demographic trend, the needs for funding in English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education, and opportunities that can be created through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The examples from the three community organizations highlighted innovative work in the field of immigrant integration. Gustavo Torres described an innovative partnership with Prince George’s community college that provides training opportunities and certificates for many of the low-income immigrants that enter these programs. In Austin, Texas, the Workers Defense Project is designing a Spanish language pre-apprenticeship program for workers in the construction industry. In Seattle, Washington, Casa Latina offers industry-specific education opportunities to the immigrant workers that go to the hiring hall looking for work. The opportunities include training in construction, green gardening, green cleaning as well as English language services.

Living Cities is an organization that harnesses the collective power of 22 of the largest foundations and financial institutions to improve the lives of low-income people and the cities they live in. National Skills Coalition thanks Living Cities for the opportunity to inform stakeholders on relevant policies and work alongside organizations that are assisting low-income workers in finding opportunities to improve their language and occupational skills.

Photo Credit: Seth Anderson (CC 2.0)