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ICYMI — The Times-Union: Job training sector needs funding to help asylum seekers prepare for workforce

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Federal Investments into New York’s Job Training Programs will Bolster our Economy and Sustain New York’s Historic Role in Welcoming New Arrivals

New York, NY A recently published op-ed in The Times-Union, highlights how state and federal investments into job training programs are addressing New York’s labor shortage. Center for an Urban Future Executive Director Jonathan Bowles demonstrated how these investments help migrants and asylum seekers get onto a path of self-sufficiency and contributing back to the community.

Noting that “the new arrivals ultimately will be a major boon for the economy at a time when many employers have been struggling to fill positions,” Bowles called attention to the need for state and federal government to send aid to cities and how “governor and Legislature should allot a share of the new funding for English classes and job training programs that will help these newcomers prepare to enter the workforce and become productive New Yorkers.”

Bowles underscored that on top of investments into cities’ shelter and other community services, our city and state leaders must call on the federal government to take action and “expedite federal work authorization for the newest New Yorkers, most of whom just want to work.”

“New York has a long and proud history of welcoming new arrivals with open arms and empowering our immigrant communities with in-demand skills to join our state’s nation-leading workforce. Federal and state leaders must invest in job training programs, and expand work authorization to fuel the growth of our economy and lead migrants onto a path of self-sufficiency and a chance at the American dream. By investing in the capacity of our community services and resources, our businesses will get skilled workers and ensure our state continues to be a safe harbor for those fleeing persecution and violence,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

Read highlights below: 

The Times-Union: Commentary: Job training sector needs funding to help asylum seekers prepare for workforce

Just as so many previous generations of immigrants strengthened communities from Brighton Beach to Buffalo, the more than 116,000 asylum seekers who’ve arrived here since 2022 will almost certainly provide a huge net benefit to our state — even after factoring in the short-term financial costs. The new arrivals ultimately will be a major boon for the economy at a time when many employers have been struggling to fill positions and the state’s population has shrunk by more than 630,000 since the pandemic. 

Right now, however, it’s far from clear that New York’s workforce training infrastructure has the capacity to help these newcomers — most of whom lack English proficiency and U.S.-recognized certifications or credentials — transition swiftly into employment. 

In her executive budget, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a wise $2.4 billion investment in basic services for tens of thousands of asylum seekers who’ve arrived in New York in recent months. The proposal is a major step in the right direction. But to prepare the migrants for independence, we must go beyond just providing humanitarian aid. The governor and Legislature should allot a share of the new funding for English classes and job training programs that will help these newcomers prepare to enter the workforce and become productive New Yorkers.

Even before the recent influx of migrants, New York City was struggling to help many of the city’s 2.79 million working age foreign-born residents — including over 1.4 million who have limited English proficiency — with job training, workplace certifications, English classes and connections to other services that will help them get on the path to employment. The tens of thousands of new asylum seekers, many of whom have landed here with no family or employment connections, have left New York’s immigrant-serving workforce programs even further behind.

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City and state leaders were right to implore the federal government to expedite federal work authorization for the newest New Yorkers, most of whom just want to work. But the city’s loose network of immigrant-serving workforce development providers will be unable to support them without capacity-building investments.

New York’s historic role as a beneficiary of and sanctuary for immigrants will be on shaky ground if we shelter newcomers without taking sufficient steps to integrate them into the workforce. Meeting this challenge will not require anywhere near the public funding allocated on shelter and other emergency services for asylum seekers, but it demands a rapid increase in resources to expand ESOL programs and dual-language workforce training programs. 

By making investments in organizations that support pathways to employment, policymakers can ensure that the newest New Yorkers become as vital to the state’s economic future as the generations that came before them.”