Massachusetts has been at the forefront of reform efforts aimed at helping immigrants and refugee professionals reenter the workforce once in the United States. In 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker publicly committed to reducing the barriers foreign-trained immigrants and refugees face when they attempt to rejoin their professions in the state.
According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2025 there will be more than 130,000 unfilled healthcare positions nationwide. In fact, more than seven percent of Massachusetts residents are estimated to lack access to healthcare. A survey of Massachusetts immigrants analyzed by the National Skills Coalition noted that many of the individuals surveyed held professional jobs in their countries of origin but worked in entry-level positions once in the U.S.
In early 2017, the Massachusetts state legislature introduced bills in the House and Senate to help foreign-trained healthcare workers rejoin their professions while simultaneously addressing healthcare shortages affecting rural parts of the state.
The new measure seeks to tap into the estimated 1,600 foreign-trained healthcare providers who are currently unemployed or employed outside their field by creating a commission responsible for examining ways of reducing the licensing regulations and other barriers they face. A similar bill was introduced in California in February of 2017. The California measure would establish a task force to examine licensing barriers for all foreign-trained professionals in the state. These latest bills underscore the crucial role foreign-trained immigrants and refugees can play in addressing skills shortages in critical sectors across the country.
The efforts in Massachusetts have been led by IMPRINT member Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). MIRA has worked closely with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants to advance workable solutions that promote economic integration among immigrants and refugees living in Massachusetts. Since 2015, MIRA has also coordinated a Foreign-Trained Health Professionals (FTHP) networking group in partnership with Dr. Robert Marlin at Cambridge Health Alliance. Members of the group, composed of over 70 foreign-trained professionals who have received career training and coaching, are able to explore opportunities for policy development and advocacy.
MIRA is also a member of a task force created in 2016 by the Boston Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and the Boston Office of Business Development, which brings together cross-sector partners and seeks to identify ways to assist foreign-trained immigrant and refugee professionals as they reenter their careers in the U.S.
Learn more about MIRA’s work and read their report on a statewide Task Force on Foreign-Trained Healthcare Professionals at MIRAcoalition.org.