In Pursuit of a Vibrant and Vital Economy for All
New Americans are workers, business owners, entrepreneurs, and asset holders. Immigrants comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population but 17 percent of the labor force. Between 1995 and 2010, more than half of the growth in the entire U.S. labor force was due to immigrants. Access to jobs remains among the strongest tools for immigrant integration, and immigrants and refugees propel America’s economic vitality.
Yet, immigrants are often underemployed relative to their skill level and disproportionately employed in lower wage and dangerous jobs. New Americans face particular challenges based on language access, unfamiliarity with networks and opportunities, and more.
NPNA exists to leverage the collective capacity and resources of our member organizations and the communities they represent. Our members, the country’s largest and most powerful immigrant-serving organizations, have fought on the front lines of the immigrant rights movement. Our strategy is to put those organizations at the center of the national conversation about immigrant integration and to build their capacity to deliver high-quality services by, with, and for new Americans. Our members are working hard to integrate immigrants and refugees into the American workforce and pursue a more vibrant and vital economy for all. Read more about NPNA’s approach to policy and service delivery on our freshly minted website.
In this June dispatch, we want to share highlights of NPNA’s work with our members on:
- Policy to support new American adult education and workforce integration
- Programs to innovate linguistic integration
Policy to Support New American Adult Education and Workforce Integration
Many members of the NPNA family have participated in their state plans for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) implementation. WIOA will provide approximately $3 billion in federal funds to support employment services, including job training and adult education. Adult education and workforce programs too often exclude immigrants on the basis of immigration status or in favor of individuals more likely to produce measurable workforce outcomes. WIOA doesn’t do much to reverse the dismal track record of workforce training programs in serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals and meeting immigrant adult learner needs. We are committed to ensuring that WIOA works for our communities and provides equity of services to meet the diverse needs of immigrants and refugees.
NPNA took several steps to support our members’ contributions to the WIOA implementation process:
- Surveyed NPNA members to understand where and how our organizations were plugging in and how we could help;
- Developed materials demystifying WIOA and identifying the key implications for immigrant-serving organizations;
- Compiled a database of key state and local contacts and the deadlines for engaging;
- Hosted the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the National Skills Coalition (NSC) on several of our network policy calls. They have consistently and generously offered data and policy expertise to support our network; and,
- Participated in a national skills policy table to zero in on spaces available for NPNA members to contribute to the ongoing advocacy to improve WIOA’s service to our communities.
Programs to Innovate Economic and Linguistic Integration
NPNA is proud to work with several of our members on English Innovations (EI). With OneAmerica and Learning Games Network, we are building capacity among select member organizations to offer a non-traditional educational model that integrates English language instruction, digital literacy, and community building for adult immigrant English language learners. EI was made possible by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The English Innovations pilot is under way in six NPNA member organizations: PAZ, TIRRC, MIRA, CASA, FLIC, and Michigan United.
English Innovations has served over 400 participants so far. Participants engage in peer-to-peer, social, and project-based learning while gaining confidence with English and technology. EI classes bridge the gap for immigrants to pursue their goals in the U.S., where limited English proficiency and digital barriers often stand in the way of robust integration.
NPNA Member Profile: OneAmerica (Washington)
OneAmerica is Washington State’s largest immigrant and refugee advocacy non-profit. OneAmerica is a leader among NPNA organizations in terms of policy and programmatic work on economic and linguistic integration.
OneAmerica believes it is vital to strengthen the three pillars of integration – economic, civic, and linguistic – for immigrants and refugees to build power in our communities and realize the American Dream. OneAmerica’s vision for workforce integration is a system that acknowledges immigrant workers of all education levels as assets, a system that eradicates barriers to living-wage careers, and a robust, diverse economy that utilizes the skills, talents, and expertise brought by immigrants and refugees to build prosperity for all.
|“Together and over time, OneAmerica, NPNA and the Learning Games Network have the potential to reshape ESL infrastructure in the United States.”-Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica and NPNA Board Member|
As a leading voice in Washington State on foreign-educated immigrant integration, OneAmerica released a report titled Reducing Brain Waste in 2015. It discusses the cultural, regulatory, and financial barriers to professional career re-entry for foreign-educated immigrants and includes policy and program recommendations to realize the potential of this talent pool. OneAmerica has also been active in monitoring local and state level implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Check out more images from English Innovations here.
Photos: Elisabeth Vasquez Hein, OneAmerica