September 17, 2020
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is proud to participate in Welcoming Week September 12-20, a national initiative to celebrate and affirm the importance of inclusivity and connections for immigrants, refugees and long-term residents of Minnesota. As an agency, we focus on workforce and economic development and know firsthand the positive impact of immigrants and refugees on our state’s community and economic development.
My role as the Assistant Commissioner for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is central to helping the State of Minnesota make connections and create pathways for workers and business owners to be successful.
I wanted to join DEED because I saw real barriers that immigrant and refugee business owners face in Minnesota. In my previous role as a consultant, I helped people connect to state information and resources. Many immigrant and refugee business owners were relying on other people to help them know what forms to fill out or what fees to pay and how to grow their businesses. I saw a real opportunity to work with state agencies to improve access to information for our immigrant and refugee communities and bring people together.
In my first few months of the job, I can report that conversations to make transformative changes and create new and improved programming are happening—we are making progress. I’m partnering with local and state leaders to better understand the business registration process and build a communications process that reaches more immigrant and refugee business owners. There are 100,000 people who live in Minnesota who speak English less than “very well,” but of course, entrepreneurship doesn’t wait for English fluency.
For example, my neighbor built a snow-removal business that expanded from one truck to four trucks. I really admire his entrepreneurial drive. He’s providing a needed service and also providing employment. That’s the spirit of Minnesota’s business and community development that benefits all of us. So, we’re exploring what more the state can do.
Our CareerForce system, with counselors and support staff available to assist people in finding jobs, is developing new ways to serve immigrants and refugees who seek professional jobs, in addition to entry-level jobs. Immigrants and refugees have been and continue to be vital to the labor force and economy in Minnesota. 80,000 foreign-born Minnesotans joined the workforce between 2010-2018—that accounts for 60% of the state’s labor force growth in those years. Just over 60% of the foreign-born population are in the prime working years of 25-54, compared to just 36% of the rest of the population.
Immigrants and refugees make up a large percentage of the labor force in many in-demand and critical infrastructure occupations in Minnesota. Based on this data from 2018, foreign born workers make up:
• 39.5% of butchers and meat packers
• 30.3% of software developers and computer application and system engineers
• 18.4% of Personal Care Aides
In healthcare, the service industry, agriculture and food production and more, immigrants and refugees are critically important to our state, not just as workers, but also in bringing cultural, language and artistic assets to our neighborhoods in rural, suburban and urban communities in Minnesota.
Join me in celebrating Welcoming Week, a time for all Minnesotans to recognize the many contributions and assets of our diverse state. Together we can recommit to improving services and systems in Minnesota so that immigrants and refugees can connect with the state and find relevant resources.