«RESEARCH REPORT Engaging Employers in Immigrant Integration María E. Enchautegui August 2015 ABOUT THE URBAN INSTITUTE The nonprofit Urban Institute ...»
IMMIGRANTS AND IMMIG RATION
Engaging Employers in Immigrant
María E. Enchautegui
ABOUT THE URBAN INSTITUTE
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Copyright © August 2015. Urban Institute. Permission is granted for reproduction of this file, with attribution to the Urban Institute. Cover image by Daniel Paredes, Building Skills Partnership, Los Angeles, CA.
Contents Contents 3 Acknowledgments iv Executive Summary v Engaging Employers in Immigrant Integration 1 Why Study Employer Engagement in Immigrant Integration? 1 Methodology 3 The Need for Employer Engagement in Immigrant Integration 4 What Do We Know about Employer Engagement in Immigrant Integration? 8 Conceptual Framework: Employer’s Decision to Engage in Immigrant Integration 20 What Can Employers Do to Foster the Integration of Their Immigrant Workers? 24 Conclusion 29 Appendix A Summary of Unstructured Interviews with Employer Representatives, Immigrant Organizations, and Labor Groups 31 Notes 36 References 37 About the Author 41 Statement of Independence 42 Acknowledgments This brief was funded by the Ford Foundation. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. Funders do not, however, determine our research findings or the insights and recommendations of our experts. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.
The author deeply appreciates the collaboration of the staff and representatives of organizations with whom she met to discuss employer engagement in immigrant integration: American Apparel and Footwear Association, Building Skills Partnership-Los Angeles, Council for Global Immigration, Healthcare Career Advancement Program, Immigration Works USA, Information and Technology Industry Foundation, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, National Immigration Forum, National Skills Coalition, Society for Human Resource Management, Upwardly Global, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and World Education Services. She also appreciates the comments of Aixa Cintrón-Vélez from the Russell Sage Foundation and Greg Acs from the Urban Institute.
IV ACKNOWLEDGMENTSExecutive Summary The share of America’s workers who are foreign born is growing, and employers are increasingly relying on immigrants to meet their labor needs. The future of America’s competitiveness lies heavily on how these immigrants integrate into the workforce. Many immigrants have low levels of education, limited English-language proficiency, compromised immigration status, and difficulties validating credentials gained abroad. Such characteristics hinder their productivity and prevent employers from taking full advantage of their employees’ talents.
The large share of immigrants in the workforce underscores the need to engage employers in the workforce integration of immigrants. Employers stand to lose when immigrants have skill gaps, and employers are direct beneficiaries when immigrants upgrade their skills. Employers rely on immigrants for labor and, in recent years, have openly advocated for higher employment-based immigration, regularization of undocumented workers, and comprehensive immigration reform. Finally, in a country such as the United States, where there is no national integration policy, the private sector plays an important role in assisting immigrants with their integration because government funding is not enough.
This report addresses the following questions:
1. What do we know about employer engagement in immigrant integration?
2. What conceptual and theoretical strands can guide knowledge about employer engagement in immigrant integration?
3. What can employers do to foster immigrant integration?
To answer those questions, I review the evidence from literature, and complement this evidence with interviews with key people who are knowledgeable about employers’ role in immigrant integration. The focus is on integration practices that take place in the workplace. To provide context, I examine data on the characteristics of immigrant workers from the American Community Survey; these characteristics attest to the need for employer engagement in immigrant integration.
The main findings of this study are the following:
1. In 2013, 17 percent of the American workforce and 44 percent of those lacking a high school diploma were foreign born.
2. Twenty-five percent of all immigrant workers were not proficient in English, 26 percent did not have a high school diploma, and 52 percent were not US citizens.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY V
3. The largest dissimilarity in terms of occupation between US natives and immigrants was among workers with lower levels of education.
4. Immigrant college graduates are less likely than comparable US natives to work in collegeintensive occupations.
5. Most of what we know about employer engagement in immigrant integration is related to English-language training, with little information about other forms of engagement. Most studies of workplace training in the English language involve case studies of one industry and programs in which labor unions are involved.
6. Employers are interested in learning more about the most effective practices and resources available to improve the integration of their immigrant workers.
7. Literature about training and high-performance work practices has dominated the research on employer investments in workers, but there are few examples of those concepts being used to analyze managerial practices with the immigrant workforce.
8. Economic conditions, relationship of employers with immigrant-serving organizations, and the demographics of workers and consumers play a role in whether employers adopt workplaceintegration practices.
9. The conceptual framework of employer engagement in immigrant integration developed here emphasizes (a) the need for agreement between the different segments of the company; (b) the need to increase the knowledge base of employers about effective integration practices; (c) how immigrant-serving organizations, labor unions, and workforce agencies can increase the knowledge base of employers and can facilitate engagement; (d) the importance of the demographic, economic, and labor market contexts; and (e) the effects of workplace integration practices on business outcomes.
10. The literature review and the interviews with key informants unveiled workplace practices that employers could adopt to foster the integration of their immigrant workforce. Examples of these practices are (a) providing English-language training; (b) offering naturalization assistance; (c) providing safety and occupational training in workers’ native languages; (d) having a better understanding of credentials acquired abroad; (e) equipping human resources staff with knowledge in immigration policy and compliance; (f) providing immigrant-conscious employment assistance programs; (g) providing affidavits of support and sponsorship to immigrants trying to adjust their status; (h) negotiating worker-training funds with unions; (i) implementing high-performance work practices that are inclusive of immigrant workers; and (j) partnering with immigrant-serving organizations to enhance employer’s capacity to serve immigrant workers.
VI EXECUTIVE SUMMARYEngaging Employers in Immigrant Integration Why Study Employer Engagement in Immigrant Integration?
Immigrants are an intrinsic part of America’s workforce. In 2013, 17 percent of all workers ages 18 to 64—24 million—were immigrants. Immigrants are an even larger proportion of workers without a high school diploma, of whom 44 percent are foreign-born. In industries such as landscaping, apparel manufacturing, and animal slaughtering and processing, more than one-third of workers are foreign born. Among medical and life science professionals, 43 percent are foreign born. With the aging of baby boomers and the continuing low birth rates, the competitiveness of America’s labor force hinges more than ever on the effective integration of immigrants into the workforce.
The growing number of immigrants in the workforce poses challenges in an economy in which high levels of education and technical skills are increasingly in demand. One-third of immigrant workers do not have a high school diploma. More than one-fourth has compromised legal immigration status, because they either are temporary workers or are without valid documentation to reside in the United States. Many are unable to validate occupational credentials they have earned. The high proportion of workers with limited English-language proficiency is especially challenging. One of every four immigrants in the workforce—over 6 million—does not speak English at all or speaks it poorly. These problems hinder their integration into the workforce and prevent employers from taking full advantage of their talents (Dawson et al. 2014; Duval-Couetil and Mikulecky 2011; Bulow Group, Inc. 2005).
Immigrant integration is commonly left to the immigrants, ethnic communities, and immigrant organizations (Borjas 1992; Penninx 2003; Portes and Böröcz 1989). But the large share of immigrants in the workforce underscores the need to engage employers in their integration. Employers stand to lose when immigrants have skills gaps but directly benefit when immigrants upgrade their skills.
Employers rely on immigrants for labor and, in recent years, have openly advocated for higher employment-based immigration, regularization of undocumented workers, and comprehensive immigration reform (American Hospital Association 2013; Hegman 2007; US Chamber of Commerce
Finally, in a country such as the United States, which has no national integration policy, the private sector plays an important role in assisting immigrant integration. The government alone cannot meet this need. Since 2008, funding for Adult Basic Education has stalled at around $600 million. Although 36 million adults—including 26 million workers—lack foundational literacy and numeracy skills, federally funded programs serve only 1.6 million people (National Skills Coalition, n.d.). The English-literacy component of the Adult Basic Education program has also stalled at around $70 million, despite the growing number of workers with limited English proficiency (LEP). The supply of English-language classes cannot keep up with the demand. Employers can fill some of those needs through workplacebased programs.
This report analyzes employer engagement in immigrant integration, with a focus on workplace practices. Workplaces are essential spaces for immigrant integration. Most immigrants come to the United States to work, and they spend a good part of their lives in workplaces. Thus, workplace-based practices can have great effect on the integration of immigrants. Because workplaces are the domain of employers, employers have the power to implement workplace-integration practices if they so wish.
The goal of this report is to provide a roadmap for understanding and enhancing employer
engagement in the workforce development of immigrants. It seeks to answer three questions:
1. What do we know about employer engagement in immigrant integration?
2. How can we conceptualize employer engagement in immigrant integration?
3. What can employers do to engage in workplace integration?