IMPRINT: Immigrant Professional Integration

Leaders in Skilled Immigrant Integration

The City of Philadelphia, in partnership with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, is offering a three-month paid fellowship to support foreign-trained professionals along their journey to success.  


More than 40 percent of immigrants in Philadelphia hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but they face higher rates of unemployment and underemployment than college-educated native-born workers.

Under Mayor James Kenney, the Department of Commerce and the Managing Director’s Office are spearheading an effort to develop a citywide workforce development strategy, including efforts to reduce barriers to employment and advance career pathways.

Philadelphia is a city with strong universities and employers, but not all of their constituents have the ability to access these institutions. As one of the largest employers in Philadelphia, the city hopes to lead by example, and provide better opportunities to people who historically find it difficult to access good jobs and family sustaining wages.

Philadelphia is now home to more than 200,000 immigrants, reversing decades of population decline and firmly rooting the city’s potential for economic growth in the contributions of these newcomers. However, their ability to fully utilize skills and experience in the workforce is often limited. Even though more than 40 percent of immigrants in Philadelphia hold at least a bachelor’s degree, they face higher rates of unemployment and underemployment than college-educated native-born workers.

At the same time, the region’s employers are facing critical challenges in filling high-skilled jobs.

Yet despite this clear need for their professional and cultural skills, many immigrants face extensive barriers in re-establishing themselves in their professions. Some of these hurdles include, (1) Lack of English proficiency, (2) having social capital and networking/relationship-building capacity, and (3) having the ability to access appropriate certifications or professional experience necessary to integrate into their career fields. Investing in building “American-experience” proves to be crucial. A growing pool of research that both supports and reaffirms The Welcoming Center’s own observations, which show that immigrants who invest time and energy into acculturation, building social capital, and gaining “American credentials” (i.e. work or academic experience here in the U.S.), have higher incomes and lower rates of unemployment. However, immigrants do not always have access to these kinds of opportunities.

Accelerating the integration of immigrant professionals into the workforce requires not only the commitment of this city as a welcoming place, but also dedicated programs and a coordinated workforce system that explicitly champions these opportunities. Through their “City as Model Employer” initiative, in conjunction with The Welcoming Center, the city of Philadelphia will develop an “earn and learn” program model for Philadelphia’s immigrant community to provide critically important transitional work opportunities to individuals with barriers to employment.

The Program

This pilot will begin in Fall 2017 and will consist of the following components:

  • A 12-week paid fellowship
  • Project-based assignments with departments throughout the City;
  • Ongiong weekly or bi-weekly training and support from the The Welcoming Center; and
  • An assigned mentor from within the City for each fellow, and a reference from supervisors as fellows apply for future positions, both within and outside city government.

The Welcoming Center will help to identify potential candidates, pulling from a pool of current participants in their International Professionals Program.

For more information, contact Nicole Pumphrey at The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

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