PRESS RELEASE: New guide gives employers roadmap to fill talent shortages, enhance diversity by hiring refugees and other language learners
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 8 – As businesses across the U.S. face a severe shortage of workers, today two non-profit organizations launched a new guide to help companies fill jobs by overcoming a common obstacle to recruitment: language barriers.
In Bridging Language and Work: Solutions to Invest in Immigrant and Refugee Talent – developed by the Tent Partnership for Refugees (Tent), a network of over 200 major companies working to economically integrate refugees – the guide notes that U.S. employers often overlook candidates who are not fluent in English. While many immigrants and refugees in the U.S. are “local language learners” with a limited ability to understand, speak, read, and write English, they can still bring value to the business while they are learning the language. In fact, a job can speed up the language learning process, and ensure immigrants and refugees can integrate more effectively into their new communities.
“We have a significant labor shortage in the United States right now due to COVID-19,” said Yaron Schwartz, U.S. lead for the Tent Partnership for Refugees. “Companies have the opportunity to fill vacant positions and gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by tapping into refugee and immigrant talent, who may not yet be fluent in English. This is more important than ever as tens of thousands of Afghan refugees resettling in the U.S. are beginning their journey to search for employment, and businesses could significantly benefit from their skills, experience, and ingenuity.”
As the guide details, employers have gained a myriad of benefits from investing in local language learners. With their multilingual and multicultural backgrounds, immigrants and refugees help companies create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and build a greater representation of customers and communities.
Produced in partnership with JFF, a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems, the research details how companies can implement a variety of solutions that help overcome language barriers beyond language training, to help local language learners get into jobs faster while they work towards language proficiency. These solutions can be implemented in each phase of the talent management cycle and include: providing recruitment and onboarding documents in multiple languages; showcasing the job or company in creative ways that don’t rely on language proficiency; pairing local language learners with peers for on-the-job training; and evaluating candidates during trial work periods.
“Immigrants and English language learners have always been a vital part of the social and economic fabric of this country,” said Laura Roberts, director, JFF. “Hiring and advancing immigrant and refugee workers enables companies to drive value for business, workers, and society. Smart, strategic investment in this talent pool maximizes these benefits.”
Chobani, a leading food company, is one of several major businesses that has experienced first-hand the benefits of hiring immigrants and refugees, and at last count, estimated that 30 percent of its manufacturing workforce was made up of this population.
“Ensuring the success of our refugee employee population is good for our business,” said Connie Hasko, Vice President of Chobani’s People Team. Chobani Academy, the company’s internal learning and development platform uses visual materials to cater to different levels of language proficiency, and provides language learning opportunities to help workers improve their English skills.
Tyson Foods, a global protein leader and food company, is another business that supports local language learners. The company – which employs a wide range of people across the country, including many recent immigrants and refugees – provides interpreters and creates official community liaisons to help link local language learners with recruiters.
“Our company has historically attracted people new to the U.S. because we offer well- compensated, entry-level jobs with full medical coverage and other benefits,” said Hector Gonzalez, head of Labor and Team Member Relations for Tyson Foods. “We’re also a company of people who embrace equity, inclusion and diversity, and we demonstrate this through support programs and initiatives that help create a path of self-sufficiency and prosperity for immigrant team members and their families.”
Immigrants and refugees make up a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. In 2019, 44.7 million immigrants were living in the United States, accounting for 13.6% of the country’s total population and more than 17% of the workforce. Over 2.5 million of these immigrants are refugees that have resettled in the U.S. since 1980. In the U.S., immigrants and refugees contribute over $492 billion each year in taxes. Meanwhile, there are more than 10 million open jobs in the U.S., according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.
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About the Tent Partnership for Refugees
With more and more refugees displaced for longer periods of time, businesses have a critical role to play in helping refugees integrate economically in their new host communities. The Tent Partnership for Refugees mobilizes the global business community to improve the lives and livelihoods of more than 30 million refugees who have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Founded by Chobani’s founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya in 2016, we are a network of over 200 major companies committed to including refugees. Tent believes that companies can most sustainably support refugees by leveraging their core business operations – by engaging refugees as potential employees, entrepreneurs and consumers. The full list of Tent members can be found here. Find out more at www.tent.org.