With job openings at nearly twice as high as the pre-pandemic norm, employers across the country are continuing to struggle to fill open positions and meet workforce needs. But they’re finding a natural ally in an unusual place: chambers of commerce.
Chambers are refocusing the conversation around immigration by highlighting a simple fact. Immigrants are one of the United States’ greatest global competitive advantages.
Last week, chambers of commerce gathered virtually to learn how they could better support immigration reform efforts occurring at a local, state, and federal level. For the sixth straight year, the Global Talent Chamber Network (GTCN), a network of over 60 chambers of commerce that see immigrant integration as an economic growth strategy, gathered to hear from experts and peer chambers on how the business community can work more closely with the immigrant and refugee community toward a more equitable and prosperous future. With attendees ranging from states like Texas, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, and more, it was clear that this issue remains of top importance to chambers of commerce across the country.
During the GTCN convening, experts discussed how to employ people with special designations, such as refugees, asylees, people with Special Immigrant Visas or Temporary Protected Status, and more. Employers looking to hire immigrants from Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Haiti have faced complex regulations during the hiring process.
A fireside chat with a former official from the Department of Homeland Security provided insights into how the business community can actively engage and provide feedback to the Biden Administration on the issues employers encounter while trying to hire people with different forms of immigration status. As a part of that session, the refugee resettlement coordinator from Utah discussed best practices on public-private partnerships that have helped new immigrants enter the Beehive state workforce.
Looking at opportunities for federal reform for the rest of the year, Council staff provided the chamber attendees an overview of opportunities for congressional action and where the business community can best utilize its voice to create change at a federal level. From the Afghan Adjustment Act to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, chambers of commerce have the opportunity to weigh in on important federal legislation that impacts the workforce needs of their member businesses.
The last session heard from guest speakers from peer chambers and business organizations like Global Detroit and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. Focusing on building out regional opportunities, Global Detroit highlighted their partnerships with institutes of higher education through their Global Talent Retention Initiative, which supports international students in keeping their talents in Southeast Michigan. They also discussed their Global Entrepreneur in Residence program, which helps international founders launch startups in the region.
The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce highlighted hyperlocal ways that chambers of commerce can work with local employers to attract and retain global talent. By partnering with human resources departments of their local member businesses, the chamber provided tangible recommendations for creating an office culture where all employees could thrive.
Whether lending their voice in support of federal advocacy reforms or providing concrete strategies for their member businesses to attract, hire, and retain global talent, chambers of commerce through the Global Talent Chamber Network and beyond are uniquely positioned to be leading partners for immigrant and refugee integration – to the benefit of all.