As businesses lament difficulty in finding workers to hire coming out of the pandemic, the The Welcoming Center, a nonprofit organization focused on integrating new immigrants into the Philadelphia economy, is encouraging employers to make their companies more accommodating to immigrants and refugees in order to find people willing to fill open jobs.
To help employers, the nonprofit launched its Engaging Immigrant Talent tool kit during a virtual event on June 17.
With this tool kit, the organization aims to help employers successfully integrate immigrants into the workplace to promote a more inclusive and equitable economy in Philadelphia, Nicole Pumphrey, deputy director of The Welcoming Center, said.
“What we present to you today is not a prescriptive playbook,” she said. “Rather, it is a guide, a set of tools to be adapted by individuals and organizations that are truly committed to further developing their immigrant integration strategies.”
The tool kit, presented during an hourlong Zoom event, will help employers take tangible steps when it comes to hiring immigrants and welcoming them into their workplace to keep their business thriving, Pumphrey said.
Presenters said employers play a crucial role in the success of immigrants and refugees in the workforce, and advocacy for individual success is a crucial role for employers, managers, and leaders in the immigration community to contribute to.
“I leverage my privilege as an ally to the immigrant community,” Rochelle Cooks, the Welcoming Center’s director of employer engagement, said. “That is our responsibility. I am intentional about being an ally. We designed the Engaging Immigrant Talent Toolkit for employers and brought immigrants onto this project in a variety of ways.”
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is a philanthropic organization that aims to assist refugee and immigrant communities in Canada and the United States through more inclusive economies. According to Monica Munn, the fund’s philanthropic director, because the barriers refugee and immigrant workers face to economic advancement are systemic, interconnected, and often intersectional, companies’ policies and practices can have a significant impact on the immigrant community’s ability to access economic opportunities.
“Employers can put in place culturally competent hiring practices, offer benefits and wraparound supports, or provide education and skill-building opportunities for workers,” Munn said. “Investments and practices like these and those outlined in The Welcoming Center’s tool kit can have real impacts on the nature of your workplace and your bottom line.”
Throughout the virtual event, many speakers noted that immigrants bring unique assets and skills to employers, such as entrepreneurial mindsets and language skills.
As the economy begins to recover and businesses rehire after the pandemic, an all-inclusive workplace is more important now than ever, Cooks said.
Sheila Ireland, the deputy secretary of workforce development at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, said the timing of the release of this tool kit could not have been more perfect.
“As you already know, at the Commonwealth, the topic of the moment is the labor shortages that many businesses are encountering as we move to fully reopening after the pandemic,” Ireland said.
Ireland focused on one specific aspect of the labor shortage that she feels is often overlooked: when workers are losing their jobs, the United States as a whole is often tempted to call for restrictions on workers entering the country. Ireland claims that such measures often backfire, limiting the labor pool when the economy starts to turn around.
“I would suggest that employers take a look at their hiring practices,” she said. “Workers today are looking for employers who are providing high quality jobs in flexible, equitable, and diverse work environments.”
For Philadelphia, Cooks said she believes this new tool kit means “access and opportunity,” two important qualities for a city in such a unique position.
“It’s such a diverse and vibrant city, with a rich history,” she said “Sadly, the city also has 34.8% of its children living in poverty. That is not OK.”
Long term, The Welcoming Center intends to continue to work with immigrants and employers to promote inclusive economic growth through immigrant integration, Cooks said.
“Businesses and organizations are coming into the city and creating job opportunities,” she said. “It’ll be important for these opportunities to provide life sustaining wages, benefits, and upward mobility. We must ensure that new Philadelphians have access to these opportunities.”
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