Immigrants often possess important labor skills for the regional economy, but can be underemployed because of professional licensing issues, cultural differences in the job search process, or language barriers. We see the impact of these barriers in taxi drivers and janitors who, in their home country, were, for example, engineers, doctors, or veterinarians. There are programs to help establish local credentials and break down barriers that bring existing talent into the labor market, fostering new opportunities to grow southeast Michigan’s economy.

In 2014, after years of advocacy from Global Detroit, Upwardly Global (UpGlo) opened a Detroit office in partnership with Global Detroit, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Michigan Office for New Americans. Upwardly Global works with more than 1,500 immigrants, refugees, and aslyees every year to provide job search training and to connect them with employers looking to develop a pipeline of global talent. To date, UpGlo has placed more than 2,200 new Americans who had been unemployed or underemployed working as janitors, taxi drivers, and nannies back into professional jobs as engineers, software developers, and business professionals.

In partnership with the Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, UpGlo has also created online licensing guides for 15 professions including dentists, teachers, lawyers, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, accountants, architects, barbers, cosmetologists, electricians, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, and engineers.