Business leaders in Iowa’s largest city are issuing a list of recommendations for how to attract and retain more foreign-born workers.
The suggestions are part of an international talent strategy compiled by the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Des Moines immigration attorney Lori Chesser chaired the panel and says implementing the plan depends on overall changes to the immigration system. Chesser says, “We recommend continuing and strengthening advocacy for immigration reform at the federal level by researching and developing an immigration reform advocacy plan in collaboration with national partners.”
The list of suggestions includes creating a “welcoming center” for immigrants and educating the business community about the issues faced by people from other countries. Also, there needs to be increased support for English-language learners and for budding foreign-born entrepreneurs. Chesser says most employers mention the need for their workers to speak English.
She says, “We recommend finding ways to increase access to language and civic education programs and address the barriers such as transportation and childcare that prevent people from taking advantage of those opportunities that are available now.”
Partnership CEO Jay Byers says a system to allow for more legal immigrants is necessary to supply enough workers to fill the employment needs in the Des Moines area. Byers says foreign-born workers already make up 16-percent of the manufacturing workforce in the metro area, 10-percent of so-called STEM workers and nearly 10-percent of those in the financial industry.
(Thanks to Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio)