Putting Young Immigrants on a Path to Skilled Employment

Posted February 9, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young woman with a head covering shakes the hand of another woman; the two women are professionally dressed

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Dis­cov­er how employ­ers are broad­en­ing recruit­ment and hir­ing practices

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