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Accents: Immigrant Workers - Part 2

Tuesday, November 26, 2002 at 1:51 PM

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Immigrants have always played an important role in filling low paying, un-skilled jobs in the United States. Now more American companies are also reaching across boarders to hire highly skilled professionals. Foreigners are being recruited to work in the medical, high-tech and education fields. It's a good thing for many industries, but some wonder why more Americans are not ready to fill these high paying jobs. Today we continue Accents, our in-depth examination of ethnicity and immigration in northeast Ohio. ideastream's Mike West has this report.

Mike West: This is the main hospital in the University Hospitals of Cleveland health system. The company is one of northeast Ohio’s largest employers with 25,000 people on the payroll. This facility is like a small city that requires cooks, janitors and secretaries as well as doctors and nurses. Hospital officials say keeping fully staffed means looking outside U.S. borders to find help, especially when it comes to nurses.

Mary Lou Byrne: By about year 2020 there is an expected shortage of nurses of close to a half a million and we had to think very seriously, and very aggressively on how to do things differently to insure that we’re providing the quality nurses at the bedside so we’re not experiencing shortages in the future.

MW: Mary Lou Byrne is the director of recruitment for UH. She says at any given time there are hundreds of various job openings. Many current nurses and other medical professionals are retiring and young americans are not replacing them. Byrne says the philippines and other countries have become good places to look for badly needed nursing help. She says has an international recruiting program for that has been in place for a couple of years. Byrne says the hospital has recently hired a number of international nurses that will be arriving shortly.

MLB: Philippines is a country that the nurses do receive their education in English. The nursing curriculum is very similar to the United States nursing curriculum and it’s also a country that is experiencing a surplus of nurses, many nurses can’t get a job right now.

MW: Byrne also say the hospital has a small initiative that looks for Puerto Rican nurses. But she says her company would gladly hire Americans but there are not enough to go around. And she insists the hospital is going to great lengths to develop homegrown nurses.

MLB: We’re doing many things, we have a group of individuals who actually do reach out to the community and start speaking about medical careers to the high school, to the junior high students to the grammar school students, we have nurses who are very involved in a nursing badge for the girl scouts. So we are really trying to do everything we can in the community to encourage individuals to go into the medical nursing profession.

MW: Aside from nursing, white collar immigrants are also finding more jobs in America. But there are still challenges facing immigrants even if they come with some skills.

Bartie Martinella has been in Cleveland for a month after moving here from Mexico to join her husband. Martinella recently attended this job fair and is finding that a Mexican high school diploma has no value in the U.S.A.

What kind of work are you looking for?

Bartie Martinella: Like in an office, like secretary, clerical something like that.

MW: Do you think the fact that you’re bilingual will help you?

BM: Maybe, I really don’t know. I’m new (to) this area, I really don’t know a lot of people, or Hispanic people, but I’m not sure, I really don’t know.

MW: Martinella will need to get an American G.E.D. in order to be seen as a 12th grade graduate. Other foreign professionals are also discovering their old credentials do not meet American standards. That can land them in the unskilled labor pool.

Nicole Simpson: We’ve met individuals that were doctors in their country, but they cannot be doctors here until they go back to school in the United States and get all the education that’s necessary to qualify as a doctor here. And engineers the same way. What they did in engineering there is not equivalent here. So for various reasons when they come over here sometimes they are taking theses entry level positions for the fact that they don’t have the qualifications to do what they’ve done in their country.

MW: Nicole Simpson is a placement specialist for CGI in Cleveland. It’s a free job placement and training service underwritten by the state and county. She thinks skilled immigrants need to learn more about the United Dtates before coming here to look for a job.

NS: I think it’s a questions of educating immigrants when they come over not just in traditional education but just letting them know how things stand in the United States and as far as the different industries and the different types of occupations where there’s going to be obstacles for them and trying to help them deal with that because I’m sure that that has to be a very hard issue to deal with.

MW: Organized labor leaders say they welcome foreign workers. But they have some concerns about whether American companies and hospitals are really doing the best they can to find and train U.S.-born residents. John Ryan is the executive director of the Cleveland AFL/CIO. He says it’s fine to hire immigrants to temporarily cover shortages. But he says schools and business owners should be working harder to do more with U.S. citizens.

John Ryan: It really angers many of us that people would be looking to bring people in here when we’re not also looking at making sure that the people, the children that pass proficiencies, that get out of school don’t have a way to get the training to become nurses, to become tool and die operators to become scientists other jobs that might be out there. If it’s a short term issue, that’s one thing.

MW: Ryan says there are plenty of people here who want jobs. As far as a shortage of skilled workers, Ryan says the community has to get more of it’s labor pool into the classroom.

JR: We have over 40,000 workers who are between the ages of 20 and 40 or 45 who do not have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. And what that does, is it says bring low wage work to Cleveland. And what we instead need to be doing is to able to make sure that those workers are able to get G.E.D.’s or able to get into the community college system are able to increase their job training to be able to do some of this work, or otherwise were going to be looking for people outside the area to come in to do.

MW: You can expect to see more foreign professionals arriving in Cleveland. Last summer the head of the development department said the city was working with local organizations to bring up to 10,000 immigrants to the area. Officials say the new citizens would help turn the tide of to Cleveland’s falling population and fill jobs in the areas that require math and teaching backgrounds. In Cleveland, Mike West, 90.3.

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