Immigrants are a vital part of Minnesota’s labor force, report says

The Humphrey School study said that the state needs to invest resources into increasing skills for immigrant work.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges speaks at the groundbreaking event for the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center on Oct. 29, 2016. The center will work to help community members, many of whom are East African immigrants, find jobs.

Maddy Fox

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges speaks at the groundbreaking event for the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center on Oct. 29, 2016. The center will work to help community members, many of whom are East African immigrants, find jobs.

Raj Chaduvula

Amid a decline in population growth, Minnesota needs to attract more immigrants to keep pace with its economic development, according to a University of Minnesota report released last month.

The report — citing a projected decline in population growth — concludes that Minnesota needs to use its existing resources and capital to increase skills for immigrant work to keep pace with its economic growth.

The study was conducted by University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“A focus on attracting more immigrants is an imperative for Minnesota in order to address the challenges linked to the slowing growth of the state’s population and labor force,” the report said.

Local community leader Mohamud Noor and Minneapolis Ward 6 City Council Member Abdi Warsame said there needs to be more infrastructure and opportunities made available to immigrant populations.

Noor said many jobs that are available to new immigrants are ones that require limited skills, often jobs in warehouses or airports.

Noor is the executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, which focuses on education, youth programs, employment and career help. He said there needs to be job training for immigrant and refugee workers in Minnesota.

The Opportunity Center in Cedar-Riverside, which is set to open this spring, is mentioned in the report as a way to increase skills and career pathways for immigrants.

Warsame said the center is a way to provide training and career support for the Somali community in Minneapolis.

The University’s Committee on Minnesota Workforce and Immigrants commissioned the report nearly a year ago in an effort to see what kind of role immigrant and refugee populations played in Minnesota’s growth, said Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School.

Minnesota needs to attract larger numbers of immigrants otherwise it will not be able to keep pace with its economic growth, he said.

Warsame said immigrant communities have a unique way of developing and it’s necessary to provide them with the right tools and infrastructure.

The goal of the report is to provide reason and analysis for policy makers when issues of immigrants and labor needs are being discussed, Schwartz said.

He said the committee plans on holding meetings with civic leaders, elected officials and chambers of commerce to discuss the findings of the report.

“[There’s] no question that the economic success the United States had is inconceivable without the immigrant workforce,” Schwartz said.