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5 Ways Employers Can Invest in Untapped Immigrant Talent

At Jobs for the Future's Horizons summit, experts from across sectors offered insights on how to engage, support, and upskill an overlooked talent pool—and boost your company’s bottom line.

With more open roles than jobseekers to fill them, employers in every sector are rethinking how they source, retain, and develop talent. One approach that has delivered strong results is investing in workers from groups currently underrepresented in the workforce, such as veterans, people with disabilities, and immigrants and refugees. Many companies have overlooked these populations and left them out of their talent strategiesleaving business success and social value on the table. 

In 2015, one of those populations—immigrants and refugees—contributed nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. GDP, according to a report from JFF. And 18 million U.S.-born people with immigrant parents will join the working-age population between 2015 and 2035, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report.

Companies can improve their workforces and boost their bottom lines by focusing on pools of untapped talent like immigrants and refugees. But building a diverse workforce requires an intentional approach, and for many companies that means exploring new forms of upskilling as a way to attract candidates from a wider range of backgrounds and unlock the advancement potential of current employees. 

At JFF's 2022 Horizons summit, speakers offered insights and shared best practices for companies that are interested in investing in immigrant and refugee workers.  

Below, experts who participated in a panel discussion about why employers need to take notice of immigrant and refugee workers provide recommendations for how employers can start taking action to better support immigrants and refugees.

1. Don’t overlook speakers of other languages when you’re building diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Supports like opportunities to learn English on the job and participate in digital training programs can help all of your employees reach their full potential.


"By offering immigrants, refugees, and speakers of other languages workplace-based English language training relevant to their careers and interests, employers are empowering incumbent workers with the tools to unlock their upward mobility. In the process, the employer avoids costly cycles of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding outside talent and helps to build a culture of inclusivity and collaboration.”

- Katie Brown, Founder and Chief Education Officer, EnGen

2. Employers and workforce boards should connect directly with organizations that serve immigrants and refugees as one way to attract overlooked pools of talent.


“Immigrants and refugees often face increased barriers to higher-paying jobs, despite the range of skills they bring with them to the United States. Inclusive hiring, learning, and career development practices in the workplace ensure access to a higher quality of life.”

- Rochelle T. Cooks, Director of Workforce Development, The Welcoming Center

3. Amazon’s Career Choice program offers wraparound supports to help all employees with their learning and development. It would be wonderful to see more employers follow suit and build comprehensive learning and development programs to support all employees—regardless of their backgrounds.

allyson-eastman“Investing in immigrant and refugee talent is also a boon to employers—it helps increase employee engagement, retention, and the overall diversity of our workforce. [We] are passionate about helping this population and increasing the diversity of our teams."

 - Allyson Eastman, Economic and Workforce Development Manager, Amazon Web Services

4. It’s imperative for every employer to help craft an economy that works for immigrant and refugee employees. Ask yourself how your business is reaching new talent pools—and intentionally build initiatives to do so if you aren’t already.

kit-taintor“When newcomers can’t work, everyone loses. Employers are denied the talent they need to succeed, the economy loses a powerful tax base, and newcomers struggle to gain financial self-sufficiency.  Both educators and employers are uniquely positioned to help newcomers find rewarding jobs while also addressing skills gaps that hinder the growth of our economy. When they work together, curricula are designed to better align with industry needs, students get jobs after completion of their skills training, and employers address their skills gaps.”

- Kit Taintor, Vice President of Policy and Practice, Welcome.US


5. Centering the perspectives of immigrant and refugee employees is critical to ensuring equitable opportunity. Employers should ask what kind of support those workers need to thrive at work—and prioritize building in supports to help each of them to reach their full potential.

monica-munn"Now is the moment for employers to support the talent and potential of immigrants and refugees, who bring the skills, ambition, and knowledge that employers need. There is an opportunity for employers to invest in creating more inclusive workplaces and supporting the success of immigrants and refugees."

- Monica Munn, Managing Director for Social Impact, World Education Services