Migration Policy Institute
LEP Workers & Access to Workforce Services: Perspectives on Current Barriers to Access and Prospects for Improvements Under WIA Reauthorization
Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
Emma Oppenheim, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
Dr. Gabriela Lemus, Director of the Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Labor
Chhandasi Pandya, MPI Policy Analyst and Program Coordinator
Current negotiations over reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) come at a critical moment for immigrant and Limited English Proficient (LEP) workers. They and their current and future employers have a large stake in these negotiations, given the wide range of labor supply and skill mismatches that employers rely on immigrants to meet across the United States. Further, the predominance of immigrants and their children among new, young, and future U.S. workers and the weak response thus far of the WIA-funded training system in addressing the needs of these increasingly diverse and multilingual workers necessitates a concerted re-examination of the WIA system. The extent to which changes to the WIA system take account of these important demographic and economic trends and address the needs of immigrant-origin and LEP workers in particular will strongly affect the law's ability to support our country's future economic success.
There is broad consensus that LEP workers of varying educational backgrounds and levels of English proficiency and vocational skills are underserved by WIA's training services as a result of the law's structure. While community-based organizations have filled some gaps in services for LEP individuals and immigrant workers, the current reauthorization debate presents an opportunity for analysts, workforce services professionals, and community stakeholders to consider how to redesign the WIA system and its investments in these important segments of the U.S. workforce. On this webinar, experts discuss barriers immigrant and LEP individuals face in accessing the WIA system, how a revitalized WIA could address these barriers, and the extent to which the current Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee's WIA reauthorization proposal addresses these barriers.