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Spotlight on Des Moines: Skilled Immigrant Integration Program

Tuesday March 19, 2019 | by Sanjita Pradhan

Image by Tony Walker from Pixabay

 

The WES Global Talent Bridge Skilled Immigrant Integration Program, now in its second year, involves training for communities working to advance immigrant success. Sanjita Pradhan reports on plans from the Greater Des Moines Partnership, one of the eight communities in the 2019 program.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,400 Regional Business Members and more than 340 Investors, the Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, the Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.

As the fastest-growing metro in the Midwest (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016), DSM has ample opportunities for foreign-born talent. In fact, DSM has seen 25.1 percent growth in its foreign-born population, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) for 2009-2014. This is compared to a 9.8 percent national average. In 2009, 53.6 percent of foreign-born recent arrivals came to us directly from abroad (ACS), while more recently, in 2014, 54.2 percent of foreign-born arrivals came to us from another city in the U.S. The region is quickly becoming a popular relocation choice for immigrants already living in the U.S. The Greater Des Moines Partnership recognizes the skills available to DSM employers in the growing foreign-born population. In order to address the issue of brain waste and ensure Iowa employers can access this high skilled talent pool, Greater Des Moines Partnership launched Global DSM in 2017.

Global DSM: International Talent Strategy is an initiative of the Partnership focused on attracting and retaining global talent to meet the workforce needs of the employers in the region. There is a wealth of knowledge and skills available to DSM employers in the current foreign-born population, including foreign student population. Matching these skill sets to employers in need of qualified workers is challenging for several reasons, including lack of knowledge about applicable immigration laws, cultural differences and how to attain necessary licensure or certification.

Global DSM: International Talent Strategy aims to overcome these obstacles by focusing on employers and the international students and foreign-born talent seeking employment. For employers, this means educating employers about the pool of foreign-born talent available to fill important jobs in the community and sharing best practices. For foreign-born students and talent seeking employment, this means offering networking opportunities with DSM employers, providing support to help learn workplace culture, and more.

The Partnership will work closely with several other community organizations on this effort, including Goodwill of Central Iowa, Lutheran Services in Iowa, Iowa Works and Iowa Employment Solutions at Des Moines Area Community College.

While there are many employment services providing agencies in our region, as of now Greater Des Moines Partnership is the only agency with focused programming to serve high skilled immigrants. This opportunity to be a part of a national cohort along with other states allows us to bring other agencies to gain understanding about this population and skills to serve them better. Participating agencies will have an opportunity to learn more about the best practices, tools and resources to serve high skilled immigrants. We will create a better ecosystem of service providers fully equipped to serve our high skilled immigrant population to help them in the areas of recredentialing, referrals and employment.

Sanjita Pradhan is program director of talent development at Greater Des Moines Partnership.

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