WHEN THE GROW NKY INITIATIVE FIRST convened in mid 2017, local leaders identified that talent attraction and retention was one of five key workforce pillars for continued growth. Communities that are experiencing population growth have learned to welcome and integrate new Americans through collaborations between local government and local businesses, resulting in inclusive and vibrant economies. Leaders discussed how immigration in the United States is changing local demographics. Regional colleges and universities are bringing many multi-cultural students to the NKY region, but they tend to leave after graduation, choosing to move to other locations that are more “welcoming” of immigrants or to return home. “Our businesses need employees,” said Leisa Mulcahy, Vice President of Workforce with the NKY Chamber. “They also want a community of innovation. To facilitate that, it is important to have different ideas and experiences around the table. When we lose the international talent brought to us by the local colleges and universities, this negatively affects our opportunities for growth, not in the number of employable people, but also employees who bring diversity in ideas, backgrounds, and experiences that support innovation.” Current federal immigration policy puts communities in a weak position for making immigrant residents feel welcome and protected, communities face further challenges as they try to meet the needs of a diverse population. The recent federal government shutdown further adds to the issue of immigrants feeling left out of the conversation at a local and national level. The NKY Chamber recognizes communities must work together to create environments that are inclusive, showcase the contribution of all residents, and provide the population with key resources to promote growth in today’s workforce. The Gateways for Growth Challenge Grant will support the creation of a multi-sector plan for welcoming and integrating immigrants into Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties. “So much of what we have done around workforce has been anecdotal in nature, but it would be so refreshing to have a community plan around integration supported by both data and community leadership at large,” Mulcahy added.
WORKFORCE 2019 | VOLUME 38 NUMBER 3
The grant will fund custom quantitative research reports about demographic and economic contributions of local immigrants, and provide technical support to draft, execute and communicate GROW NKY’s immigrant integration strategy. Grant partners include the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, Duke Energy, Gateway Community and Technical College and the Catholic Charities of Louisville, KY – Office for Refugees. They will study integration programs that have worked in other communities, speeding up the traditional process of developing a strategic plan. Potential programming supported by the grant may include education and training programs. These programs could include topics such as safety in the workplace, employer education on how to be culturally sound and intentional in inclusion and diversity efforts, and best practices for hiring immigrants. Funding opportunities for minorityowned businesses will also be considered. The NKY Chamber will also host networking opportunities to help immigrant businesses connect with the community and to focus on legislation to support diversity and inclusion. The process will take approximately 24 months to completion. The NKY Chamber will establish efforts of immigrant integration in local government and develop strategies and recommendations to maximize the contributions of the immigrant and refugee community in Northern Kentucky. In the meantime, local businesses should consider creating their own immigration integration plans. Recommendations include the following: Start by creating hiring policies and processes to include foreign talent. Then address recruitment efforts to align with the hiring plan and consider developing relationships with local colleges and universities for internship or co-op programs. Familiarize yourself with common visa and green card programs, including sponsorship options. NK Y
The NKY Chamber encourages members to get engaged and be a part of the planning process. To get involved, contact Leisa Mulcahy, VP of Workforce at 859.578.6396 or LMulcahy@nkychamber.com.