A new report is spotlighting a hidden opportunity in the United States – skilled immigrant doctors, engineers and others who are currently working in low-skilled jobs. ” Talent is Ready: Promising Practices for Helping Immigrant Professionals Establish Their American Careers” was released by the Chicago-based IMPRINT, an umbrella group of nonprofit organizations.
“Nationwide, research shows there are more than 2.7 million immigrants who have an advanced degree, but are working in low-level jobs that don’t make use of their talents,” says IMPRINT director Jennifer Brennan. “We think that’s a terrible waste, especially in this economy. The United States needs all its residents to be contributing at their highest level.”
Brennan says the specific issues facing these workers often get overlooked, which has high costs for individuals and families as well as communities. “If an obstetrician is working as a dishwasher, we’re losing out in two ways,” she says bluntly. “First, as a society we’re failing to take advantage of skills we badly need. And second, that dishwashing job is unavailable to an entry-level worker.” There is a human cost as well, she says, because people can become demoralized when their abilities go unrecognized.
The solution is straightforward, says Brennan: Provide a roadmap and expert guidance to help skilled immigrants re-enter their professions. “It’s a win-win situation,” she says. “When people finally get a clear pathway, they’re quick to respond.”
IMPRINT member organizations that provide these services have demonstrated that the economic impact can be substantial, she adds. As workers move into professional careers, their increased wages both benefit their own households and have a positive spillover effect on the local economy.
“This report is a practical toolkit for policymakers and practitioners who want to solve this issue in their communities,” says Brennan. “We’re excited about sharing these effective practices.”
“Talent is Ready” can be found at www.imprintproject.org IMPRINT, founded in 2011, is an umbrella organization of nonprofits active in the field of skilled immigrant integration. Its founding members are World Education Services, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, Welcome Back Initiative, Upwardly Global, and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education.