This Project Seeks to Assist Companies in Onboarding Immigrant Employees
Over 47 million people living in the United States are immigrants, and as recent studies indicate, they face higher rates of unemployment than do non-foreign workers. Nonprofit organizations are now seeking to address this issue by creating for employers a language guide that offers solutions to certain issues uniquely affecting immigrants in the workplace.
Immigration Growth Driving U.S. Economy
In 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States experienced the slowest population growth in its history. Despite this, the percentage share of the immigrant population continues to grow, with immigrants representing 14.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2021. This matches the peak of the decades-long immigration boom that began in the 1960s, and approaches the record 14.8 percent seen back in 1890.
While census data indicates about 1 in 5 Americans between the ages of 40 and 64 was born overseas, immigrants continue to experience a higher rate of unemployment than native-born workers. For many foreign-born workers, a lack of English proficiency poses a barrier to stable and rewarding employment. However, help is at hand.
Nonprofit Organizations Seek to Bridge the Gap to Foreign Workers
Two nonprofit organizations – Jobs for the Future and Tent Partnership for Refugees – have partnered to create a language guide for employers. The guide offers proven solutions to overcoming language barriers at work while highlighting the value immigrants and refugees bring to businesses across the U.S, even while they’re in the process of learning English.
According to Yaron Schwartz, the U.S. lead for Tent Partnership for Refugees, “[w]hat we really wanted to do with this guide is address that challenge head on and share best practices to companies on how they can implement solutions to overcome language barriers […] [Employers can learn] how to help refugees with limited English language proficiency get into jobs faster as they work toward local proficiency in the language.”
The guide offers several suggestions to employers that help establish durable links to foreign workers. For instance, the guide suggests employers conduct interviews in multiple languages and ensure that employment resources and documents are available in commonly spoken languages. Additionally, employers may implement a “buddy system” in which the foreign worker pairs with an English-speaking partner to assist them with any questions.
Large Companies Eyeing Solutions to These Problems
The proposal is not merely a theoretical exercise. Large companies, including Chobani, have already implemented similar measures. Chobani’s workforce includes between 20 percent and 30 percent foreign workers, so these concerns affect their day-to-day operations.
Laura Roberts, Director of Jobs for the Future, noted that these measures are not merely accommodations, but “actually invest in that talent.” For companies like Chobani, the streamlining of the communication process with their workers will necessarily translate to added efficiency in their business model. With the increasing proportion of foreign workers in the American workforce, it is no surprise to see large corporations making efforts to accommodate and welcome them.