Utah and Idaho explore immigrant career pathways; new fact sheets released

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, October 02, 2018

Note: The Idaho and Utah fact sheets linked below are being released in conjunction with Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. See also NSC’s 2016 fact sheet, Adult Education: A Crucial Foundation for Middle-Skill Jobs.

National Skills Coalition Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock recently traveled to Boise, ID, and Salt Lake City, UT for skills policy events with stakeholders in both cities. The focus: How immigrant advocates can collaborate with adult education and workforce officials to ensure that skills policies provide effective career pathways for workers at all skill levels.

Immigrant populations have more than doubled in both Idaho and Utah in recent years, demonstrating the growing role that immigrant workers can play in helping the states respond to local industries’ talent needs. The issue is of particular importance given the very low unemployment rates in both states.

Two new fact sheets were released in conjunction with the events. Both are part of NSC’s ongoing series on immigrants and middle-skill jobs:

Idaho: Connecting the Dots between Refugee Youth and State Postsecondary Goals

Idaho is home to approximately 98,000 immigrants, who comprise almost 6 percent of state residents. The state has recently set a goal for postsecondary attainment, aiming to increase the percentage of Idaho residents ages 25-34 with a college degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2025. Ensuring that state workforce and education policies are inclusive of immigrant and refugee youth will be important in helping the state meet its ambitious attainment goal.

In Boise, Amanda led two workshops hosted by the nonprofit Neighbors United. The first focused on career pathways for refugee and immigrant jobseekers. The second examined education and workforce issues facing refugee and immigrant young adults in particular. Stakeholders at both workshops included state officials, higher education partners, nonprofit service providers, and refugee youth themselves.

Also participating in the event were staff from the nonprofit Global Talent Idaho. The nonprofit’s collaboration with state refugee and labor department officials was spotlighted in NSC’s recent brief At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy: A Roadmap to Smart Policies for State and Local Leaders.

Utah: A Variety of New Efforts to Boost Skills and Credential Attainment

Immigrants and refugees represent approximately 8 percent of Utah’s population, or 252,000 people. Immigrants in the state are dramatically more likely to be of working age: a full 85 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 57 percent of native-born residents. Utah immigrants also have a substantially higher labor force participation rate: 71 percent of adult immigrants are in the labor force, compared to 67 percent of native-born adults.

Utah has also established an aspirational goal for postsecondary attainment: By 2020, the state aims to increase the percentage of Utahns between 25-64 years old with a postsecondary degree to 66 percent. Given the relative youth of the state’s foreign-born population, investing in the skills of immigrants and refugees will be an important element of helping the state reach its goal. (Utah is also one of three states selected to participate in a new Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps, led by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.)

In Salt Lake City, Amanda led two discussions in collaboration with the nonprofit One Refugee. The first focused on policies and programs that support career pathways for young adult refugees and immigrants. The second explored strategies for measuring refugee integration using education and workforce data.

Stakeholders participating in the discussions included state and local workforce officials, nonprofit service providers, and faith community leaders. The events were hosted by OC Tanner, a corporate leader that supports refugee integration through employment.

Separately, Amanda also met with Utah state legislators to brief them on occupational licensing and career pathway issues for immigrants and refugees in the state. Utah is participating in a national initiative on occupational licensing led by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Council of State Governments.

In addition, both Salt Lake City and Boise, along with partners in Twin Falls, ID, were selected last year to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, and Amanda’s recent trip was conducted as part of the SIIP project.