Skills on the agenda at National Immigrant Integration Conference

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, January 15, 2016

Last month’s National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn, NY, brought together more than 1,300 advocates from across the United States. Hosted by the New York Immigration Coalition and the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), the gathering featured three days of high-profile plenary sessions, hands-on workshops and in-depth panel discussions on a wide range of topics.

National Skills Coalition’s Amanda Bergson-Shilcock served as co-chair for the conference’s Adult Education and Workforce Development track, in conjunction with Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

Each of the track’s three sessions tackled a distinct aspect of the multifaced adult education and workforce arena: 

  • Putting WIOA to Work for Immigrants and Refugees, moderated by Margie, examined the newly reauthorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which provides more than $3 billion in federal funding for workforce and adult education services. Panelists explored changes in the new WIOA legislation compared to the prior Workforce Investment Act, and the implications for immigrants.

  • Employer Engagement, moderated by Amanda, drew on the diverse experiences of practitioners from Jewish Vocational Service of Boston, the International Institute of Buffalo, and Upwardly Global. Each panelist described how their organization has built long-term relationships with employers that have led to job training contracts and/or employment opportunities for immigrant participants. Policy perspective for this panel was provided by the National Immigration Forum.

  • Educational & Workforce Success for DACA Youth: Making the Most of DACA’s Promise was moderated by Audrey Singer of the Brookings Institution. Audrey provided concrete data on the population of young immigrants eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and speakers from Florida, New York, and Washington state described program models that are successfully serving these young people.

Both Amanda and Margie also participated in a plenary session focusing on the New American Dreams policy platform released by NPNA at the conference. The platform was developed to help inform public discussion on immigration issues during 2016 and beyond.  Watch a video of the plenary, or read the succinct policy platform

Conference organizers had invited every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate to address the attendees. Three accepted the invitation. Their remarks are included among the conference videos.

Finally, Amanda moderated a special session on Fixing Brain Waste, hosted by Partnership for a New American Economy and IMPRINT/WES. Researchers from the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University and the Migration Policy Institute presented data from two new studies on under-employed immigrant professionals. Practitioners from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the St. Louis Mosaic Project served as respondents, sharing examples of how the results of this new research are informing work on the ground.

The next National Immigrant Integration Conference will be held in Nashville, TN. Details will be announced on the conference website in the coming months.