Lincoln, Neb. is one of the eight U.S. communities participating in Global Talent Bridge’s 2019 Skilled Immigrant Integration Program. Here’s an update from guest contributor Christa Yoakum, coordinator of Nebraska Is Home, on where the Lincoln group is with its work in the program:
Lincoln’s unemployment rate is 2.6 percent yet Lincoln Vital Signs in 2017 revealed a startling 15 percent of the city’s population living in poverty.
Many people, including immigrants and refugees, are not able to access jobs where they can fully use their skills and education and many continue to live in poverty. In recent years, Nebraska has been recognized for resettling more refugees per capita than other states. Many of these newcomers earned advanced degrees in their home countries in fields such as engineering, law, medicine, or education.
Dedicated community members – including strong coalitions of nonprofit organizations, in partnerships with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and support of city leaders – convene regularly. They have seen momentum working towards solutions that benefit individuals, the community, and employers.
With the technical assistance provided by WES, we are experiencing increased coordination between agencies and initiatives dedicated to increased access to skilled immigrant and refugee career pathways.
Lincoln and the state of Nebraska have a shortage of healthcare workers and an increasing need for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and registered nurses (RNs), yet we see those with credentials from outside the U.S. unable to work in those positions. When employers report a skills gap, those workers are often here but unable to move into those jobs easily. Data and support from the technical assistance providers and others in the cohort will help increase understanding of the value of the immigrant and refugee workforce in the employer community. In this first year, with local schools we will develop recruiting strategies and create career maps to align providers, agencies and workers to move people into training and a career path for these high demand CNA and RN positions.
The New Americans Task Force, a coalition of nonprofit organizations, school district representatives, community college staff, and state, city, and county representatives, meet regularly to plan for and share resources to support newcomers in Lincoln. Also involved is Employ LNK, a coalition of caseworkers, job placement specialists and employers. And, with strong support from the city, the Chamber of Commerce, and interest from the schools, we are well on our way to meeting our initial goals.
Lincoln is well poised to move those who are underemployed into positions for more self fulfillment, and higher pay with room for advancement, while filling needs in the community.
As a result of participating in the program we hope to see these changes in our community:
- increased access to and number of skilled immigrant and refugee career pathways; and
- increased understanding of the value of the immigrant and refugee workforce in the employer community.
Christa Yoakum is the coordinator of Nebraska Is Home, a grassroots movement promoting mutual respect and cooperation among US-born and foreign-born neighbors, creating safe, strong, and robust communities for all.
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