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Maine introduces legislation to support and integrate immigrant workforce

A Republican state senator in Maine has introduced a bill that would create a Cabinet-level Office of New Mainers. The bipartisan legislation is in response to concerns about the state’s aging workforce, and recognition that immigrant workers represent a potential resource for meeting the state’s current and future labor force needs.

According to Census figures, nearly 1 in 5 Mainers is over the age of 65, and the state has the oldest median age in the nation. Just 3.5 percent of the state’s population was born abroad, a number that is far below the national average of 13 percent foreign-born residents.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta). A press release from the senator’s office describes key features of the bill, titled An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers To Strengthen the Workforce (LD 1492). The bill would create an Office of New Mainers headed by a director who would:

  • Coordinate with state agencies and programs to attract, educate, integrate and retain immigrants into Maine’s workforce. Specific agencies mentioned include the state’s departments of Labor; Education; Economic and Community Development; Health and Human Services; and Professional and Financial Regulation.
  • Administer programs, projects and grants to attract, educate, integrate and retain immigrants into the state’s workforce, economy and communities.
  • Develop metrics to evaluate outcomes.
  • Establish a committee to provide input and guide the development and implementation of the comprehensive plan. Committee members would include a wide range of stakeholders, including a representative from the state workforce board; three Chamber of Commerce representatives; a postsecondary education representative; and a person with “extensive experience in providing educational instruction to adult English Language Learners.”


The press release also notes that the bill would establish a Welcome Center Initiative to provide vocational training for foreign-trained workers, match those individuals with employers in areas experiencing a shortage of trained workers and establish three grant programs to provide support to immigrants, communities and adult education programs to achieve the stated goals.

In recognition of the critical role that English language acquisition plays in economic integration, the bill specifies that the Welcome Centers would be housed within existing adult education administrative structures. To ensure that job-training activities are demand-driven, organizations seeking funding under this program must collaborate with local employers to identify skill needs and develop interventions that address those needs.

The bill’s total projected price tag is $2 million. If enacted, Maine would join six other states that have established state-level Offices of New Americans or other initiatives designed to ensure that immigrant residents are incorporated into the labor market and broader society. Those states are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. In 2015, the Pew Immigration and the States Project released a short analysis of such state-level efforts. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Maine
California uses $2.5 million in WIOA discretionary funds to support “Workforce Navigation” for immigrants

More than 1 in 3 Californians was born in another country, and the state’s workforce system is moving to address systems-alignment and coordination issues to improve services to immigrants and English Language Learners.  On May 1, the California Workforce Development Board and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency announced the award of five grants to local workforce boards to support pilot “Workforce Navigator” programs over the next 18 months.

A major impetus for the project was the state’s recognition of a disconnect between the high number of immigrant and English Language Learner workers in California and the relatively low number being served by the workforce system. In particular, just 3.7 percent of individuals exiting from the state’s WIOA Title I intensive services in Program Year 2014 had limited English skills.

Grant Recipients

Each of the five local boards received a $500,000 grant. The grantees are:

  • Madera County Workforce Investment Corporation
  • Orange County Development Board
  • Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network
  • Sacramento Employment and Training Agency
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership, Inc.

Notably, the grantees represent a wide range of geographic, economic, and demographic diversity. Workforce navigators will likely face location-specific opportunities and challenges given settings as diverse as the sprawling Los Angeles metropolitan area (for the Pacific Gateway project), and the substantially less-dense Fresno area (in the Madera County project).

Project Goals

As outlined in the project’s Request for Applications, a primary goal is to improve systems coordination to allow individual jobseekers to more smoothly navigate through adult education, job training, and other workforce services. In particular, grantees are being asked to improve coordination between Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I (workforce) and Title II (adult education) services.

Required activities for each grantee include:

  • Leveraging and coordinating a network of wrap-around services (childcare, transportation, etc.) offered through the workforce system and other partners to help individual participants successfully complete workforce programs. 
  • Partnering with nonprofit community-based organizations, particularly in cases when these organizations have established relationships or expertise in serving immigrant communities that local boards do not.
  • Improving alignment with WIOA Title II adult education programs, including co-enrolling participants as appropriate.
  • Establishment of a Workforce Navigator position, designating a specific staff member to help individual immigrant participants navigate the workforce and adult education systems.


Project Funding Source and Key Partners

Key partners in the effort include the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the California Department of Education, which oversees the state’s adult education programs. The state workforce board is also funding third-party technical assistance and evaluation components of the project.

Funds for the project come from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act through a provision known colloquially as the “governor’s reserve.” Every state is permitted to use up to 15 percent of its WIOA Title I funds for specific statewide projects at the governor’s discretion, provided the activities meet statutory requirements. All individuals participating in WIOA Title I-funded services must be legally authorized to work in the United States. 

More information about the California effort can be found on the project website.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, California
New York state funds “community navigators” project for low-income immigrants

A recent Request for Applications (RFA) from the New York State Office for New Americans represents an innovative approach to improving low-income immigrants’ access to career pathways and other workforce and social services for which they are eligible.

The RFA proposes to use just over $1 million in Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to support full-time Community Navigator staff positions at 14 organizations.  Grants of approximately $75,000 are expected to be made to each selected organization. Once awarded, the year-long grants may be renewed for up to two additional years, subject to the availability of funds.  

Per the RFA, the goal of the project is to “maximize the participation of low-income immigrant community members in New York State’s civic and economic life.” The project is not intended to directly provide services. Rather, each community navigator will function as a sort of air-traffic controller, overseeing a corps of volunteers in their local region who will help eligible immigrants to discover and access already-existing services. Navigators will also be responsible for a set of convening and coordinating activities meant to deepen local understanding of immigrant integration, particularly around workforce and economic issues.

Why the project was created

The New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) explains the rationale behind this project in the introduction to its RFA:

There is a chronic lack of accessible information about publicly available services and programs in low-income immigrant communities throughout New York State. Low-income New American communities in New York State often lack reliable information regarding workforce development opportunities and other opportunities open to all New Yorkers to fully participate in our State’s civic and economic life. Meanwhile, the complex relationship between immigrants and government has further left newcomers at a deficit for reliable, trusted information.

Taken together, this has left New York State’s new American population ignored for career pathways, vulnerable to financial frauds and at an access deficit for possible ladders of opportunities. Dedicated outreach and community welcoming efforts are needed to help low-income immigrants gain access to the same opportunities available to all others in the State and country. To address this need, the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) is seeking local leadership to coordinate and conduct outreach to low-income immigrant communities, and to create a grassroots community navigators program to help low-income New Americans.

Who is eligible to apply

Organizations eligible to apply for these funds include Community Action Agencies and other nonprofits who meet the New York State definition of community-based organization (CBO).

Notably, this statewide initiative is not limited to New York City. Just three of the anticipated 14 grantees will be located in the city. The other 11 grantees will be spread out across the remainder of the state, including two dedicated to the upstate area known as “North Country.”

What activities are required under the project

Each grantee organization will be required to carry out a similar slate of activities. These activities will be led by the full-time staff member (“Community Navigator”) funded under the grant. They include:

  • Establishing and leading a monthly Immigrant Integration Roundtable in their local community
  • Conducting a survey of local immigrants regarding important economic and workforce issues facing immigrants in the region, and producing an accompanying research report
  • Collaborating with nonprofit and other partners to develop and implement 10 employment/workforce development workshops and other events each year
  • Developing and overseeing a program to recruit and train community members to become volunteer Community Navigators assisting low-income immigrants in accessing services and resources for which they are eligible
  • Creating curricula and providing bimonthly trainings for volunteer Community Navigators


Each grantee’s staff member will also be responsible for hosting Community Conversations about immigrant integration, leading quarterly tours to help local stakeholders learn more about immigrant integration issues, and coordinating the dissemination of relevant announcements to ethnic media outlets.

How success will be measured

Grant applicants are required to demonstrate that their funded work will address one or more of the CSBG National Performance Goals and Indicators. Most relevant from a workforce perspective is Goal 1: “Low-income people become more self-sufficient.”

Indicators collected for this goal include individuals who obtained or maintained a job; obtained wage or benefit increase; achieved “living wage” employment; obtained skills/competencies required for employment; completed Adult Basic Education or High School Equivalency and received a certificate or diploma; or completed a postsecondary education program and obtained certificate or diploma.

The broader context for this project

New York is one of a handful of states in recent years that have created Offices for New Americans. Such offices are intended to improve the integration of immigrant newcomers into the fabric of their communities, and often focus on economic and workforce-related issues.

Among the activities undertaken by the New York State ONA include the funding of 27 ONA Neighborhood-Based Opportunity Centers around the state, and of legal counsels that will provide legal technical assistance to ONA Opportunity Centers. The ONA also supports activities that are specifically workforce-focused, including a program to help immigrants with STEM backgrounds to find skill-appropriate jobs in the U.S.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, New York

DOL issues new guidance on serving immigrants

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
DOL issues new guidance on serving immigrants

The Department of Labor recently issued a Training and Employment Notice (TEN 28-16) on best practices, partnership models, and resources for serving English language learners, immigrants, and refugees.

The TEN was sent to stakeholders across the public workforce system, including state labor departments, state and local workforce boards, and American Job Centers (formerly known as one-stop centers).

The TEN emphasizes the importance of ensuring that all customers have meaningful access to the public workforce system, and describes notable requirements for federally funded workforce providers under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Sec. 188 and its associated nondiscrimination/Equal Employment Opportunity regulations.

The TEN also reviews specific barriers that both highly educated and less-educated immigrant and refugee jobseekers may face, and ways that those barriers can be overcome, including:

  • Limited English proficiency, which can be addressed through contextualized, workplace-based English language classes
  • Lack of familiarity with US workplace practices, which can be addressed through mock interviews and help in building social capital and professional networks


The guidance also reminds workforce stakeholders that training services under WIOA Title I can include English language training if provided in combination with another training service, and that individuals who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are eligible for WIOA Title I services (see NSC’s prior Q and A on this topic).

Six innovative partnership models for providing workforce services to immigrant and refugee jobseekers are spotlighted in the TEN. They include:

  • The Ready to Work program, offered through the Seattle Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
  • Project Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (GROW) in McAllen, TX
  • The Silicon Valley Alliance for Language Learners’ Integration, Education, and Success (ALLIES) Innovation Initiative in San Mateo, CA


Finally, the TEN provides copious links to technical assistance resources on issues that may affect immigrant and refugee jobseekers, such as: credentials and licensing; WIOA state plans and policy guidance; English language instruction; research on immigrant workforce integration; and trauma and human trafficking. 

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Adult Basic Education, Immigration
New data highlights importance of English classes for immigrant workers in Massachusetts

A new report from the nonprofit English for New Bostonians is providing a unique view of adult English learners in Massachusetts. The report is based on a survey of nearly 1,500 adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class participants at 39 different programs statewide. National Skills Coalition conducted the data analysis for the report, titled Talking Jobs: Lessons from ENB’s 2016 Student Employment Survey.

The analysis found that the overwhelming majority of survey respondents (85%) were in the labor force, including 62% who were currently employed and 23% who were looking for work. Among survey respondents who were working, fully half (50%) said their co-workers also need English classes.

The survey also explored whether respondents’ employers were making investments in their skills and providing opportunities for growth. Respondents who were working were asked whether their company provided benefits such as tuition assistance or reimbursement, fixed schedules, opportunities for promotion, and training to help employees do their jobs better.

Each of these benefits has important implications for English learners:

  • Fixed schedules can make it easier for ESOL students to attend classes regularly. Sixty percent (60%) of respondents reported that they are given a fixed work schedule.
  • In-house training can signal a company’s interest in retaining and promoting workers. Nearly half (49%) of respondents reported that their employer provides them with some type of training.
  • Having opportunities for promotion can inspire workers to build English and other skills in order to move up the career ladder. A relatively small number of respondents (34%) reported having such opportunities at their current job.
  • Tuition assistance is both a symbolic and tangible investment in a worker’s continued upskilling. Just 9% of respondents reported having tuition benefits.
     

Notably, workers who were employed at larger companies of 50 or more employees were more likely to have access to the above benefits. However, only 43% of working survey respondents were employed at these larger companies.

Other data from the survey provided a vivid illustration of the under-employment of many Massachusetts immigrants. Numerous respondents were working in entry-level positions in the US, despite having held professional jobs in their home countries. Among these respondents were an immigrant architect who is now selling cell phones, an auditor working in a pizzeria, and a dentist making fruit smoothies. Prior research has found that lack of English language skills is a major contributing factor to such under-utilization.

Key conclusions from the report include:

  • There is unmet demand for adult ESOL classes in Massachusetts.
  • Although workers’ direct supervisors are often aware that they are participating in ESOL classes, it is not known whether higher-level managers are similarly informed.
  • Immigrant workers may be unaware of opportunities for promotion at their current place of employment, or may lack such opportunities.
  • The mismatch between a worker's home-country profession and his or her current occupation can be dramatic.
  • There are opportunities to further engage employers in key industry sectors regarding immigrant skill-building issues.
     

Each of these conclusions is explored in more detail, along with supporting evidence from survey findings, in the full report. A two-page Executive Summary is also available. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, Massachusetts
NSC staff join 300 advocates to talk immigrant skill building in Philadelphia

NSC Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock participated in several events as part of the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network conference last week. The conference brought nearly 300 attendees from ten states to Philadelphia for in-depth discussions of workforce, adult education, cross-cultural, and economic development issues related to immigration in the Rust Belt.

Amanda participated in a panel on Career Pathways for Immigrants, where she talked about opportunities in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to support immigrant skill building. She also shared information about new resources released by National Skills Coalition, including toolkits to help advocates advance state policies on Integrated Education and Training and stackable credentials.

Joining her on the panel were Katherine Gebremedhin of WES Global Talent Bridge and Annie Fenton of the Michigan Office for New Americans. The panel was moderated by Karen Phillippi, also of the Michigan Office for New Americans.

Another conference session focused on immigrant workers in the healthcare arena. The panel featured commentary by Marcia Drew Hohn, formerly of the Immigrant Learning Center and co-author of a new report on the issue, as well as John Hunt, director of a program serving immigrant jobseekers at New York’s LaGuardia Community College. The panel was moderated by Sara McElmurry of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which also released a recent report on the issue. NSC’s Upskilling the New American Workforce report was cited by panelists for its profile of a Minnesota program that supports US-born and immigrant adult students in attaining healthcare credentials.

The conference also examined issues related to equity, including strategies for addressing the needs and concerns of American-born “receiving community” members in places where immigrant newcomers are settling. A final session provided an opportunity to discuss intersections between LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, and immigrant integration advocacy.

Amanda also participated in a pre-conference half-day session hosted by the nonprofit World Education Services (WES). The event was a follow-up to the White House National Skills and Credential Institute held earlier this year. (See our Skills Blog post on that event.)

The WES event brought together nearly 70 attendees, including municipal officials, nonprofit leaders, and other workforce stakeholders, to discuss strategies for addressing immigrant “brain waste” in American communities. The term refers to immigrants who arrive in the US with degrees and credentials from abroad, but end up working in low-wage jobs due to language and other barriers.

Amanda moderated a panel of national experts who provided feedback to attendees on their ideas for addressing brain waste. Panelists included:

  • Carol Aguirre, US Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
  • Peter Gonzales, President and CEO of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
  • Suzette Brooks Masters, consultant to philanthropy on immigration issues
  • Karen Phillippi, Deputy Director of the Michigan Office of New Americans
     

View more about both events by checking out the hashtags #WEConvening and #ImmigrantTalent on social media. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration

New analysis sheds light on young adult English learners

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock ,
New analysis sheds light on young adult English learners

A newly released data analysis is providing a surprising window on young adults who are English learners. The analysis has important implications for adult education and workforce development providers and policymakers.

Titled Older Adolescent and Young Adult English Learners: A Study of Demographics, Policies, and Programs, the report was published by the US Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), and written by RTI International. It focuses on young people ages 14-21 who are English learners, including both immigrants and US-born youth. It is based on data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Key findings from the OCTAE report:

  • There are approximately 1.5 million English learners (ELs) ages 14-21 in the United States, including 675,000 who are at the older end of that age range (ages 19-21).
     
  • A startlingly high percentage of these ELs -- 43% -- were born in the United States. Another 8% are naturalized US citizens, and the remainder are noncitizens. (The dataset used for the analysis does not break down information on the specific type of immigration status that noncitizens have.)
     
  • Young adult English learners are less likely than their non-EL counterparts to be enrolled in school. More than half (56%) of English learners ages 19-21 are not enrolled in either secondary or postsecondary education, compared to 40% of non-ELs. 
     
  • More worryingly, a full 40% of English learners ages 19-21 who are not enrolled in school also lack a high school diploma or equivalent. In contrast, only 14% of their non-EL counterparts lack a high school credential.
     
  • However, many English learners ages 19-21 who are not enrolled in school are holding down jobs. Fully 45% of this group are working full time, and another 15% are working part time. In contrast, non-ELs are less likely to be employed, and also less likely to be full-time workers: 35% are working full time and 23% part time.
     

From National Skills Coalition’s perspective, each of the above findings has important implications for adult education and skills policy and practice.

First, the sheer size of this adolescent/young adult population is notable, particularly since public discussion of English learners tends to focus either on younger, elementary-school age students or older adults. Second, the data on the number of native-born US citizens who are English learners suggests an area of potential concern, as it implies that a substantial number of young people may have completed both elementary and middle school in the US without becoming proficient in English.*

Third, the findings on school enrollment emphasize the importance of federal investment to support young adults’ English language acquisition and educational attainment beyond their engagement in the K-12 school system.

A major avenue for such investment is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which serves a total of 1.5 million US-born and immigrant individuals each year through adult basic education, high school equivalency, and English language classes.

Some of the individuals served by WIOA are likely represented among the English learners profiled in the OCTAE data analysis. In particular, separate data from the National Reporting System shows that 15% of participants (104,000 people) in WIOA-funded English language classes are between the ages of 16-24.

Adult education classes can provide an important on-ramp to further education and/or employment opportunities for young adult English learners. However, WIOA services are not funded at the full authorized levels, and there is greater demand for adult education services than can be met with current funding. National Skills Coalition has called for increased federal funding for adult education.

Another federal policy that can support education and training, including English language acquisition, is SNAP Employment and Training. National Skills Coalition has published numerous resources on SNAP E&T, and profiled a Seattle program that is funded in part by this source in our recent Upskilling the New American Workforce report.

The high number of young adults in the OCTAE data analysis who do not have a high school credential is also of concern given that some of these young people are likely to be undocumented, and may be eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which requires applicants to be “in school.” Young people who are enrolled in eligible adult education programs can satisfy this enrollment requirement, but as described above, there are insufficient class slots available to meet the demand.

Finally, the OCTAE report findings on employment present a mixed picture. While the relatively high rates of employment for English learners suggest that they are finding their way into the job market, it is not clear that they have access to the training and credentials that will allow them to earn higher wages over time.

For this reason, it is important to support policies that can help young adults who are already in the workforce to continue building their skills and earn industry-recognized credentials. This can be done by making federal financial aid more accessible to working learners, and building stronger connections between Perkins Career and Technical Education programs and adult education programs, among other strategies.

*Without further analysis, it is not possible to know how many of these young people may have been educated in Puerto Rico, a US territory that has a bilingual K-12 education system. It is unlikely that any substantial percentage were born in the US and then raised abroad before returning as teenagers, which would be another potential explanation for why US-born adolescents are English learners.

 

 

Posted In: Immigration
As Welcoming Week begins, a fresh look at adult education and immigrant integration

Today marks the start of Welcoming Week, an annual celebration comprised of hundreds of events nationwide that celebrate the integration of immigrant newcomers and longtime residents in American communities.

In recognition of Welcoming Week, National Skills Coalition is spotlighting two recent resources that explore the role of adult education and workforce development in facilitating immigrant integration.

Both publications are from World Education, the nonprofit organization that led the recently concluded federal Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative.  (NSC Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock served on the technical work group advising the initiative.)

Funded by the US Department of Education, the initiative provided technical assistance to networks in five local communities: Boise, ID; Fresno, CA; Lancaster, PA; Providence, RI; and White Center, WA. Each local network was comprised of multiple organizations, including at least one adult education provider as well as other partners such as workforce development agencies, libraries, and refugee resettlement organizations.

The first publication is a detailed report on the process and outcomes of building these five local immigrant integration networks. Adult Education and Immigrant Integration: Lessons Learned from the Networks for Integrating New Americans Initiative provides an extensive analysis of how the networks came together, identified common interests, overcame sometimes significant challenges, and formed enduring relationships that helped advance integration in their communities.

Usefully, the publication includes several appendices in which initiative partners share an operations plan, job description, and program indicators to aid other organizations that may wish to use these materials.

The second publication is a shorter fact sheet. Workforce Collaborations Build a System of Supports for Immigrants highlights several practices that paid off for initiative partners. Among other results, partners found that:

Coordinating services across adult education and workforce development agencies helps build a comprehensive system of supports that connect immigrants and refugees to employment.

For example, the Lancaster County Refugee Coalition:

  • Invited one-stop staff members to provide input on the strategic plan of the adult education partner organization.
  • Collaborated to station a transitions counselor from the adult education organization at the one-stop center. The counselor assists English language learners in applying and qualifying for job training, and assesses the language supports needed in training program classes.
  • Contracted for an exchange of services in which the one-stop center provides job readiness training for adult education students, and the adult education organization provides math and reading classes for one-stop center clients.
  • Began planning with local job training providers to collaboratively develop integrated, short-term certificate trainings for welding, tow-motor operation and other occupations.
  • Participated in planning led by the local workforce development board to implement joint orientations for jobseekers, who would then be referred to the appropriate education or training services.
     

In addition, the partners found that collaboration builds awareness of the role adult education plays in immigrant integration, and increases access to funding.

Several of the local networks funded under the initiative were able to leverage their collaborations to obtain new funding. For example, Neighbors United worked in collaboration with Idaho labor officials to compete successfully for a US Department of Labor Job-Driven National Emergency Grant (JD-NEG), resulting in a $320,000 subcontract over two years to support dislocated immigrant and refugee workers.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration
NSC staff participated in adult English learners and workforce convening

In 2015, California became the first state to create a Director of Immigrant Integration position within the governor’s office. Last month, the state built on that momentum by bringing together nearly 100 workforce, adult education, and immigrant advocates for a day-long meeting in Sacramento. The statewide gathering focused on workforce issues facing immigrants and adult English learners.

The convening was spearheaded by the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the state Workforce Development Board, working in close collaboration with the state’s Director of Immigrant Integration, the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, and the California Department of Education, as well as other state agencies.

The day opened with comments from Robin Purdy, chief deputy director of the labor and workforce department, and Tim Rainey, executive director of the state workforce development board. Both speakers emphasized the importance of the event’s topic and the state’s commitment to advancing effective immigrant workforce policies.

Next, state secretary of labor and workforce development David Lanier welcomed attendees with a reflection on the role of immigrants in the state’s economy. “We are proudly a state that benefits and thrives based on our diversity…. We’re also the best example of some of the real challenges of integration and how to [ensure that the] benefits from that include everyone,” Lanier said, listing income inequality as an overarching challenge that Governor Brown’s administration has taken numerous steps to combat.

“Immigrants and their families are critical to our shared success [and] shared prosperity,” Lanier added, citing the California Dream Act as an example of state legislation that is transforming the lives of foreign-born Californians.

Next on the agenda was an overview of key policy issues in providing workforce services to immigrants and adult English learners. National Skills Coalition senior policy analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock shared examples of innovative practices in Boise, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, and St. Paul, MN.

Amanda also highlighted several California-based programs, including Building Skills Partnership’s Green Janitor training program and the Welcome Back Initiative for immigrant health professionals. Finally, she reviewed opportunities for California to advance skills policies – such as SNAP Employment and Training programs, state data systems, and career pathways – in ways that are inclusive of immigrants.

Next, Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) walked the audience through key demographic highlights about California immigrants, and the resulting implications for the provision of services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Margie’s presentation drew on MPI’s California fact sheet on immigrants and WIOA; local fact sheets for several California counties are also available from MPI.

Participants also heard from two practitioners in the field:

  • Glenn Scott Davis of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs in Seattle provided a deep dive on the city’s pioneering Ready to Work program for low-level English learners. (NSC profiled the program on our Skills Blog earlier this year).
  • Sue Gilmore of the Sacramento City Unified School District and Connie Lee of the Capital Adult Education Regional Consortium (CAERC) described their partnership in serving adult English learners. CAERC is one of 71 such consortia in California, funded by the $500 million statewide Adult Education Block Grant known as AB-86.
     

Following a lunch break, the afternoon was spent in small-group breakout sessions. Attendees tackled one of four discussion topics:

  • Incentivizing innovations to serve English learners and immigrants
  • Improving participation and ensuring success for English learners and immigrants in the workforce
  • Providing a support system to improve the pipeline for English learners and immigrants in the larger workforce system
  • Exploring the possibility of a Workforce Navigators program, modeled after the health care navigators and promotoras models.
     

The day concluded with a wrap-up from Jennifer Hernandez, associate secretary for farmworker and immigrant services at the department of labor and workforce. Hernandez thanked attendees for their active participation and promised to circle back in the coming weeks with an event recap and proposed next steps.

Also making concluding remarks was Dan Torres, the state’s director of immigrant integration.  “On behalf of Governor Brown, I want to thank you for what you’re doing. It’s inspiring,” he said, adding: “No other state has as great a stake in immigrant integration as California.”

*Photo of CA Secretary of Labor courtesy of California Labor & Workforce Development Agency.

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, California
The Supreme Court’s DACA ruling and skills: what states and localities can do now

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Texas has had ripple effects for millions of undocumented immigrants and the American communities in which they reside. This short Q-and-A explains key facets of the case from a skills perspective, and provides examples of how states and localities can address skill-building needs among young Dreamers even as the case returns to the trial court.

What was the DAPA case about?

The case concerned the Obama administration’s 2014 proposal to expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and launch a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

Both programs would have allowed eligible undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary protection from deportation and 2-year renewable work permits.

DACA is focused on young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, while DAPA focuses on undocumented parents of US citizen children (or lawful permanent resident children).

Neither the implementation of DAPA nor the expansion of DACA was ever put into effect, because 26 states that opposed the programs brought suit in federal court to stop them. A federal judge issued an injunction to delay implementation while the Supreme Court case was decided.

How did the Supreme Court rule?

The Supreme Court issued a 4-4 ruling that lets stand a lower court’s nationwide injunction blocking implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA. Now, the case has returned to the federal district court in Texas, where a trial on the merits of the case will be held.  

(The Obama administration has also asked the Supreme Court to re-hear the case once the Court has returned to its normal complement of nine justices. To stay up-to-date on developments with the case, follow the National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Council.)

Does the Supreme Court ruling affect WIOA?

The Supreme Court ruling had no effect on WIOA’s existing eligibility requirements.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides adult education, job training, and other workforce services to people across the United States. Its eligibility requirements with regard to immigrants are unchanged:

  • Immigrants must be legally work-authorized in order to be eligible for WIOA Title I (workforce) services, including Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth programs. Policy guidance from the US Department of Labor affirms that DACA recipients are included among those eligible
  • In contrast, WIOA Title II (adult education) is silent on the question of immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are allowed to participate in Title II programs nationwide, except in Arizona and Georgia (which have restrictive state-level immigration laws).
     

What has happened to existing DACA recipients?

The original DACA program was launched in 2012. It is still in effect. Only the expansion of DACA – which among other changes would have removed an age cap and allowed more young people to apply – was halted by the Supreme Court ruling.

Under the original program, approximately 750,000 young people have already been granted DACA status. The status of these DACA recipients has not changed as a result of the court ruling. Their work permits continue to be valid, and they continue to be eligible to renew those work permits for additional 2-year periods – as long as future Presidential administrations continue the DACA program. (See “What will happen next?” below.)

In addition, the original DACA program is still accepting new applications. Thus, young people who meet the eligibility requirements for original DACA, but have not yet applied, may still do so.

What can states and localities do?

States and localities can work within current federal policy to improve skills-related access and outcomes for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible youth. Below, we outline five areas that states and localities can address through service provision, improved institutional coordination, policy development and implementation, and local funding.

  • Implement adult education and other services to help additional young people who are eligible for the original DACA program to apply. There are an estimated 400,000 young people who would be eligible for DACA if they met educational requirements. Read our Skills Blog post on how New York City tackled this issue.
     
  • Ensure that existing DACA recipients are able to access job-training assistance. As noted above, DACA recipients are work-authorized, and thus eligible for WIOA Title I services. Learn how one Arizona nonprofit has helped DACA recipients access Individual Training Account funds and obtain employment. States can facilitate DACA recipients’ access to Title I by disseminating the federal policy guidance and providing additional formal or informal guidance to local workforce boards and other stakeholders.
     
  • Incorporate the needs of DACA recipients and DACA-eligible young people into local WIOA planning, including Title II adult education and Title I Youth services, as appropriate. (View state- and county-level data on the DACA-eligible population, and state-level data on DACA recipients.)
     
  • Support effective pathway navigation, guidance, and counseling services that equip DACA youth to make wise choices about vocational training and other avenues to employment. As appropriate, such efforts should be incorporated in the creation and implementation of career pathways under WIOA.
     

Learn more about how DACA recipients are benefitting from upskilling opportunities in these prior posts from NSC’s Skills Blog.

What will happen next?

There are a variety of potential developments that would affect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals. As described above, the court case in US v. Texas now returns to federal district court for a trial on the merits.

The policy landscape will also be affected by the results of the Presidential election in November 2016. The Presidential candidates have taken dramatically different positions on DACA and DAPA. The presumptive Democratic nominee has vowed to continue the existing DACA program, defend DAPA, and pursue comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

In contrast, the Republican Presidential nominee has said that he would discontinue the existing DACA program and seek to deport all of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. 

Posted In: Immigration
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