This is a time of unprecedented opportunities for refugee and immigrant workforce integration.
We have strong allies at the White House and across federal agencies, including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation. They’re working together at a high level to create opportunities and remove barriers for refugees and immigrants to enter and succeed in the U.S. workforce.
Read this National Skills Coalition overview of the White House Institute and the high level leadership that made it possible.
Higher believes that the three biggest opportunities you need to know about now involve:
- Occupational Licensing
- State Workforce Investment Board Strategic Plans, and
Expanding opportunities for work-based learning through apprenticeships is one of the strongest opportunities for refugees in WIOA. The avalanche of available information makes it hard to know where to start. If the standard wisdom to “follow the money” is true, this is the workforce development strategy to prioritize.
Read a White House Fact Sheet for a summary of national priorities, current funding opportunities and context.
$90 million in additional funding was announced at the end of June and, on June 2, $10.4 million in was awarded to 51 states, territories and the District of Columbia to support the expansion of quality and innovative Registered Apprenticeship programs.
$175 million was awarded to 46 applicants on September 9, 2015. See a complete list of opportunities to connect refugees to apprenticeships from that funding round.
Workforce Investment Board Strategic Plans
Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) at the State and local levels set the strategic direction of workforce services. The State WIB strategic plans that outline those strategies were just released after a lengthy process and development of local plans that build on State strategies is in progress.
In her remarks at the White House Skills Institute, Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor Employment and Training Agency (DOL-ETA) emphasized how important it is to “be part of the conversation.” The plans are works in progress with a mandated formal revision period in two years. It’s not too late to get involved.
Most WIB meetings are open to the public and attending is a good way to learn more and build contacts. Click here to find contact information for your local or State WIBs.
Licensing and Professional Recertification
The Department of Labor has announced funding currently available to help “enhance the portability of occupational licenses and to otherwise reduce overly burdensome restrictions”. The funding targets national or regional groups of States and the deadline is fast approaching, so you might not be able to participate directly if your agency isn’t already well connected to on-going efforts.
We have all experienced the difficulties in helping clients become licensed in their previous career fields. This funding opportunity is one step to reduce those barriers and signals high level interest in helping highly skilled refugee and immigrant professionals return to their chosen careers.
Click here to read the White House fact sheet for excellent contextual background and the DOL-ETA grant announcement.