NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) – Arkansas is home to a growing number of immigrants and refugees and some groups want to make sure they have the right support to thrive in their new communities. These organizations are joining forces to help immigrants better integrate into the workforce.
Ozark Literacy Council and Arkansas United an immigration advocacy group were chosen to be part of a national program dedicated to the advancement of immigrants.
The World Education Services (WES), Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) is working with them to identify and reduce the barriers skilled immigrant workers face.
Patty Sullivan is Executive Director for the Ozark Literacy Council. The organization offers an adult literacy program, helps its students learn English and connect them to other resources.
She says immigrants face several challenges in their new countries. For starters, learning a new language, getting accustomed to the culture and getting jobs.
“They are immigrants from other countries but half of our students have higher education already… They just have to figure out how to apply that education to our workforce, be it more training, more opportunities,” said Sullivan.
This initiative is all about opening more doors to skilled immigrant workers so they have the opportunities to pursue fulfilling careers and become even more productive members of the community.
Mireya Reith is the Founder and Executive Director for Arkansas United. She says the partnership with WES SIIP couldn’t have come at a better time, as the job market is booming right now.
WES SIIP, team members plan to visit NWA in a few weeks to analyze and identify the existing barriers in the workforce and education.
Arkansas United also wants them to also look at some of the policies in the state that make it tougher for immigrants to pursue certain career paths.
“We in Arkansas United became familiar with the licensure stipulations here in Arkansas that you have to be a citizen to have access to most professional licenses and that has actually informed the work that we have done within the last two sessions, whether it was DACA nurses, DACA teachers,” said Reith.
She says with the expertise of WES they have already learned about federal aid programs the state can apply for that will help bring more resources not only to support NWA immigrants but immigrants in the entire state.
Reith says WES is going to help them better understand immigrant workers, their needs and how they can better serve them.