Louisville Forward, Jewish Family Services, and KentukianaWorks make up the Louisville cohort in the WES Global Talent Bridge Skilled Immigration Integration Program. We asked Bryan Warren, who directs the Office for Globalization at Louisville Forward, about the group’s progress.
How has the Louisville team progressed since the start of the program?
Our professional career pathway guides for accounting, engineering, nursing, teaching and programming are nearly completed. We have been actively meeting with our national cohort partners who are working on pathway guides for their regions. For issues around state licensing and certification, we are consulting with national experts Jose Ramon Fernandez-Pena, Jeff Gross, and Hillary Gardner on strategies to bring stakeholders together to discuss concerns and seek solutions.
We are progressing on a loan program to assist immigrant professionals with funding gaps. Financial institutions who are willing to seed an initial pilot program are identified and we are working on securing an institutional partner to administer the loan funds. Windmill Microlending in Canada is a great model and we will be working with Global Talent Bridge’s Toronto office to consult with them in the near future, as we finalize our program.
Lastly, we have been approved by Louisville Metro Government’s Human Resources Department to proceed with an immigrant professional fellows program pilot to provide a short-term, part-time relevant work experience. We are working through the administrative details and seeking departments who are willing to take on a fellow. We hope to have the first fellows place in late fall or early winter. The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and the City of Philadelphia are providing consultation on this project.
What are some lessons you might share with other localities trying to do similar work?
The most important thing I have learned is that there are a lot of smart and dedicated people working on the same issues we are trying to resolve in Louisville. Best of all they are willing to share their knowledge and experience. There is really no reason to try to do this work alone.
Here are a few specific things the Louisville team has learned:
- Building a community of sharing is important. The Skilled Immigrant Integration Program has created a structure that fosters a free flow of information and builds the trust that drives a collective interest in seeing each participant succeed.
- Frequent check-ins with project partners make a big impact. We are all busy with multiple projects. Having a regularized process for updates and status reports are critical. You can target issues more immediately and make small adjustments that will save time and energy.
- Nothing beats meeting with people in person. Having the opportunity sit down with our cohort partner to learn and share with them has been invaluable. It costs more in time and resources, but the return on investment is far greater. We are human beings and sitting with someone in person builds greater connectivity and sense of community.
- You have to be willing to openly discuss your issues with others. We have found that our problems are similar to those other communities are experiencing and we can learn from them. On the flip-side, reciprocating as a good listener is part of the collaborative agreement we have with each other.
- Embrace the process and stay flexible. Solutions to the problem may come from sources you never considered. In some cases, the initial issues may lead to other priorities that need to be addressed or to new opportunities. For example, we decided to pilot a short-term work experience for immigrant professionals after learning about The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians’ Immigrant Fellowship Program. This was not part of our initial work plan.
What are your thoughts on the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program?
There are several benefits of participating in this national program:
- You meet some truly amazing people. The range of expertise and experience in this cohort is an incredibly valuable resource. They not only bring knowledge of the field, but a local and regional viewpoint from their communities that helps us bring a national perspective to our work in Louisville.
- It provides a measure of our work against our peers. It is not a competitive situation, but an opportunity to compare outcomes so we can continue to improve.
- Being part of a national cohort raises the profile of our work in our community. Knowing that Louisville is part of a leading discussion on immigrant professional integration validates the importance of this workforce demographic with our local partners.