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Reducing barriers to employment was focus of Minnesota immigrant and refugee affairs forum

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May’s Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum explored ways to address the challenges immigrants and refugees face when reaching out and connecting with companies that are hiring now. While many employers in Minnesota continue to struggle to find job seekers, immigrant and refugee communities are also struggling with applying for positions they qualify for.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is working on strategies to help community members get connected with the right employers as well as prepare employers to be aware of ways they can reduce their hiring barriers to allow more people with different cultural and language backgrounds to succeed at their company. 

Published data in 2020 shows that Minnesota is losing $5.1 billion per year by not utilizing immigrant and refugee talent. While many immigrants have obtained their degrees abroad, those who are educated locally and are second generation Americans also struggle with similar challenges as their immigrant parents. Despite the barriers in place, some challenges can be resolved. This is why the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will be holding a series of forums that will invite employers, community leaders, and community advocates to create collaboration strategies that will lead employers to learn from job seekers and vice versa. Those discussions will also include a collaboration with CareerForce and Workforce Strategy Consultants. 

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 

The Minnesota Humanities Center is hosting an educational forum for awareness and understanding of Minnesota’s Hmong American community on Saturday, May 15.

Reducing Barriers to Employment 

At the forum, participants heard from Yusra Mohamud who works at U.S. Bank and works with small businesses in the community. A lot of the business owners are educated with degrees, but they still had struggles finding employment so they started businesses instead. For various reasons, large corporations don’t always know how to hire people from different countries. Yusra works with students in college to help them with their resumes and with information and job shadowing so employers can see them face to face. One successful way businesses can help immigrants who face barriers finding employment is to offer free English classes for potential employees. Yusra shared her experience at the Lyndale Neighborhood Association where they helped immigrants with free English classes, as well as development classes for public speaking or email writing to give them more confidence in their job search. 

Next, we heard from Adesewa Adesiji from DEED who is a Workforce Strategy Consultant for employers in the Twin Cities area. She’s engaged in advocating for BIPOC communities and job seekers. The consultants’ goal is to develop innovative workforce solutions by aligning resources, facilities collaboration and leveraging expertise in targeted industry sectors to drive economic equity and growth. They focus on in-demand industries throughout Minnesota such as health care, manufacturing, information technology, construction, agriculture, education and many more. They try to help change employers’ mindset for hiring diverse candidates. 

We are in a candidate-driven market so employers should think outside the box when hiring employees. There is a need for employers to change how they look for talent as well as increase outreach to BIPOC talent. Employers need to work on changing their company culture and on becoming more inclusive. Once they hire BIPOC talent, they should have plans in place to retain employees. Minnesota’s demographics are projected to become more diverse in the decades ahead and employers need to be work on hiring BIPOC members now so they are ready to hire more employees from this previously untapped talent source. You can contact your regional Workforce Strategy Consultant on the CareerForce website here

Then we heard from Francisco Segovia who engages and connects employers with community members with his work at COPAL. COPAL’s mission is to unite Latinxs in Minnesota in active grassroots communal democracy that builds racial, gender, social and economic justice across community lines. He’s a community leader who works as a bridge between community members and employers who are looking to fill jobs. He came to the U.S. in 1990 due to a civil war in his country. He had an education before coming to the U.S. Despite being educated, because he didn’t speak English, his counselor wanted him to go for his GED even though he had more skills to offer. He said that people who speak English with an accent are often unfairly judged on what skills they may or may not have. He also shared that when employers invest in communities, they’re investing in their company’s future. 

This discussion on workforce will continue to focus on supporting employers find job seekers interested in growing with their employers and vice versa. One of the issues employers noticed is that immigrant job seekers with degrees apply for jobs below their qualifications. Immigrants’ intentions at first are to make ends meet in paying their bills while also supporting family back home and they often do not consider the dynamics around career growth and the possibility that employers may not hire them due to unbalanced qualifications and job requirements. This is the reason DEED is working to prepare both employers and job seekers to meet in the middle and help fill in the open positions.

At June’s Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum, topics will include economic opportunities in the agriculture industry; what employers are doing to attract talent; what opportunities are available for BIPOC Minnesota farmers and how can state agencies assist farmers, employers and talent in the community.

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