Immigrant Bridge Program: Connecting Highly-Skilled Immigrants to Jobs in Growth Sectors
By Debbie Wibowo, Senior Associate, Outreach at Upwardly Global
Edwin moved to the U.S. from Colombia with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering and two years of professional experience with reducing contamination in water supply systems. Like many immigrants, Edwin moved to the U.S. to improve his career opportunities; however, upon arrival he quickly realized that segueing into an engineering career was harder than he anticipated.
To make ends meet, he worked at SAKS Fifth Avenue as a customer service assistant, but was anxious to work in his field and felt that every day he spent side-tracked by his survival job was another day lost towards obtaining his dream job. Deflated, Edwin began to feel that his international experience and education did not have value in his new home country, and he began to feel hopeless that he would practice engineering again.
All of this changed when a friend introduced him to Upwardly Global (UpGlo)'s Immigrant Bridge Program, a program run in partnership with NYCEDC.
UpGlo is one of four organizations running the Immigrant Bridge Program, where skilled immigrants like Edwin with in-demand skills in the engineering, IT, health care, and finance sectors receive soft skills training and job search guidance. The program covers topics related to effective job searching strategies in the U.S. and connects these candidates to employers seeking talent in these industries. Through this training program, Edwin learned how to market himself to employers, focus his job search, and improve his interview skills by practicing with volunteer engineering professionals.
Just two months after Edwin completed the program, he was offered a job at Leslie’s Pool Supply Company as an Operating Technician. Edwin gladly accepted, and is now using his skills and experience in his first professional job in the U.S.
“I have found through UpGlo’s Immigrant Bridge Program the hope to achieve my American dream and I am looking forward to helping other skilled immigrants rebuild their careers in their new home country.” - Edwin
Edwin stayed true to his promise; shortly after working at Leslie’s Pool Supply Company, he learned of additional open positions and worked with UpGlo’s staff to ultimately hire another UpGlo participant, Juan, who also had experience in mechanical engineering.
Many news articles and studies report that employers feel unable to fill vacant positions in the STEM industries. However, Edwin and Juan’s stories clearly demonstrate that skilled immigrants are an untapped pool of talent whom, if given the right tools and resources to connect to employers, can jumpstart their careers in the U.S. and contribute to the economic growth of our city and country.
About NYCEDC’s Immigrant Bridge Program
Immigrant Bridge is a pilot program designed to help 400 college-educated unemployed or underemployed immigrants with in-demand skills transition into “gateway jobs” in their field. The Program includes a workforce training component to help participants develop individualized career plans, improve their English skills, and prepare for professional jobs. Upwardly Global is one of four nonprofit organizations partnering with NYCEDC to provide this program, the others being CAMBA, Goodwill Industries, and the Riverside Language Program. An associated loan fund administered by Amalgamated Bank will provide interested participants with $1,000 to $10,000 loans to support their transition to higher paying jobs.
Learn more about NYCEDC's LINK pilot initiatives designed to connect residents across New York City to growing opportunities in our economy.