Through a grant by the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) of Worcester State University has created workshops to help immigrants become credentialed in Massachusetts.
Edgar Moros, director of the IELI, explains that the workshops “are for anyone coming from another country who has a degree and wants to go back to their profession or another profession in this country. We point them in the right direction for what they need to do depending on the profession they have.”
The first credentialing workshop was held in April, and another on June 1, with more planned for next year. The workshops are free, open to the public, and last around an hour. After the presentation, individuals can set up appointments for personalized assistance.
“Here at IELI we receive people from different parts of the world who come here already with a profession,” Moros says. “This credentialing effort comes from that observation of seeing people, medical doctors, nurses, engineers, who have started asking how do we go to work? How can I get a job in this country?”
Along with the workshop sessions, the grant was also used to update the IELI’s Guide to Professional Licensure . The guide is available online through the IELI website and is provided at the workshops.
Leah Guzman, IELI program coordinator, updated the latest version of the guide which provides information on how to regain credentials to become educators, engineers, accountants, nurses, and pharmacists in Massachusetts, including educational requirements, certifications, and a list of resources in the community.
Worcester is a particularly appropriate place for credentialing programs because it is a designated resettlement city for immigrants, given its central location in both Massachusetts and New England. Furthermore, there are not many opportunities for immigrants to obtain this information through other venues.
“[This program] is really unique in the community,” Guzman says.
“There’s a lot of need in the area and Worcester State can certainly help people in this area achieve their goals,” Moros adds. “People come through our doors who really need this help and they are stuck in this kind of limbo where they have the skills, but they have no clue as to how to acquire the licenses they need in order to work as professionals in the U.S.”
Guzman agrees, explaining that unless one knows someone who has gone through the same process, navigating professional licensure systems can be complicated or confusing.
“We have people who have master’s degrees, Ph.D.’s in different fields and different areas, and highly qualified people who are working menial jobs,” Moros says.
Guzman advocates credentialing because she has seen immigrants be disrespected based on the job they have because they lack English skills. Even if someone has earned multiple degrees, if they do not speak English, it can be difficult to re-enter their previous profession.
Some immigrants may need to shift their skills if their exact profession is not a common one in Massachusetts. Still, Moros and Guzman recognize that past experiences are valuable and people should not have to start from scratch.
“They have education, they have knowledge, and they have experience. It should be utilized somehow,” Guzman says.
The IELI’s efforts have received a great deal of positive feedback so far. At the presentations, attendees were eager to tell others about the workshop sessions and guide. Moros and Guzman hope to keep reaching out to community organizations to increase awareness of these opportunities Worcester State is offering.
Due to the critical need for this kind of help, there are plans to expand the number of presentations and assistance hours. The IELI intends to hold more workshop sessions next year and the guide will be periodically updated with the latest information.