IMPRINT: Immigrant Professional Integration

Maryland innovates on skilled immigrant career solutions

First cohort of ESL students at Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare

The state of Maryland, frontrunner in investing in and empowering skilled immigrants and employers, has been busy ensuring that newcomers to the country have an easier time gaining the skills they need to acquire jobs in the state. Maryland’s work began taking shape last year when they established the Skilled Immigrant Task Force to help immigrants obtain jobs that match their skills, and help employers gain access to a newly minted skilled workforce to meet their labor needs. Out of the Task Force sprang the state’s first-ever competency-based apprenticeship program, targeting skilled immigrants in healthcare professions.

Maryland serves as a strong model for best practices for other states seeking to reduce barriers to employment for immigrant professionals while addressing skills shortages in their state.

Maryland’s Skilled Immigrant Task Force

In 2016 Maryland created the Skilled Immigrant Task Force, comprised of representatives from the Maryland Department of Human Services; Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; community colleges; refugee resettlement agencies; American Job Centers; the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives; Governor’s Workforce Development Board; and many nonprofit organizations that help immigrants achieve integration into their communities. The Task Force leverages the skills of foreign-trained immigrants to meet local job market demand.

Task Force partners convene monthly and have taken on issues ranging from improving the adult education system to promoting employer engagement. The Task Force also examines occupational licensing standards for the foreign-trained to address unnecessary barriers and works to promote financial literacy among immigrants.

Maryland’s Competency-Based Apprenticeship Program

In October of 2016, as an outgrowth of the work of the Task Force, Maryland was awarded a $2 million ApprenticeshipUSA grant from the United States Department of Labor. The grant was designated in part to establish the state’s first competency-based apprenticeship program for work-authorized immigrants skilled in healthcare professions. Maryland has asserted two goals for its apprenticeship program: to expand it to non-traditional sectors, and to increase its scope by allowing more people to participate.

The innovative competency-based model is ideal for internationally-trained immigrants because it accounts for prior knowledge and allows participants to progress at an individual pace. This approach enables participants to fill gaps in their knowledge and is a departure from more traditional models that require a certain number of participation hours in the program. IMPRINT has advocated for this type of “bridge” programming for several years. The program pairs apprentices with mentors from participating employers to obtain on-the-job training. The model will also provide critical resources to participants, including contextualized ESL and an Upwardly Global-hosted online portal to help students with résumé building and peer learning, along with other resources. Supportive instruction will be offered through the Community College of Baltimore County. Johns Hopkins Hospital will be the first institution to offer apprenticeships under the program. The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH), a nonprofit group focused on eliminating the shortage of qualified healthcare workers in Baltimore, is partnering with the state to administer the program.

Making WIOA Work for Maryland’s Skilled Immigrant Workers

Maryland is also taking steps to promote greater coordination among adult education agencies and workforce partners funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to address the needs of English language learners and the foreign-trained. Specifically, state agencies have been identifying ways to increase professional development opportunities for workforce training providers and creating more mechanisms for service providers to work together.

Recently, the Skilled Immigrant Task Force created a Workforce System Survey to assess the capacity of the WIOA network to serve skilled immigrants and LEP individuals. The survey was distributed to staff from the American Job Centers, Local Departments of Social Services, adult education providers, and the Division of Rehabilitation Services. The survey can be used as a model for other states.

“These recent programs demonstrate Maryland’s commitment to ensuring that foreign-trained professionals can successfully reenter the workforce and integrate into their new communities,” said Stacey Simon, IMPRINT director. “We applaud the state’s policymakers for their strong leadership in tackling brain waste by taking these steps toward fully integrating immigrants and refugees into the state’s economy. In the coming months, we will continue monitoring the groundbreaking work happening in Maryland and sharing updates with our partners around the country.”

You can read more about Maryland’s Skilled Immigrant Task Force here.

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