trains new residents
for EMT positions.
“It’s all about relationships and leadership,”
Aguirre says. “Our college president is a strong
advocate of the program. She knows and everyone
else knows that if the community college cannot
NEW AMERICANS, FUTURE WORKFORCE
By 2030, experts expect one in five American
workers to have an immigrant background. And
there are already 44 million immigrants in the
United States. Most arrive with unmet workforce
training needs. Even those with advanced degrees
from their own countries can face language and
cultural barriers that can leave them stuck in jobs
that squander their talents.
Community colleges may be an obvious answer
to this disconnect. After all, community colleges
are already working on the skills gap in many
regions, and already work with local employers to
develop training programs that meet their needs.
A lot of pieces are in place, but training immigrants can pose logistical challenges—chiefly that
immigrants without GEDs or without evidence
of advance degrees can’t enroll in college courses.
Almost universally, it’s the non-credit side of the
college that addresses these needs.
The Community College Consortium for
Immigrant Education (CCCIE) is a clearinghouse of
technical assistance and a place for college leaders
to come together to share best practices. They have
an online handbook for career advisors working
with foreign-born students, and a book highlighting
colleges’ success with immigrant communities and
job training will come out in 2019.
“One community college is isolated,” CCCIE
Director Jill Casner-Lotto says. “They can’t do it
alone. As we do it together, we elevate successes to
the national level.”
AN ‘ENLIGHTENED PHILANTHROPY
COMMUNITY’ IN MAINE
It started with a call from an ambulance operator.
Could Southern Maine Community College help it
staff enough emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
to serve the state’s aging population?
The first call came to Eric Wellman, associate
professor and program director for the college’s
emergency medical services department. But
eventually the phone rang on David Zahn’s desk.
“I’m the liaison for new Mainers,” says Zahn, English
as a second language (ESOL) and global languages
chair at the college. Because he works closely with local
community groups serving immigrants and refugees,
he knows that a chunk of Maine’s new residents were
doctors or healthcare providers in their own countries.
“It seemed like a win-win-win,” he says. “It’s
good for new Mainers to get training; everyone is
happier when they are doing something that uses
their skills. Industry can have more people. The
people of Maine can have EMTs who are essentially
doctors. How amazing is that?”
So they began to imagine how a hybrid ESL/EMT
program would operate. What they came up with
was a twist on the tried-and-true approach. They
would add English-language training as an adjunct
to EMT certification courses, teaching students
words they’d need to know as EMTs.
Then they hit up against a bigger hurdle: funding. Before asylum-seekers receive approval to stay
in the U.S., they usually aren’t allowed to work. And
when they are able to work, they are often working
two or three jobs to get by. They don’t have time for
education. And they certainly don’t have the money
to pay for it, Zahn says.
“So we said, ‘If we could clear the financial
hurdle, they could get unstuck and back into a
career,’” Zahn remembers.
But that’s a big if, and a big ask. He didn’t start
with the state, he says, because the state might be