WES Mariam Assefa Fund Grantee Partners

The Welcoming Center

Photo Courtesy: Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

Category: Employer Practices

Amount: USD$242,081

Term: Sept. 2019—June 2021

Focus: The Welcoming Center is piloting new employer partnership models that enable immigrants and refugees to gain U.S. work experience, and supporting the design of an immigrant workforce strategy for Philadelphia.

About the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

Founded in 2003, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians was established to address the significant barriers immigrants face when trying to enter the U.S. workforce. Its mission is to promote inclusive economic growth through immigrant integration. The organization seeks to open doors of opportunity for immigrants of all education and skill levels, and to foster the development of immigrants’ individual and collective agency as a way of addressing barriers to integration and well-being.

What type of work is the grant enabling?

The Welcoming Center is evaluating the impact of its existing professional development initiatives, such as the International Professionals Program, which provides immigrants and refugees with the opportunity to gain paid, real-world experience. The goal is to strengthen the impact of these initiatives, expand them to private sector employers, and create a model and tools that other service providers and employers can use. Welcoming Center is partnering with Philadelphia’s Office of Workforce Development to inform and promote a citywide strategy for immigrant workforce integration at all skill and education levels.

Why is this work important? 

By expanding its professional development and fellowship model to the private sector and directly to immigrant communities, the Welcoming Center tackles a common barrier newcomers face: lack of U.S. work experience. Forty-seven percent of the 4,000 college-educated immigrants who participated in research sponsored by WES Global Talent Bridge and IMPRINT reported “lack of U.S. work experience” as the top barrier to pursuing their profession. Local municipalities are leading the charge in integrating immigrants and refugees, who make outsized contributions to local economies across sectors and occupation levels. In Dallas, for example, immigrants make up 31.2 percent of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), 65 percent of construction workers, 41.3 percent of manufacturing workers, and 40.5 percent of hospitality workers, according to New American Economy. The Welcoming Center’s immigrant integration partnership model with the city of Philadelphia will provide an excellent road map for others to adopt nationwide.