IMPRINT: Immigrant Professional Integration

Michigan: Promoting New Pathways for Immigrant Integration

Harnessing Immigrant Talent in Our Communities: Leveraging Skills of Work-Authorized Immigrants and Refugees | Detroit, Michigan | May 1st, 2017

The state of Michigan has been a strong leader in the field of immigrant integration and has developed a number of programs aimed at helping foreign-trained professionals rejoin their careers.

In 2014, the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) was established by Executive Order No. 2014-2. The office was created to help grow Michigan’s economy by retaining and attracting global talent and promoting economic integration among the state’s immigrant and refugee workforce. MONA is tasked with working with state agencies that serve immigrants to eliminate barriers to integration. Michigan is one of only five states in the country with an office dedicated to fostering integration among newcomers, along with California, New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

Karen Phillippi, MONA’s deputy director, describes the office’s primary goal as working to “create a welcoming state for immigrants and refugees.” Since the office’s creation in 2014, investment in integration programs has increased and new programs designed to help immigrants rejoin their professions have flourished. Karen emphasized that partnerships are a primary driver of their success. One of the agency’s achievements is the Michigan International Talent Solutions (MITS) program, which assists highly skilled immigrants in Michigan with returning to their professions. Partnering with Upwardly Global, MITS provides job search training and coaching to immigrant and refugee workers. In partnership with LARA, the state’s licensing and regulatory affairs agency, MONA has also created an online resource for skilled immigrants to provide information on becoming a licensed professional in the state, as well as a telephone hotline to help answer immigrants’ questions about occupational licensing processes.

IMPRINT partner, Global Detroit has been instrumental in working to build a broad and deep foundation of support for skilled immigrant integration efforts in Michigan. Their work has helped create the environment in which programs like the Michigan International Talent Solutions are able to tackle brain waste by attracting sustained government funding and engaging immigrant professionals and employers. Building on MONA’s and Global Detroit’s successes, a group of about 70 leaders in workforce and economic development convened in May to discuss brain waste’s negative impact on their community and the state’s response. Mike Zimmer, Cabinet Director for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, was the keynote speaker for the event. He spoke about the important role skilled immigrants play in Michigan and ways the state is working to help them rejoin their professions. Along with the Michigan Office for New Americans and Global Detroit, event sponsors were WES Global Talent Bridge, IMPRINT and New American Economy.

As we move forward with our shared goal of eliminating brain waste, it is important to recognize the progress made by Michigan’s innovative programs. Their advances demonstrate the positive effects that partnerships, innovative programming, and adequate funding can have on the skilled immigrant population and on our communities as a whole.

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