Putting Young Immigrants on a Path to Skilled Employment
Immigrants and their children have a significant and increasing presence in the United States. Today, the group accounts for 26% of the nation’s population and is projected to grow to 34% of the total over the next 30 years, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
As the share of immigrant families grows, so too does the potential to leverage their skills, experiences and strategies for a stronger economy. But they can’t do it alone, reminds Ranita Jain, senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s employment, education and training portfolio.
“Many young immigrants would benefit from support in navigating today’s economy, including help to access jobs that use their skills and experience,” she says.
A new report, Roadblocks to Workforce Inclusion for Young Adult Immigrants, echoes this observation.
Produced by Upwardly Global, the publication identifies unique challenges that young immigrants often face in the American job market and what U.S. employers can do to help these workers forge fulfilling careers.
The Casey Foundation funded the report and worked with three grantees — Port Jobs, The Door and South Bay Community Services — on its publication.
Methodology and Findings
Upwardly Global’s report considered responses across five focus groups and a survey of more than 200 participants under 30 years old. The effort aimed to capture where young adult immigrants struggled — and where they succeeded — when navigating the U.S. labor market.
The effort identified six hurdles workers often encountered.
- Career navigation. Seventy-one percent of respondents noted that it was difficult to decide which career paths, professional courses and credentials they needed and could afford to pursue.
- Networking. Only 50% of respondents used networking to search for jobs. Young immigrants are often isolated and lack the same networks that their U.S.-born peers have been assembling for years.
- Professional communication. While 22% of respondents identified a lack of English fluency as a barrier to employment, 43% believed they needed assistance when it came to overcoming cultural differences or using professional language in work environments.
- Work experience. Only 17% of respondents had performed U.S.-based work in their field. Without this experience, many young immigrants reported working in low-wage “survival positions” that did not align with their skills.
- Search time. Sixty-five percent of all respondents and 69% of female respondents reported having limited time — less than five hours per week — to search for a job.
- Discrimination. Sixty percent of respondents felt that their skills were not fully valued. During focus-group discussions, young adults who identified as Black, Latino and Middle Eastern described experiences of discrimination and xenophobia from employers or colleagues.
Increasing Opportunities for Immigrant Workers
Upwardly Global’s report also included three recommendations for employers, policymakers and philanthropic organizations to consider when trying to build a more inclusive workforce.
- Tailored support. Targeted workforce development services an benefit young immigrant job seekers and workers. These services can include: industry-specific coaching and mentoring, assistance completing coursework and acquiring credentials, and help with the job search, application and interview processes.
- Alternative hiring models. Programs that create on-ramps — such as paid work-based learning opportunities — directly connect individuals to job skills and experiences that can help them professionally succeed.
- Bridging the networking gap. Established industry professionals are useful professional contacts for young adult immigrants. Strategic mentor-mentee relationships can help job seekers and workers gain confidence and access new job opportunities in their given field.
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