Global Talent Bridge Partner Blog

News on practice and policy affecting internationally trained immigrants and refugees

Spotlight on the Boise, Twin Falls, Salt Lake City Team

Friday October 19, 2018 | by WES Global Talent Bridge

Boise, Twin Falls, Salt Lake City delegation at Toronto convening 2018.


How has the team progressed since the start of the program?

The Skilled Immigrant Integration Program has provided a structured opportunity for us (One Refugee and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Salt Lake City; College of Southern Idaho (CSI) Refugee Center in Twin Falls, Idaho; and Global Talent Idaho in Boise) to build and strengthen a regional partnership and strategy for immigrant workforce integration. The in-person convenings and regular phone calls have helped our team come together, reflect on our programs, collectively brainstorm on the challenges and opportunities unique to our region, and share high-skilled job leads in both states.

Raymon Burton (One Refugee): “I feel we have made great progress in collaborating on servicing college students in Idaho, beginning conversations around employer engagement in a regional approach between Utah and Idaho, and engaging additional service providers in skilled immigrant immigration in Utah specifically.”

One of our TA partners in the pilot, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock of the National Skills Coalition, led community workshops in Boise and Salt Lake City in September. She focused on ways in which immigrant advocates can collaborate with adult education and workforce officials to build effective career pathways for workers at all skill levels.

For each workshop we brought together various stakeholders in the community, including service providers, state officials, community colleges, the LDS Church, department of labor (workforce services in Utah), school district representatives, and employers, as well as resettled refugees. The workshops sparked rich discussions among those at the table and provided an initial step for further community- and region-wide collaboration on the topics. For the workshops, Michael Richardson of the National Skills Coalition created state-specific fact sheets on how immigrants in Utah and Idaho can help meet the demand for middle-skill roles. We distributed these fact sheets at the workshops and they will be key to making a data-driven case to local policy makers and employers.

Finally, our Skilled Immigrant Integration Program pilot ends on a sweet note: last week Global Talent Idaho was notified that we received the Refugee Career Pathways grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. This will enable us to expand our program to Salt Lake City in collaboration with One Refugee, deepen our involvement in Twin Falls, and continue to drive a regional approach to employment. The pilot laid the initial groundwork that makes a regional partnership like this possible and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to continue our collaboration through this grant.

What are some lessons you might share with other localities trying to do similar work?

The group trainings and convening in Toronto taught us that while our communities and countries may face similar challenges, there is so much to learn from each other.

Tara Wolfson (Global Talent Idaho): “The convening in Toronto was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. It provided a fresh perspective on the work that we are doing in Idaho and Utah, and challenged us to reflect on the United States’ immigration system.”

In Toronto, we were inspired by the deep collaboration between private and public sectors, and seeing how much business leaders and companies want to engage in this work. We have seen the value in shifting some of our focus and support to the private sector, as they also have a vested interest in developing career pathways.

We also took home valuable learnings from our meeting with the folks at Immigrant Access Fund, which helps immigrant professionals acquire loans critical to restarting their careers in a new country. While we have developed licensing guides that offer step-by-step instructions on how immigrants working in licensed industries can re-license in the U.S., the high costs of re-licensing is often a barrier for many job seekers. This is a big gap in our communities as well and we were inspired by the robust micro-lending program in Canada. We have shared the model of Immigrant Access Fund with banks in Twin Falls and Boise and hope to develop something similar soon.

In addition to what we learned in meetings in Toronto, we’ve gained valuable knowledge and new ideas from interacting (in person and on webinars) with the other participants in the pilot program. Many of our communities and states share similar challenges and experiences, but are able to offer fresh ideas and solutions. We enjoyed learning about the ‘City as Employer’ internship model that Philadelphia has started, and hope to explore something similar in our region as well.

What are your thoughts on the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program?

Ashley Davis (Global Talent Idaho): “In our day-to-day work, it’s easy to become myopic and forget that we aren’t alone in our efforts to build programs that support skilled immigrant integration. Participating in the SIIP pilot helped to broaden my lens to see the many ways other communities are also doing incredible work.” National programs provide a platform for sharing best practices and brainstorming challenges, and helps smaller locations and projects (such as ours in Idaho and Utah) to have somewhere to go for support.

Zeze Rwasama (CSI Refugee Center): “This national program reminded me that we are not just alone in this work. Different organizations and people offer unique perspectives. These opportunities to collectively talk about issues we are going through have been so valuable.”

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WES Global Talent Bridge is a program dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States and Canada. Global Talent Bridge joins with institutional partners and community organizations to help skilled immigrants leverage their training, achieve their professional goals, and contribute their talents to their full potential.