The blog of the Urban Institute
August 1, 2019

San Diego Is Strengthening Its Workforce by Welcoming Immigrants

Welcoming San Diego, a multisector effort to “advance the civic, social, and economic integration of immigrants and refugees,” says the city is home to 62,299 immigrant entrepreneurs. San Diego’s immigrants have $16.3 billion in spending power and pay $9.6 billion in taxes each year.

Although harmful national discourse and heightened immigration enforcement activity are affecting immigrant families and their communities across the country, economic and workforce development efforts can reflect the recognition of immigrants as integral members of local workforces who make important contributions to local economies.

Welcoming San Diego demonstrates how the city ensures immigrants are fully welcomed in the community—strengthening its economy and government revenue in the process—by including immigrants in its local workforce system.

A local workforce system, as explained in our online guide, is an array of organizations and activities that helps people prepare for jobs, advance their careers, and support employers. Local workforce systems encompass complex webs of funding sources, programs, target populations, and labor market demands, but understanding them is critical for local leaders and stakeholders to support a skilled workforce and thriving community.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP), a local workforce development board and Welcoming San Diego partner that is highlighted in our Local Workforce System Guide, helps coordinate San Diego’s local workforce system and connect residents with the training and education they need to gain better jobs.

One of the ways the SDWP is helping immigrant workers is by recognizing foreign credentials using the support of customized technical assistance from the World Education Services’ Global Talent Bridge program. The initiative will boost credentialing efforts and develop new funding streams for recredentialing processes, lead research on immigrant professionals in the health care, education, and tech sectors, and launch an internship program. 

Helping immigrant workers gain new skills, or “upskilling,” is also critical to supporting immigrants’ economic well-being. Foreign-born people make up 29 percent of metropolitan San Diego’s workforce of 1.4 million. About half have low-skilled jobs, a quarter have middle-skilled jobs, and a quarter have high-skilled jobs, reflecting a breakdown similar to national figures.

Nearly one-third of San Diego’s foreign-born workers have a college or advanced degree, just under one-quarter have some college education, and the remainder have a high school education or less.

San Diego’s workforce system can help all residents, including immigrants, move up the career ladder, earn more, and find greater economic stability for their families. Local leaders around the country can use our workforce system guide to better deploy and integrate job-related resources to foster inclusive economic growth.

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