Lincoln, Nebraska is a vibrant and inclusive community, home to a demographically diverse population that is eager for greater economic opportunity. Fortunately, internationally trained immigrant and refugee professionals in the community can now look forward to a widening scope of new resources and tools to support them on their career pathways: The New Americans Task Force (NATF) CareerLadder Project was recently selected as Google.org Impact Challenge Nebraska People’s Choice winner, receiving a total of $300,000 to expand its work in Lincoln and surrounding areas. The development of CareerLadder was the central outcome of Lincoln’s participation in WES’ Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) in 2019, and WES Global Talent Bridge is delighted that the program’s efforts have been recognized and so generously supported by Google.
CareerLadder connects internationally trained professionals in Nebraska to career pathways, digital resources, and a professional network while fostering economic opportunity and restoring dignity through work. The project offers valuable professional tools for immigrants and refugees—designed to be shared statewide—including career pathways guides for in-demand professional fields in Nebraska, and digital skills training for job readiness. With tailored services and support both for internationally trained professionals and the Nebraska-based case managers working to support them, as well as mentorship programming and a leadership development program around civic engagement, CareerLadder recognizes the unique needs of the population it serves and approaches their career journey with a holistic lens.
According to the comprehensive 2019 NATF Survey Report, internationally trained immigrants and refugees are available in the community to help fill Lincoln’s workforce needs with current skills or new training. “We know that 1 in 5 of our New Americans come to Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree or higher,” explains Bryan Seck, director of Workforce Development, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. “I have personally met nurses, lawyers, veterinarians, and engineers that are not able to use their skills in Nebraska.” CareerLadder can support community members in taking the steps they need for their professional development and to return to careers in their professional fields.
When NATF joined the SIIP cohort in 2019, work in investing in internationally trained professionals in the Lincoln community was relatively new. Still, the community had a strong framework of immigrant and refugee organizations with the NATF and a committed workforce development collaboration, EmployLNK, that enabled flexibility and broad support for investing in opportunities for internationally trained professionals. Coordination between agencies and the development of strong partnerships was essential in building the momentum for the CareerLadder project.
Through their work with SIIP and WES Global Talent Bridge, the Lincoln-based cohort was able to benefit from connections with communities across the U.S., learning from the successes and challenges faced by other communities in implementing opportunities and tools. SIIP technical assistance and coaching providers were on hand with guidance and support in navigating challenges and implementing effective communications, offering insight into strategies that the local community could use to create meaningful opportunities for internationally trained professionals. According to Lee Kreimer, programs manager at the Asian Community and Cultural Center and NATF co-chair, this “support and technical assistance provided through our participation in the SIIP cohort was critical to our success in being a winner in the Google.org Impact Challenge.”
The momentous success of the Google.org Impact Challenge win will enable NATF to implement the full range of programs that had been moonshot goals during their 2019 SIIP TA. With the funding, the program’s increased capacity to implement tools and resources will create opportunities for skilled immigrants and refugees in Lincoln and beyond.