Global Talent Bridge Partner Blog

News on practice and policy affecting internationally trained immigrants and refugees

Promoting Immigrant and Refugee Workforce Inclusion: In Michigan, State Government Takes the Lead

Monday March 4, 2024 | by Trevor Shealy


  • Michigan’s Innovative Approach: Michigan’s Office of Global Michigan has taken a proactive approach to promote workforce inclusion for immigrants and refugees. This includes creating resources such as occupational licensing guides and collaborating with other agencies and organizations. 
  • Participation in National Initiatives: Global Michigan’s involvement in national initiatives like the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) has allowed the office to enhance access to tailored workforce development services for immigrants and refugees. 
  • A Holistic Approach to Inclusion: Global Michigan’s efforts have improved state government hiring processes, increasing equity and facilitating employment connections between state agencies and immigrant and refugee job seekers, resulting in successful placements and career transitions.

A Decade of Leadership

As the issue of workforce inclusion for immigrants and refugees gains traction across the U.S., reform in Michigan stands out for its comprehensive and outcomes-oriented approach. In 2014, the Office of Global Michigan was established “to empower and engage the immigrant, refugee and international community to make Michigan the home for opportunity.” Global Michigan has since led the state’s efforts to coordinate, support, and expand relevant programs and resources within the state government, through partnership with non-governmental organizations.  

With workforce inclusion at the forefront of its programs, Global Michigan collaborated with the state’s Office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to create resources that include a series of occupational licensing guides for immigrant and refugee newcomers. These efforts have not gone unnoticed: In 2023. Biden Administration officials visited the state to hear policy recommendations on how best to support immigrant integration.

Office of Global Michigan: A Foundational Member of the Skilled Immigrant Integration Network 

Global Michigan joined the inaugural Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) cohort in 2018, with two goals: to enhance access to workforce development services for immigrants and refugees, and to help internationally trained physicians and other health care workers successfully navigate career pathways in their field. Through SIIP, Global Michigan and other workforce development staff teamed up to tailor existing services, authorized under Title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees. The team also produced two publications to offer guidance on immigrant and refugee eligibility to access WIOA Title I services. 

As a SIIP alumnus, Global Michigan continued its active participation in the SIIP program , which now includes 45 communities from across the country. Global Michigan also participated in the Teacher Bridge Project, collaborating in a community of practice with other states to strengthen pathways to teaching for internationally trained educators.  

When SIIP expanded in 2021 to offer the SIIP Demonstration Opportunity, Global Michigan became one of five inaugural participants, receiving financial and technical assistance from WES Global Talent Bridge to develop promising workforce inclusion initiatives. Global Michigan’s goal was to address the need for bi-lingual and bi-cultural workers in state government, to improve departments’ and agencies’ ability to provide public language access and culturally competent services. Over the course of the 18-month project, Global Michigan established a statewide immigrant professional networking group and supported job placements within state government for internationally trained immigrants and refugees. 

Connecting Immigrant and Refugee Candidates to Jobs Within State Government

As part of the SIIP Demonstration Opportunity, Global Michigan approached immigrant and refugee workforce inclusion holistically with both individual and systemic perspectives. For instance, staff recruited more than 50 internationally trained immigrants and refugees to join its new Career Connectors networking group. Participants benefited from seven webinars and several office hour sessions to discuss professional development and job search strategy. At the same time, Global Michigan staff members worked with the state’s Equity and Inclusion Office to examine recruitment and hiring processes. This effort led to the identification of several systemic barriers that impede applicants from marginalized populations, including immigrants and refugees. More importantly, they identified potential solutions to those barriers, and are developing a “best practice” guide for hiring managers and HR employees to increase equity across state government agencies.  

Finally, Global Michigan facilitated employment connections between state agencies and participants in the Career Connectors program, notifying department contacts when participants applied to state government job postings. Multiple participants in the program interviewed for jobs with the State of Michigan, and two have recently accepted positions. “The Career Connectors Program was a powerful program that I was able to use to change my professional life,” said one Career Connectors graduate who accepted a job with the state. “It helped me transition to a new career and role as a Public Utilities Engineer with the State of Michigan!” 

Global Michigan has since distilled the Career Connectors lessons and guidance into a resource guide, with information on networking, job search strategy, and resume building. The guide is tailored to the specific needs of internationally trained immigrants and refugees, covering topics such as how to present international education and experience throughout the job application process, and how to discuss work authorization. The guide also includes advice on writing a cover letter, examples of interview questions, and information on how to negotiate a job offer.  

“We hope immigrant and refugee job seekers everywhere can use this guide to secure in-demand positions that align with their expertise and interests, especially within state government,” said Sharif Krabti, a program analyst at the Office of Global Michigan. 

WES Global Talent Bridge congratulates the Office of Global Michigan on the work it has accomplished during its participation in the SIIP Demonstration Opportunity. WES looks forward to continuing supporting and partnering with the OGM through the SIIP Alumni network. To learn more about SIIP and related state and local initiatives, visit our webpage. 

Trevor Shealy headshot

Trevor Shealy is Program Specialist, State and Local Initiatives, at WES Global Talent Bridge.