Global Talent Bridge Partner Blog

News on practice and policy affecting internationally trained immigrants and refugees

Lone Star State’s Diverse Population Brings Opportunities

Thursday May 23, 2019 | by WES Global Talent Bridge

Members of the Texas cohort of the 2019 Skilled Immigrant Integration Program met recently with representatives from WES Global Talent Bridge to discuss plans for the year.


Nearly five million immigrants live in Texas. That’s about 17 percent of the state’s population. Twelve percent of these newcomers are internationally trained professionals. Texas provides additional funding  to offer services to this valued, statewide workforce. Through its Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program, the state serves more than 80,000 individuals, more than half of whom identify as English language learners.

Texas is one of eight working communities in the WES Global Talent Bridge Skilled Immigrant Integration Program for 2019. The state joins the cities of Anchorage, Alaska; Boston, Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln, Neb.; Pittsburgh, Portland, Maine; and San Diego. In the course of the year, the Global Talent Bridge team and other national experts will provide the eight communities with hands-on coaching, advising, and technical assistance as well as four interactive web-based training sessions on immigrant professional integration.

The Texas team’s aim in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program is to develop a system that can unbridle a potent workforce: internationally trained professionals. Their goals for the program are two-fold: develop a replicable case management model to support the job development of these valued workers and augment existing, customized ESL; and develop professional development models for both the case-management and customized ESL, so that the state is better prepared for replication.

There is growing evidence that the immigrant presence in Texas is increasingly highly-skilled. A fact sheet released earlier this month by Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reveals that “recent Mexican immigrants in Texas are much more likely to have a college degree today than they were in the past; 18 percent had one in 2017, compared to 7 percent in 2000.” Full details from the MPI fact sheet can be found here.

The Texas cohort is made up of college providers (Austin Community College and San Jacinto College), local education entities (Far West Consortium and Region 5 ESC), and a nonprofit (Restore Education) serving a skilled immigrant population with credentials that are primarily in healthcare, IT, and education.

Here’s what some of the participants in the Texas group said about the opportunities they anticipate in the coming year:

Louis D. Martinez, director, Ysleta Community Learning Center and Far West AEL Consortium, El Paso – “The Borderland, El Paso, Texas, and the surrounding communities are replete with internationally accredited professionals. The opportunity to team up with others who have worked to provide higher-level skilled positions to foreign born professionals is a moment whose time has arrived. We plan to make our community partners aware of the skills that our students have and establish career pathways that utilize their degrees before they accept lower-level work.”

Denise H. Orand, director of AEL, San Jacinto College in Pasadena – “What I value most is being able to look at what we can do for our students through a global eye rather than just focusing on our own [individual programs] and doing things the way we have always done them. It’s a great opportunity for each of us because of the impact it can have for our current and future students.”

Kelli Rhodes, executive director, Restore Education, San Antonio – “As a CBO we have been working to build programming for skilled immigrants in our community for several years, since this population is integral to the economic success of our city. As a part of the Texas workgroup, our hope is to strengthen our efforts through this network of support, in addition to increasing postsecondary and employer engagement for our students.

“We look forward to learning from WES Global Talent Bridge and experts in the field who have developed robust and effective programs for skilled immigrants. Being part of this national program is a great opportunity for our providers to develop networks with others committed to the service model of working with skilled immigrants and to share their own expertise as we focus on this population across the state. We’re appreciative of this workgroup and the opportunity to get customized technical assistance unique to our needs and employ new strategies to accelerate our students’ workforce integration.”

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