Colorado has a growing immigrant community to help fill the vacancies.

Colorado Public Radio has reported that more than 4,300 immigrants have arrive since December. Colorado Workforce Development Council has also suggested for newcomers to begin working in the state. The council stated in its annual Talent Pipeline Report that “employing refugee workers can generate tax revenue, economic activity and also allow refugees to achieve financial stability.”

Colorado is particularly well-positioned to achieve this goal as it has adopted skills-based hiring.

Take Genesis, a 27 year-old physician with a medical degree who left Venezuela 2022. To protect her privacy, I am only using her first initial. Genesis wanted to use her highly-required skills in the U.S. but discovered that her command over medical terminology needed to be polished.

The Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, a Denver-based non-profit organization, helped Genesis connect to a “English upskilling program” where she could improve the vocabulary she needed to land a job as an assistant medical. This was a crucial first step towards her goal to practice medicine in Colorado.

EnGen is a B-Corp which helps speakers of other language to improve their English skills using their smartphone.

The Colorado Office of New Americans has launched in partnership with EnGen. This allows small- and medium-sized companies — from hospitality to food service — to offer free languages learning to existing workers and potential hires.

The program allows Colorado businesses to join the growing number U.S. companies that invest in “upskilling” English for job candidates such as Genesis.

Tammy Thieman is the director of Career Choice at Amazon. She says that “Amazon’s Amzn 0.7% Career Choice, which offers prepaid tuition to employees in 14 different countries, includes language options.” Working with our language partners reinforced the importance to create community for language students, even online. Learning a new foreign language can be difficult. Employers that offer language programs are able to engage their employees, and keep up with the ever-changing skills landscape.

Rummel Construction, based in Arizona, saw an increase in Spanish-speaking applicants and turned to English-upskilling to improve safety in the workplace. The company offers the English-learning benefit to new Spanish-speaking hires as part of the onboarding process. Jessica Lizarraga is a human resource generalist with Rummel Construction.

Chobani, a New York-based company, has discovered that English training can be an effective tool to retain current workers.

Valerie Wasielewski is the director of People Team at Chobani. She says, “As an organization that takes pride in its people-first culture we invest in upskilling programmes that support employee advancement and learning, including English language training.” As a result, managers and supervisors saw improvements in communication skills, confidence in their work and proficiency assessments, resulting in promotions and role expansion.

Colorado’s state-sponsored program has opened up a talent pool that was largely ignored: its 520,000 immigrants and refugees. It also gave learners confidence and basic workforce skills.

Genesis advises anyone just starting out to learn English to keep going. It doesn’t really matter if you are a bit strange. It doesn’t really matter that it is difficult in the beginning. Continue to keep going, you will succeed. The Colorado Office of New Americans has been a great help to me. “I get to live in a different country, in a brand new city, get a job, and be part of the community.”

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