Do Skilled Immigrant Engineers and Doctors Really Need to Drive Taxis?
Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Building a National Movement
The U.S. immigrant population includes more than 11 million immigrants and refugees who have a bachelor's degree or higher, half of these earned outside the U.S. For immigrants trained abroad, the barriers to re-entering their careers in the U.S. can be steep, including lack of English proficiency, unfamiliarity with the U.S. job market, and complex relicensing requirements that vary widely from state to state. As a result, the Migration Policy Institute found in 2017, nearly 2 million foreign-trained professionals in the U.S. -- engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, IT professionals, and many others -- are unemployed or working in low-skill, low wage jobs. The financial impact includes more than $39 billion in lost wages and more than $10 billion in lost federal, state and local tax revenues. The loss to local labor markets urgently in need of the skills and talents foreign-trained immigrants bring to in-demand jobs in these professions is just as significant.
Across the country, however, cities and states are beginning to take notice of this "brain waste" and are working to tap into the opportunity that high-skilled immigrants and refugees represent for their economies and communities. Immigrant advocates, higher education institutions, and workforce and economic development stakeholders are also getting into the act. In Pennsylvania, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians blends state workforce and private funding to run its International Professionals Program, which offers intensive English training and career support for under-employed foreign-trained immigrants. The Michigan Office for New Americans' Michigan International Talent Solutions (MITS) program offers free job search training and coaching to help skilled immigrants and refugees return to their professions. And twelve Welcome Back Centers around the country, most based in community colleges, help foreign-trained medical professionals get back to careers in health care. In cities like Boston, well-established local workforce and refugee service providers like Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) are piloting career training and advising services for skilled refugees. And national organizations like World Education Services Global Talent Bridge, Upwardly Global, and the Migration Policy Institute are sharing resources, disseminating best practices, providing technical assistance, advocating for policy change, and driving research to support these professionals and the service providers that work with them.
At OnWord Partner, we are proud to be part of this effort, providing career and educational advising and immigration legal services for skilled immigrants and refugees in Massachusetts and beyond. We are also excited to be collaborating both with local organizations like JVS, the African Bridge Network, and the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, and with national partners like Upwardly Global and the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a coalition of more than 80 companies working to improve the lives and livelihoods of refugees around the world.
For under-employed foreign-trained immigrants and refugees in the U.S., support and opportunity are growing. If you are interested in accessing OnWord Partner's services or in joining us in this work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 351-8332. Also join our mailing list, and keep an eye on our website and this blog for news and announcements of upcoming activities.