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Business/Economy

Dallas Joins National Effort To Advance Immigrants' Careers

View of Dallas Skyline from Black Lives Matter mural at city hall plaza.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
According to city officials, 31% of the Dallas workforce is made up of immigrants.

Dallas is now part of a national program that aims to reconnect immigrants with the careers they started abroad.

The nonprofit World Education Services has selected Dallas to take part in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program, which helps cities figure out ways to bring immigrants into jobs that match their skills and education.

Immigrants in Dallas with a bachelor's degree or higher are 50% more likely to work low-wage jobs than their U.S.-born counterparts, according to Christina da Silva, the city’s Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs officer.

That’s because it’s not easy to reenter a field like medicine or engineering in a new country.

“We have a lot of folks who sometimes come here and they’re not sure how to get connected with a job that fits their skillset,” da Silva said. “Also, we want to make sure that people are earning a living wage when they decide to live in Dallas.”

The city will work with Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas on the program. One goal is to start educating employers on the pool of talent they're missing out on in the city's immigrant community.

“I think if we’re considered a city that is excited about our international residents, we get more recognition on a global scale that Dallas is the place to be,” da Silva said.

Senay Gebremedhin, a program manager with World Education Services, said the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program tackles four main barriers to employment.

If someone is new to the country, they often don’t have a professional network, Gebremedhin said. They have to figure out how to get their degrees and credentials recognized in the U.S. They may have to grapple with a language barrier and lack local work experience.

“Most employers, especially not having familiarity with the institutions and the employers that these individuals come from, tend to sort of overlook their talents and what they can bring,” he said.

The Skilled Immigrant Integration Program has worked on those problems in other cities. Tulsa, Oklahoma created an online guide in English, Spanish and Zomi about how to get international credentials recognized. Santa Clara, California held immigrant career fairs.

In Dallas, da Silva expects that city residents will start to see events, trainings and job fairs related to the program by the beginning of 2022.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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