Transcript by Rev.com
Official video archive here.
Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent committee meeting, Oct 21, 2021. Georgia Capitol (CLOB)
Chairman, Rep Wes Cantrell: (00:04)
All right, good morning everybody. We’re gonna go and get started. So thanks for being here. I don’t know what your commute was this morning. Mine was quite challenging. The express lane came to a complete stop. So I paid $5 to sit in traffic like everybody else, uh, this morning, that’s rare. I think that’s the second time since the express lane on the north side is open that it, that I’ve been in it when it was at a complete stop like everyone else. So, uh, challenging day, but, uh, we’re glad to be here today and, uh, we went our… to spend our time as wisely as possible. So I’m gonna, we’re gonna start very briefly by just having, uh, the members who are here, take this to moment to introduce themselves. So, Sushma, if we could begin with you. What, what’s your mic number?
Wes Cantrell: (00:54)
Okay, there you go.
Sushma Barakoti: (00:56)
This one? I think it’s on. Hello everyone. Um, thank you Mr. Chairman and everyone on the committee. My name is Sushma Barakoti and I’m the executive director at the Refugee Women’s Network. Um, I came to United States as a, as an immigrant f- to do my master’s in social work 21 years ago, and made United States my, um, home. And I live here with my family. My, uh, whole family is here, and, um, work with immigrants and refugee every day. Thank you.
Wes Cantrell: (01:34)
Thank you, Sushma, and we’re glad you’re here. Uh, representative Kosh- Kush-
Angelika Kausche: (01:39)
Wes Cantrell: (01:40)
Angelika Kausche: (01:40)
You’ll get it eventually. (laughs) Good morning everyone. My name is Angelika Kausche, I’m the state representative for House District 50 Johns Creek, which is one of the, uh, most of our dist- house districts in Georgia representing a lot of the Asian community. I, myself, I’m an immigrant from Germany, came to United States in 1997, and, uh, [inaudible 00:02:03], I think in 2011 [inaudible 00:02:05], so if sh- el- uh, wanna say thank the chairman for bringing this committee, and think this is very important work. Thanks.
Wes Cantrell: (02:11)
Thank you. Representative Frye.
Spencer Frye: (02:14)
Hey, I’m Spencer Frye representing House District 118 that’s Athens, Georgia. And um, I just wanna say thank you Mr. Chair for bringing this issue up, and um, it- getting me on the community. I appreciate the work that you’ve done. We worked together, sat next to each other for, uh, going on nine years now. And uh-
Wes Cantrell: (02:32)
Well, it seems like nine. It’s only been seven, but…
Sushma Barakoti: (02:36)
Spencer Frye: (02:36)
… seems like forever actually. I was trying to be nice. But I appreciate the work that you’ve done in the House, and, um, I’m happy to be here.
Wes Cantrell: (02:44)
Thank you. Thank you, Representative Frye. And we have with us today from, uh, Depes- the, uh, Department of Research and House Budget Research Office, Morgan Hall should be of assistance today. I’m Wes Cantrell, I’m the representative from the House District 22, which is primarily eastern, uh, Cherokee county, little bit of Forsyth, and a little bit of north Fulton county. And, uh, honored to get to chair this study committee. And, uh, the man with the best timing on the planet, uh, Chairman Mike [Choukas 00:03:19] if you’d take just a moment to introduce yourself. Yeah.
Good morning everyone, I’m Mike Choukas chairman of Small Business Development, and a member of, uh, Chairman Cantrell’s study committee and looking forward to hearing what’s going on today. Thank you very much, I enjoy being here.
Wes Cantrell: (03:42)
Thank you chairman Choukas. Uh, if you’ve not been in one of our committee meetings, uh, previous we run a fairly informal casual type of, uh, of a meeting. Um, uh, the purpose of our study committee is to identify and barriers that are inhibiting foreign-born Georgians from being able to pursue their dreams, uh, to, uh, own businesses, to have meaningful employment, all of the above.
Wes Cantrell: (04:12)
So, that’s what we’ve been studying for the past two meetings, this will be our final meeting, and then we’ll come with a recommendation, either some policy adjustments or legislative ideas to address some of the concerns that have been uncovered as we have heard from people from our state.
Wes Cantrell: (04:31)
So, today we’re going to being with a panel discussion, it’s going to be moderated by Austin Hackney who’s from the Home Builders Association of Georgia. And, uh, I’ll ask our members just to, I guess you’re going to have to share the microphone at the table here and Austin if you’ll be at the podium. And, uh, on our, our, members of our panel here if you would just go ahead and make your way up to this table area here in the, in the front.
Wes Cantrell: (05:00)
And, like I said, we’ll keep it pretty informal.
Wes Cantrell: (05:07)
Try that microphone Austin, see if it’s working.
Austin Hackney: (05:09)
Wes Cantrell: (05:09)
Okay. And then, test, test that mic for me see if it’s working.
Spencer Frye: (05:14)
Wes Cantrell: (05:16)
All right, perfect. All right Austin, the floor is yours.
Austin Hackney: (05:17)
All right, thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the study committee, uh, good morning. My name is Austin Hackney, I work for the Home Builders Association of Georgia. We’re a trade organization for home builder companies around the state, uh, with, uh, about 3500 members across 23 different local home builders associations. And, uh, our members are, uh, residential contractors, uh, but also build single-family homes, multi-family homes, uh, members are associated with the industry. So, it could be tradesmen, uh, plumbers, electricians, or it could be mortgage lenders or insurance agents. So, we try and represent the whole spectrum of, uh, residential construction in the state of Georgia, and so, I’m happy to be here and, uh, and talk about this important issue. Uh, we’re a highly regulated industry and there are a lot of challenges, uh, out there and so, appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of those challenges and to talk about what the global workforce, um, can do for the construction industry in the state of Georgia, and, uh, would like to invite our panelists to introduce themselves, um, as we begin.
Luke Teller: (06:32)
Uh, Luke Keller, I represent Tekton Career Training. We’re a non-profit, uh, located in Clarkston, Georgia. Most [inaudible 00:06:39] square mile in America. And we primarily focus on certified construction trade training for the community, as well as coding and web development.
Austin Hackney: (06:48)
Could you repeat your name? ‘Cause you’re not on this list I have in front of me.
Luke Teller: (06:51)
Yeah, I’m stepping in for, uh, Amoon, who’s actually one of our graduates, he’ll be here hopefully shortly. (laughs)
Austin Hackney: (06:57)
Luke Teller: (06:57)
Uh, Luke Keller.
Austin Hackney: (06:58)
Luke Teller: (06:58)
Austin Hackney: (06:59)
Thank you for being here.
Melissa Ramirez: (07:02)
Good morning everybody. My name is Melissa Ramirez I’m an Associate Program Director at Corners Outreach. While our focus has been primarily educational for the past nearly 10 years, we are launching a workplace development side, which is our Workforce Academy. We are trying to, um, steer our young generations into vocational training as well that aligns really well with the construction industry.
Rafael Villegas: (07:25)
Yes, uh, good morning everybody. This is, uh, a little intimidating, I feel like I’m, uh, courtroom testifying for something but, uh, my name is Rafael Villegas I’m the Executive Director of the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association. And, uh, we’re, uh, non-profit based organization, uh, for 10 years been helping the small and medium-sized, uh, Hispanic owned construction businesses across the state of Georgia, uh, receive allocational resources and also help them, and connect with government entities, corporations, and large and small general contractors. Thank you so much.
Austin Hackney: (08:02)
Thank you panelists for, for that introduction and Mr. Chairmen, and members of the committee, uh, when I advocate for housing at the state capital on behalf of the Home Builders Association. I like to talk about the American dream and what homeownership can mean, uh, to the American dream. And how, uh, a family can buy their own home and, and potentially pull themselves out of the bad situation and, and, and homeownership is really one of the key components to the American dream but it’s not the only one, and I think another component of the American dream that our industry represents is that it’s a unique opportunity for someone to start at the bottom and, and pull themselves all the way to the top. And, and, what I mean by that is, you know, I think this industry is unique that you can be an unskilled laborer on, on a construction job site and learn a skill and take that skill and, and start a business, and have some success with that business, and start another business and, and really grow that, you know, the economics of, of your own personal situation, uh, in a way that not every industry offers.
Austin Hackney: (09:14)
So, we’re proud of, of what the residential construction industry can do for not just homeowners but individuals who want to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and, and follow the American dream. There are some barriers and, uh, that’s one thing that we’re here to talk about today, and, and, so, my first question for the panelists would be, you know, very broadly, what do you see as the biggest barriers to the growth of the construction industry in the state of Georgia? Rafael, if we could start with you.
Rafael Villegas: (09:47)
Thank you, um, that’s a very interesting question. I think the industry has been awakened to the fact that this has been long-term issue, uh, both in the commercial and the residential side. And, I know that for 10 years major trade associations have been working, um, from different angles. But, I think part of the problem is that we need to come together and, uh, not attack this with one single solution, ’cause it doesn’t have a single solution. There is many angles and optics to this, and, uh, you can go all the way to, uh, helping the new generations understand and bring back that pride in the trades. That’s one thing that organizations have been doing for a while, in the training and going to high schools and getting that pride back.
Rafael Villegas: (10:40)
Uh, there are other solutions, you know, that might not be entirely the solution, uh, we work with, uh, uh, different consoles in, in Latin America, consulates in El Salvador, Mexico. Uh, they have great programs to bring age to be, um, uh, workers, um, but there are some things that we need to fix for that program. Uh, so again we got isolated efforts, um, isolated solutions and whoever is working on one, I think we need to come together and try to build, uh, you know, a master plan for this, ’cause it’s, it’s getting worse, uh, and, and we all fell it. Even the home owner feels it when they buy a house, uh, so it’s no longer the materials it’s, it’s been a steady problem for, for more than a decade for sure, so…
Melissa Ramirez: (11:35)
Thank you, everybody. So, something that I’ve experienced my work with our families at Corners Outreach is the lack of awareness of just how fruitful a career in construction can be. A lot of the times the American dream involves going to college and getting these careers, but, there is this vocational pathway that is, almost seems to be looked at as a lesser option or a backup plan. But, what we’re trying to do is not only encourage our students to go into their college dream if that’s what they want…
Melissa Ramirez: (12:02)
But, a little bit of an antidotal story, I had a student that wanted to be an architect so badly and that’s all he wanted and when he found out what architecture was, he was like, “No, this isn’t it, I want to build things.” He didn’t even know you could go and get certified for being a construction worker. All he knew was well when my parents do it I would just go and help my uncle or my dad and he didn’t know that he could get certified to build on that upward mobility. If his dad couldn’t own the business, why couldn’t he get the tools? He was born here, he can access the education, there are technical programs all around, and free programs.
Melissa Ramirez: (12:36)
I mean, if we even look at Tekton, there are opportunities to collaborate in the community and I think that there is a lack of awareness of vocational training isn’t a backup option, it can actually be a pathway towards growth which then, if you want to become and architect sure, if you want to become an engineer great, but you have to start working in that industry first and it almost seems like the construction industry is more of the parents jobs and something that the kids are looking at as, “I don’t want to be that.” Right?
Melissa Ramirez: (13:03)
Um, so, if we find a way to educate them and show them that that is a pathway that they can actually build those things, that’s actually one barrier we can eliminate. So, that they look at this not as a, “I failed.” Or a “I dropped out and I have to go back.” But rather something that they work towards.
Luke Teller: (13:20)
Yeah, I think, I think for Tekton what we’ve seen, generally, most of the people that come to our program have been, have been in the country, this has changed over the last five years or so, but generally, they were here less than two years. Um, English was always, you know, a second, third, forth language for them. And, what we, what we would see is when they would come they would generally get stuck in some sort of, uh, decent job but nothing with upward mobility.
Luke Teller: (13:47)
And so, I think that there is a huge opportunity as a m-, as, as we increase the numbers of refugees to capture that significant number that comes in, that, a decent number of, of refugees early on in their resettlement to help them understand that there are opportunities beyond just putting widgets together all day. That there are incredible opportunities in construction if we can catch them early to, to give them the English, but then the skills kind of for that next, next step.
Austin Hackney: (14:17)
Thank you, panelists. Uh, you know, from a Home Builders Association standpoint, um, there are a lot of factors that represent barriers to growth in the industry. This year in particular we saw materials pricing and availability, uh, go crazy and that’s something our industry has struggled to keep up with and, and it’s, uh, you know, it’s happened to every industry across the board, so we’re certainly not unique there. But, workforce development is another, uh, you know, big factor that’s a big barrier to growth in, in the construction and specifically for our global, uh, workforce, uh, for the panelists, you know, what, what do you see are barrier specific to the global workforce being utilized here in the state of Georgia? And what, what could we do to, you know, enhance those opportunities, um, for that workforce?
Rafael Villegas: (15:12)
Well, um, going back to, to, uh, mapping, you know, the different sources of, uh, workforce. You know, we, we have obviously, um, you know, U.S. born, uh, folks in trade. We have, first-generation, second generation, third generation, and then we have, you know, folks coming from different parts. Um, I think with the construction industry we, you know, uh, the Latino community, it’s, you know, I think it’s fair to say that it’s the largest of the immigrant force, um, that it’s associated with the industry.
Rafael Villegas: (15:49)
So, so, when we map out all the different sources, um, and we look at the global tally, you say well, we, we got an opportunity here, um, instead of trying to confront, uh, and make it a political thing, we have to make sure that we do this right. That the, if, if people are coming in, or want to come in, uh, that we create the pathway for that to happen in a safe way.
Rafael Villegas: (16:16)
Um, as I said, before I mentioned a couple things, about some, some of the programs that exist to bring qualified labor and that’s a turn-key operation for many of these countries in Latin America. I mean, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, I mean they, we work with the consulates here, and they have, uh, the workforce ready to come and work here for a period of time, go through the actual formal pipeline. Um, but then in the long run that can become something else, but, uh, I think there is a lot of challenges with this programs, uh, the caps that exist doesn’t really… they don’t really help the industry, I mean the numbers that we need are way beyond that, that, uh, capacity.
Rafael Villegas: (17:02)
Of course, I’m not suggesting that’s the only solution but talking about the global talent that would one of the things, we could, we could, uh, improve so…
Wes Cantrell: (17:13)
Can I ask a question? The, the caps that you’re, uh, talking about are those federal caps, or are those state caps?
Rafael Villegas: (17:20)
Yeah, these are caps, uh, I don’t, I don’t have the figures right now as far as how many Visas, um, our, our [crosstalk 00:17:29].
Wes Cantrell: (17:28)
But those are federal.
Rafael Villegas: (17:31)
Those are, yeah, well yeah, it’s yeah, part of the immigration, um, uh, borders protection, so yeah. Um, so yeah, that’s, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Wes Cantrell: (17:41)
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Almost like they want that. And it’s, it’s listening sometimes in class that is what deters them from advancing. Their reading levels, unfortunately, are so behind for other reasons, right? Like educational minds. I know that y’all already know a lot of barriers in that. And a lot of our kids are from minority backgrounds. M- most of them are. So, when you tell them, hey, you just gotta work hard and you get to work with your hands and you can make this much money, you can see it. Th- their minds just like, I can do this for my mom and dad, I can do, like… I can travel. So many opportunities, at, at least in our younger pool. It, it’s… They’re impressionable, and if you get this, this knowledge out there for them and show them these are your avenues, this is what you can do, ignore what society says. If mom and dad are telling you don’t be a construction worker, let’s show them the opportunities. And Corners and our workforce academy is actually working towards a three tiered approach, which is the student, the industry, the industry leader, and, um, the parents.
Speaker 1: (00:57)
Because in our work through education, we get not only help and tutor them, but we also get to talk to the parents and build that relationship and that trust. So, when it comes to bringing them opportunities, we can say, hey, like, they’re backed up, we can support them, and we wouldn’t put your son or daughter in an industry that wouldn’t be helpful for all of you as a family. So, our mission stays true, but it’s that relational component that can also help eliminate that stigma. That’s our hope at least.
Speaker 2: (01:27)
I, I think… I think we have the right pieces of the puzzle. And, and, and as I said before, a lot of organizations have been working this, uh, [inaudible 00:01:36] being one of them. I know the Home Builders Association is interested in this. The commercial, uh, trade associations like the ADC and the ABC [inaudible 00:01:45]. They’ve all been working with this. But I think we need to come together in a more strategic, uh, plan, and, and, and put this information out, uh, with the help of, of maybe public resources, uh, coming to a coalition and, and do a, a massive campaign and work, work our way to, to the… To the masses. Uh, because it’s, it’s, uh, it’s there. You know, the, the information is there. And it’s appealing. And not only that, I mean, w- we shouldn’t look it at it o- only as, as, yes, you can make a lot of money as a construction worker. But there’s a path, there’s a path b- that can take you to be your own business owner in all this. So, it, it’s, it’s amazing how… What we can do. We, we got the right pieces. I think we need to come together to the table and, and make it happen.
Speaker 3: (02:35)
[inaudible 00:02:35] did you have a question? Go ahead. There you go.
Speaker 4: (02:38)
A quick question. I totally agree. And thank you so much for enlightening us with all these, uh, resources out there. Um, working in a non-profit, and belonging to a coalition of refugee and, you know, immigrant serving agencies, sometimes we are… The information about vocational training and, you know, other trainings and, uh, resources out there are so scattered. Um, and we talked about mapping. We talked about, like, you know, making it big and making it out in the community. So, is there any, um, effort on the part of, like, uh, either non-profit or industry leaders that, um… Putting it together so that, you know, we as a small organization, so like non-profit organizations who are working in the field, can access that information and refer people to?
Speaker 1: (03:31)
So, our workforce academy is set to launch January next year. So, we are actually looking for ways to do that with our partners. And it’s getting this information out there and what are the steps to take, making sure that we have flow charts, timelines, whatever it is to make it understandable for the workers, for the parents, and for the industries. So, that’s definitely something we’re working on and something that we would love to collaborate. I mean, we… I think Luke, who’s also here, knows, like, we’re an open book. He’s also said they’re an open book. And that kind of collaboration can definitely help us map things out better. But that’s something we’re working on as well.
Speaker 3: (04:03)
All right, [inaudible 00:04:06]? Rep KaseyCarpenter : (04:07)
It’s more of a comment than a… Than a question. But I think maybe a really qual- high quality TikTok video where they’re stacking up big 100 dollar bills and [crosstalk 00:04:15].
Speaker 3: (04:15)
Thank you [crosstalk 00:04:15]. [inaudible 00:04:21].
Speaker 1: (04:22)
I… And I will say, again, with our younger audience, that would go far. (laughs)
Speaker 5: (04:26)
Speaker 1: (04:26)
You can build your own house off of dollar bills. 100 dollar bills. (laughs)
Rep Cheokas: (04:38)
Thank you, Mr Chairman. I don’t know if I can top that.
Rep Cheokas: (04:40)
No, you can’t.: (04:42)
Uh, anyway. We were talking about young people in school. And moving forward in a career that’s more technical minded. Okay, of the children… We, we created the dual enrollment intentionally for that. And I was wondering how successful has that been in y’all’s, uh, respective communities at bringing the children into and the parents into knowing about these opportunities. And then the second thing I wanted to add, was that several years ago, we changed the mission of the technical college to be not only a technical college, but also to serve the community college. So, the core curriculum that we are offering now in our technical colleges, which is basically the core that you would get in the university system, you can receive with the whole grant-
Speaker 1: (05:47)
Rep Cheokas: (05:47)
Which is free. So, uh, I was wondering, is this information out there for the parents? For the students? For the, uh, the, the advisors for the young people in the high school? It, it appears that there may be a disconnect. But those opportunities exist today.
Speaker 1: (06:09)
From our families at Corners Outreach, it seems there isn’t. And language barrier is a huge component of that, I’m sure. Um, again, I… We work predominately in North Dekalb and in… Schools in Meadowcreek district in Gwinnett and Shiloh. And, um, although Shiloh’s demographic is different than Meadowcreek’s, um, I personally graduated from Berkmar, and I know that they have a construction program. Maxwell is something that they get told about. So, the information is there. I think the language barrier and the fact that the parents unfortunately can’t be as involved, because either they’re working such long hours, they don’t understand even the educational system. Yes, the information is there, but it’s not received as much as it should be. So, at Corners, we are usually approached because they need tutoring. They need to catch up with their reading and math, especially their reading. And so if they can’t even read, how are they gonna be able to process this information as they get older. Um, and in full disclosure, but a lot of the parents don’t even have that reading comprehension. So, how can they feed that information to their kids, right? So, is adult literacy something else that we need to look into to expose them to these resources? Maybe.
Speaker 1: (07:13)
Um, the dual enrollment, I’ve encountered several students who go to Maxwell. So, I think it’s something that they look forward to, ’cause that’s the school they get their hands on things. That’s the school that they get to work on. So, it’s there, but it seems it’s almost limited, because during the orientation sessions, the parents can’t attend. When they tell them, hey, you can go to Maxwell, you can go to Mc- you could go to the health sciences, the, um, like, other vocational paths, it’s almost as if their parents had no idea. All they tell them is go to school, and not because they don’t care or love them, they just don’t know. So, yes. The information’s there, and I think it’s a very helpful program. Unfortunately in our community, at Corners, since they already come a few steps behind, it’s probably just not as known. We are working more with Meadowcreek, with the schools in our co- in our county to see how we can spread the word out. And again, building that trust. So, that is an opportunity that we see. And so if we can keep getting this information out, it should be something that, from an early age, even in middle school, is our hope, is that we can start planting that seed of dreaming in those vocational pathways, too.
Speaker 1: (08:17)
Our goal in workforce academy is that when they’re in middle school in our organization, we can start telling them about the industries so that once they’ve reached that age, they can actually start pursuing it rather than looking at as a backup plan.
And we’re gonna have to move along here in a minute. But, um, I will say, all kidding aside, I think representative [inaudible 00:08:36], uh, hitting on the right note that, uh… ‘Cause we’re hearing a lot about awareness in education. If we’re gonna be effective at that, we gotta be on the correct platforms where people are. And we gotta do it in a way that’s interesting, that… So kids will enjoy and receive the information in the right way. So, I think… I think that’s one of my main takeaways from our panel discussion. But we’re gonna… We have one last question of our panel for, uh, from representative Fry.
Rep Fry: (09:04)
Thank you, Mr Chair. And really, it’s a… It’s a statement, um, chairman shared. ‘Cause to your point, I think that’s a great point. One of the issues that we have is that the technical colleges necessarily have not embraced the trades as much as we would’ve liked, as far as construction management programs. Gwinnett Tech has an incredible program, okay? Athens Tech, no construction type of program. And so this is something that, although we do provide the hope scholarship, we need to make sure that our technical colleges are actually addressing these issues individually as well.
Rep Cantrell: (09:43)
All right, well, thank you, panel. Appreciate you being here. We’re gonna move along. But thank you so much. We’re gonna move to our fireside chat with no fireside, hopefully. Uh, so Kristen and Sarah? You want me to go one at a time? Okay, so it’s gonna be more of a conversation. So, however you all wanna set it up. You’re gonna be at the podium and at the table. That’s great.
Uh, I really would like a fireplace. That’d be nice today. Well, thanks, all-
Speaker 3: (10:27)
Uh, for having us. We actually have a s- a surprise. We have an extra panelist with us this morning, Brenton Strine as well. And he’s got a, a deep background in the tech sector. So, and speaking about stem today, we have a, a great, um, small group repre- with Brenton, who is currently with MailChimp and is founder of Refcode, which is a refugee coding, um, well, organization. Brenton will explain it more. And then we have Sarah Irvani who is from the Okabashi Corporation. And so she is second generation, third generation, uh, um, CEO at Okabashi. And I’m gonna let each of them give a, a better explanation of themselves and their backgrounds. And before that, I am also part of the stem community. I’m with the Center For Global Health Innovation, which was formed from Georgia Bio. Uh, we’re located down the street off of Peach Tree. And we focus on global health, global innovation, and the life sciences. So, a third of our, um, education is very foundationally stem. So, I’m gonna turn it over to Sarah first to introduce herself and give a little bit of background about Okabashi.
Sarah Irvani: (11:48)
Thank you very much. Thank you for having us here today. Um, my name is Sarah Irvani. I’m the third generation CEO of Okabashi Brands. The company was started by my grandfather in 1984. In the 1970s, he was actually the largest footwear manufacturer in the Middle East. Um, with the Iranian revolution, everything got nationalized. And when sort of thinking, you know, what do I do? Well, restart. And he came to the US and came to Buford. At that time, about 60% of shoes were being manufactured in the US, and now it’s only 1% of shoes. So, uh, a few years after starting it, my father took over the organization and in the ’90s, growing up around the dinner table, a lot of the conversation was, you know, why don’t you just shut down and move out the factory? And because of his commitment to the team, to our customers, to the quality of just being able to say, you know, we know how people are treated, we care about what we’re doing, it’s going to be a harder way. We don’t know exactly how we’ll figure it out. (laughs) But we will and we’ll keep our manufacturing here and we’ll keep our team whole and we’ll grow our team.
Sarah Irvani: (13:01)
Um, and so he sort of figured that out through a number of ways. And about five years ago, I took over the company and, um, I think that it… The company is a testament to the way that people can come to the country and really adopt all the best practices and care for it and face enormous, sort of, head winds and just persevere with values. I think within the company itself, you know, we really focus on on-the-job training and upwards development. Many of our managers who, you know, manage 50 plus people, have really started at third shift temp work and really worked their way up. So, I think that, even within our organization, really put an emphasis on, on creating opportunity for, for everyone. So, that’s a little bit more about, um, our background and what we’re doing at Okabashi.
Brenton Strine: (14:04)
Um, thank you for having me here today. Um, my name is Brenton Strine, and, uh, I am a software engineer at MailChimp. Um, and I’m also the founder and director of Refcode. And I appreciate the hesitation around, um, describing what kind of organization Refcode is, because the temptation is to call Refcode a code school or code bootcamp, and we do teach refugees to code, but, um, I would describe Refcode as an organization that introduces refugees and immigrants to the career opportunity that is software engineering. And then supports them… Hello? Okay. Supports them in a community, uh, with the community, um, and other programs to help them actually start their careers. And believe it or not, um, it’s, uh, a bigger challenge, I think, is helping them connect to those, uh, first career jobs then getting them qualified. And I will talk a little bit more about that today.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I loved being able to listen to the construction panel that was before us. And there was a lot of focus on that training aspect, which is absolutely an important side. It’s really… It’s that technical side. And, and there seemed to be a lot of focus, as well, on more second and third generation families. Um, so today we’ll focus, with this panel, a little bit more on the first generations, or the, the immigrants that are, are coming directly here. Especially those that do possess a skillset, but also those that don’t possess a skillset. ‘Cause that’s really the most simple thing that we found in our conversation to teach. It’s beyond that. So, if you think back to a few years ago, there’s a, um, a natural disaster. I believe it was in Haiti. And a company delivered tons of water to Haiti. And it was left there on the runway. So, here’s this issue. They need water. Okay, we got water. That’s our technical skillset. But how do we get that water and connect the water to the, the place that’s needed? And that is how do we connect our employees to the actual jobs and careers?
And so that’s what we wanna focus a little bit on today. And this is where I’ll, I’ll turn it back over to you, Brenton, because you’ve… You understand that. So, you wanna take over and, and talk a little bit about going beyond the technical skillset?
Brenton Strine: (16:39)
Yeah, I’d love to. Um, I think a good example to talk about would be a particular woman who, um, went through our program. Um, I actually didn’t, uh, talk to her to get permission to use her name, but, um, I’ll just say that she’s from Ethiopia. And, um, she didn’t have a, a background in technology. But she, um, came to Refcode and went through, um, our introductory class, which is more of a discernment class that, uh, gives information not just on the technicals of what a career in software engineering would look like, but also the full range of professional skills, which, as you know, there’s a lot of skills beyond just the technical. Um, uh, communication, collaboration, um, I could go on. We’ve developed an entire, uh, matrix of skills, actually. Um, and, uh, after going through our program, she was interested in finding a job, but wasn’t, uh, making much headway. And then she went on and actually, uh, s- went to school and got a master’s degree in computer science. And so now she actually outranks me in education. Um, and I’m looking up to her and asking her questions, uh, uh, technical questions about some of the stuff that I’m doing. Um, and yet still she’s unable to find work.
Brenton Strine: (17:52)
Um, and I work at MailChimp and I know that there’s huge demand for skilled, uh, software engineers. And so this is a little bit ironic that there’s huge demand and huge supply but there’s not a connection happening. It’s that water sitting on the runway. And, um, so what ended up working for this woman was, um, I was able to get her connected to and apprenticeship where she had the opportunity to gain real on, on-the-job experience. And what that did was it didn’t necessarily qualify her, but it proved that she has the qualifications because employers could look at that apprenticeship and see that she was creating real software, uh, at a real company and, most importantly, collaborating and communicating, and, and practicing all of those on-the-job skills that she had learned at Refcode because we focus on teaching those things. Um, and only after that was she able to, um, find her, uh, first job. And she’s now, I’m proud to say, uh, having… She has a compensation of, uh, over six figures.
Absolutely amazing. And uh, s- out of curiosity, is her… Was her apprenticeship where she’s employed now? Or that gave her the experience to open other doors?
Brenton Strine: (19:08)
Her apprenticeship was actually online, and it was through a program in North Carolina. Um, so it was separate and, and this was an interesting apprenticeship because it didn’t have a fixed amount of time. And so she could kinda work there for a while. It’s also interesting in that it did not pay, uh, nor will full salary, which often apprenticeships do. It just paid a stipend. And she happened to be in the correct circumstances where she was able to, uh, work at this apprenticeship on only a stipend pay for about a year to gain that experience. Um, many would not have been able to do that just because you can’t afford it.
Apprenticeships have such a deep value, uh, from so many angles. So, you think about the value to the apprentice, and that they’re emersed in a, uh, in a scenario and learning the soft skills just because you have to, because you’re there. So, learning how to work with people, learning the new vocabulary. Think about even when you travel, you see signs and you remember those signs and you learn a few n- different pieces of vocabulary. For me, it’s the menus. I always learn all the food the first… At first. Um, s- but then there’s also the value to the employer’s side as well. Because they get to test out the waters, if you will, of a potential employee. So, I… In, in my role, I work with the CDC quite a bit, and they have a lot of fellowship programs as well as internship programs. And their hiring rate is 90% in hire from those fellowships and internships. Um, I also work with the technical colleges who have the biotechnology programs. They have 100% hiring rate after completing their internships. Um, and 90% or so are going directly into the jobs where they interned. Um, and then the rest are… That’s that door opening, it’s that experience that’s necessary.
So, it’s… It is that sort of stigma of not having the experience right… Maybe not stigma, but what comes first? The chicken or the egg? The, the experience or the education? And you need both. So, how do we address this? How do we lower the anxiety level of employers to be able to give people a chance? And so we, we were thinking, you know, money talks in that. And we… There’s always tax incentives. What if there were some sort of attachment to the tax incentives to offer an apprenticeship program or an internship program? And Sarah has… At Okabashi, they… She mentioned that they really build up, um, through the ranks. So, people can come in entry level and build themselves or get on-the-job training, which is super valuable and r- closely related to apprenticeships and internships. So, how do we standardize that? And we think about the, the German apprenticeship model and it’s… We’re in the US and we can’t just take something and slap it in this country, but how do we build that awareness and adapt it to something that will work for us?
So, Sarah, can you talk a little bit about, uh, how someone comes in at you, you mentioned your third shift workers, but then are, um, trained on the job and, and kind of brought through the ranks and now you have people who are, are managing groups of 50 people or more.
Sarah Irvani: (22:46)
So, it’s interesting to understand all of the resources that there are in Georgia. You know, I’ve come into the company and sort of had various different sources of information. You know, we work in Gwinnett, so partnership Gwinnett, for example, has been incredibly helpful to learn from. Um, you also have other trade associations like Next Generation Manufacturing, which are really helpful. If I met… If you’re a proactive company, there is a lot to learn about. You’ve got the technical college system, you’ve got the credits, you’ve got the on-the-job training, you’ve got the retraining. It th- you… But I think that one really needs to be proactive in engaging the infrastructure that there is there and to be able to learn it. In terms of the standardization of the apprenticeship program, you know, quite a bit of research we’ve discovered about the registered apprenticeship programs. But in terms of what it entails, and which different organizations on the student side as well, there’s, um, not necessarily sort of the go-to resources and the clarity. And I think that the, uh, education around that, um, could perhaps reach a broader range of people than it currently is.
Sarah Irvani: (24:07)
Our on-the-job training, um, is, you know, for those specific roles. And, um, but I know that there are programs like Quick Start as well, which do a fantastic job. But it’s interesting to sort of… How do you marry up the company specific programs and then all the registered, um, apprenticeship programs and other formal ones. Ours have been more informal.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then Brenton, with your… With your work at Refcode, how is it… What’s the difficulty level in landing relationships or partnerships with companies who are willing to offer apprenticeships to, to your group of students?
Brenton Strine: (24:59)
Yeah, I, I would say there’s a, a huge amount of interest and desire in connecting with programs like Refcode. Um, I don’t have any problems, um, setting up meetings with CEOs, um, having these conversations and… There’s a lot of interest, but, um, there’s a lot of questions around what is… What does an apprenticeship actually mean? I think that it kind of, uh, in some people’s minds, has something to do with sword making in medieval Europe. Um, and it, it hasn’t quite, uh, landed as this innovative tool that it is to connect qualified people to meaningful work. And, um, I think that, uh, another big part of it is that software companies have a high desire for hiring, um, senior level software engineers, and there’s not a lot of software companies that are looking for junior level software engineers. And by the way, junior level is not an entry level position. It usually requires years of experience, speaking with junior software engineer. Um, and so, uh, hiring at an apprentice level is even below that. And, um, the business sense of it hasn’t been… I- is a little bit harder to, um, convince people of that. Um, and, and that’s where I… That’s where I struggle the most in th- in the, um, in, in selling the idea of an apprenticeship.
Sarah Irvani: (26:22)
I think that it’s quite interesting what you say about the language of junior. And, um, I probably geek out about language a bit too much, but I do think that when one thinks about a lot of the credits and a lot of the infrastructure that is there and is existing, it isn’t necessarily… There aren’t many places where it’s explicitly tied to the global talent, uh, opportunity as well. And so how do we use language and sort of to connect these groups? And I think for, you know, smaller medium-sized businesses to be able to say, okay, this does apply, and that’s what a level of a fear factor of trying a different way of engaging the talent pools is, is significantly reduced.
And Brenton, with your apprenticeship program, h- you… Do you have a curriculum developed that you’re able to, to present to the companies? Is that why they’re, they’re so eager to participate?
Brenton Strine: (27:21)
Um, so, uh, I’m [inaudible 00:27:23], we actually haven’t… Refcode does not run an apprenticeship. I participated in, in a… In some apprenticeships through MailChimp. Um, and this is something I’m passionate about. And, um, we’re developing a plan to run apprenticeships through Refcode. Um, and so I’ve been having those conversations. Um, but yes. So, I, I actually think that, for most companies, it wouldn’t be a good idea to a- to rely entirely on the company to develop their own apprenticeship because apprenticeships take care to craft, and it’s more than just an internship where you can hire somebody without a real plan and just have them around, you need to have a program that, um, teaches them the important, um, skills, um, not just the technical skills, again, but the whole range of professional skills. Um, there should be mentorships, there should be community support. So, there’s a lot to an apprenticeship. And the way that Refcode is planning on going about this, and I’ve seen this done in, uh… With other successful software engineering apprenticeships specifically is what I’m talking about, um, is, is with a, a, um, program that kind of creates the apprenticeship. Um, and then connects with the, um, company and makes it easy for them to say yes.
Brenton Strine: (28:33)
They have to allocate some resources, some mentors, some, um, funds to pay the apprentices. But beyond that, um, a lot of the, um, thought around how to craft the apprenticeship to be educational and training in a professional sense, not just an academic sense, um, can be handled by, uh, uh, an organi- an organization that knows what they’re doing.
And, and everything I’ve read about this, um, is it’s really a triangle of, of, uh, partnerships between industry, government, and community, to make sure that it works. Um, and, and what I’m really hearing now is that it’s happening in pockets. So, it can happen and those are models to go off of at this point. And then share that and ma- and build awareness that… Awareness has been a little bit of a theme today, I think. And a paradigm shift of there are so many pathways to a career, whether it is internships or e- or apprenticeships or something, they’re experiential, or if it’s a traditional college degree. But it’s not just on the person that’s traveling that path, it’s from the companies as well to accept different, um, educational pathways. Uh, it’s, it’s interesting. So, again, I work with the technical colleges, and there are such a level of technical college students who already have a bachelor’s degree, and they’re going back to get the skillset, um, the technical skillset. And then, I also work with folks who are highly, highly educated, and they… They’re unable to get their foot in the door, uh, with PhD because they don’t have experience.So, as Sarah and Brenton and I were, were talking earlier this week, we realize, it just keeps coming back to we’ve gotta get the experience as part of their educational experience. So, I’d like to open it up to questions for you all.
All right. Representative Carpenter, we’ll start with you. Oh, yeah.
Rep Kasey Carpenter: (30:59)
Thank you, uh, Chairman. Uh, just as real quick question, just trying to understand the software industry and the coding industry. Uh, do you feel like companies have, have set this bar of only looking for senior level, making sure that junior level have all this work experience, but yet they outsource the lower level stuff maybe out of the country, and there’s no pipeline to back fill all that, and there’s gonna be a huge issue moving forward? And obviously, there already is, ’cause you read online all the time that we don’t have enough software folks, we’re having to import folks in. And, and to me that appears to be what the issue is, right? Is that we’ve not done a, a good job filling that pipeline, uh, ’cause we, we’ve decided as a country to look outside the country first and then we dry the pipeline up. Is that a fair assessment?
Brenton Strine: (31:49)
Thank you for that.
Speaker 1: (00:00)
… question. Um, I’m not sure that I c- completely know the answer to that. There’s clearly a problem in the pipeline. Um, I’m not sure the exact source of it, um, but most of what you described sounds exactly spot-on to me. Um, and I think maybe my sense of it has a, you know, not somebody who’s a- a hiring person in software but as a, as a contributor, um, is that companies just don’t really know how to train the talent in a way that they can, um, trust that it’ll be worth the investment. Um, and that- that maybe part of why it gets outsourced like you said.
Speaker 2: (00:35)
It kind of comes back to the, that awareness piece again but, on- on the side of employers also, to understand what programs exist. So, we talked about dual enrollment. What employers, are they awareof the different high schools that offer dual enrollment in their industry sector? And, what a student graduating with a potential certification, a lot of the pathways have an end of pathway certification exam, but is that recognized?
Speaker 2: (01:08)
For example, the biotechnology end of pathway exam is not recognized currently by our hiring employers, um, in Georgia. There are other certifications that are recognized in Florida, North Carolina, in- in Massachusetts. But, um, so just taking a look at those end of pathway exams and making sure, are they valid, are- are they still up to date, is this the- the right certification to use? And then, making sure that industry… and seeing if they feel that it’s valid. ‘Cause, really, that’s where it comes from.
Speaker 1: (01:45)
Can I… I’d like to, um, tell a joke if I can.
Speaker 3: (01:47)
Speaker 2: (01:47)
Speaker 1: (01:51)
What- What do you call a doctor that graduated last in their class? Doc-
Speaker 3: (01:57)
Speaker 1: (01:57)
… Yeah. Um, i- if you, if you graduate and meet the qualifications of a medical doctor, you are a doctor. And, nothing like that exist for software because it’s too new of a field and if it did exist, it would become out of date within a year or two. So, um, what we, what the industry leans on instead of certifications or degrees, or diplomas, is experience. And, that creates a paradox of you need to have experience to get experience and, um, that missing rung from the ladder, people, uh, have to get in, they have to fill that in some imaginative way and then not everybody has the connections to make that happen.
Chairman Cantrell: (02:36)
All right. Representative [Kashi 00:02:37].
Representative Cheokas: (02:38)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So, what I’m hearing is- is that we need more or there is a need for more standardized, um, process in education for our STEM or vocational, um, fields. And, there was… W- W- We- We- talked about very formalized ways, so, you mentioned the German apprenticeship program, which I’m a little bit familiar with which is highly, highly standardized and, uh, has, uh, i- i- in- in Europe and in- in Germany, very… Uh- Uh- Uh, it, wh- when you have, uh, finished it, everybody knows what it means across industries. We don’t have something comparable here. So, my question is would a more standardized pathways, in not just STEM but in most vocational or trades, help us to fill the workforce gap and how will that benefit, uh, our global workforce we are trying to address here in this committee?
Speaker 2: (03:41)
I’ll step in.
Representative Kashi: (03:42)
Yeah. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (03:43)
Okay. So, um, a- again, it kinda starts with those who are hiring and being open to understanding that there’s more to consider than a four-year degree. And, once- once employers understand that and say, “We are, we understand what both… We won’t require a four-year degree, but it could be that or experience, or this combination of, uh, certifications.” Then, the educational system follows and says, “All right, well then if these, if this the standard set that’s going to be accepted by employers, how can we build this into our program?” And- And then, there’s this direct impact on the community, because think about, I mean, how many of us that are, might still be paying college loans? If we, if that can be avoided, there’s a direct impact on the economy that more money’s going to be spent because more money’s being earned.
Speaker 6: (04:48)
Uh, yes, and I- I would just add on from the employer perspective, anything that helps us more quickly understand perhaps what a global background, and non-traditional background as well, it’s just easier to move that hiring process along. And especially if you’re, you know, uh, trying to hire many people at once, I think that it definitely provides that clarity through the standardization as well.
Speaker 2: (05:17)
And there are some areas that have adopted that, especially in the mechatronics industry, for example, to help with, uh, more advanced or specialized manufacturing that have programs like Rockwell Automotive, um, that- that have that set program and they’re great ones to go off of to develop out into other sectors.
Chairman Cantrell: (05:40)
Okay. Thank you. Our last question for this time around will be done from Chairman [Chocas 00:05:48].
Chairman Cheocas: (05:48)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman Cantrell. Very interesting, very interesting, y’all’s presentation or fireside chat. Um, one of the things I’m kinda curious about is in the different industries, how engaged are y’all with either your own HR people, or other HR people, on how they can recruit and either reach out to the schools, or reach out to labor force? Uh, how engaged are y’all with- with the HR people in y’all’s specific industries on how to meet these needs?
Speaker 6: (06:29)
I think with what we’ve seen, um, in the last two years within, um, you know, availability of talent and how that… Within manufacturing specifically, that’s what I can speak best to. Um, I am, you know, on a daily basis engaged with our HR department and out of all of the peer companies that I’ve talked to, it’s equally the same. I’ve seen a number of, sort of, round tables of HR leaders within manufacturing coming together. I, our, um, partnership [Gwynedd 00:07:06] again, next gen manufacturing, they’ve all done great jobs of bringing them together, because this has become a, um, a- a really material challenge. And so, a lot of best practices are being shared, I would say considerably more than two years ago.
Speaker 1: (07:28)
Um, I’ll answer that, uh, at least in- in the software industry, it’s recruiters, not HR, and, um, any software engineer gets many unsolicited, um, contacts, phone calls, emails, LinkedIn requests on a weekly basis, if not daily, um, and it’s very annoying actually. But we’re very high in demand, that’s- that’s why. And I frequently talk to them and ask them, um, “Would you be interested in hiring some of these amazing, highly qualified people that have come through my program?” And, it always comes back to experience, which is endlessly frustrating for me, because I know how qualified they are but, um, experience is the only thing that they can look to that guarantees that, or at least they think guarantees, that there is, um, uh- uh, back qualification because there’s no certification that can prove otherwise.
Chairman Cantrell: (08:17)
Well, thank you to our panel. I appreciate your time today very much. We’re gonna move on to, um-
Speaker 2: (08:23)
Chairman Cantrell: (08:23)
… global talent in, uh, healthcare industry, so I’m gonna ask those folks, uh, leading that discussion to come at this time. And, as they’re coming, I’m gonna invite, uh, Rene, if- if you wanna introduce yourself real briefly… What microphone number are you? There you go.
Rene Diaz: (08:45)
Hi. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My apologies for, uh, being late. We had a launch of a new product line and, uh, I had to be there this morning around 7:30. And, of course, traffic coming in to the city, uh, wasn’t very favorable this morning. Um, I’m Rene Diaz, President and CEO of Diaz Foods. We’re a, um, family-owned company. Started with grocery stores in 1967 and [inaudible 00:09:06], and today we have distribution centers in New Jersey, Manassas, Virginia, and Atlanta, delivering to about 29 states, products from all over the world. Thank you.
Chairman Cantrell: (09:15)
Thanks for being here. And, uh, representative, uh, Carpenter, I think, uh, you didn’t get a chance, in case somebody doesn’t know you.
Representative Carpenter: (09:21)
Uh, Representative Carpenter, uh, District 4, which is the city of Dalton in the south end of Whitfield County. Heavi- Heavily manufactured area and a real diverse community, so this is obviously something near and dear to my heart.
Chairman Cantrell: (09:34)
Thank you sir. Uh, I had knee replacement surgery a few weeks ago and I’m going to get up take a quick walk to straighten my leg out for a few minutes. Representative Fry is gonna step in if, uh, if he thinks needed, but, uh, go ahead begin your presentation.
Andy Miller: (09:50)
Yeah, my name is, uh, Andy Miller. I’m Editor, CEO of Georgia Health News and I- I’ve been reporting on health care in this state for decades now, and I’ve never been in this kind of position where I’m on the other end of the microphone addressing legislators. It’s usually the other way around.
Chairman Chocas: (10:06)
Andy Miller: (10:07)
So, uh, forgive my awkwardness here. But, uh, this important issue, we did a serious of stories at Georgia Health News two or three years ago about the- the number of foreign born physicians in our state. And it came at a time when there was a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment going around and, uh, we found that, uh, probably 17% or so of our physicians are born in another country. And, uh, it’s, it tracks basically the national average. And, uh, we- we focused… One of the stories focused on an India born physician who was the only physician in Stewart County.
Andy Miller: (10:50)
And, uh, he said that 20 physicians had come and gone during his tenure there, but he was the only one left. And so, so it’s a, it’s a important issue in this, in the ex-, in the current climate, because COVID, as you know, has a horrific death toll and a horrific infection toll. But one thing it also is doing, uh, it’s creating workforce shortages that are growing worse even by the day. And so, we’ve got a couple panelists that are going to talk about that and some obstacles to having more foreign born clinicians, whether it’s a doctor, or nurse, or other technicians, uh, to- to bring them to Georgia.
Andy Miller: (11:37)
And, um, so, uh, Pierluigi Mancini is with the, uh, the, uh, Multicultural Development Institute and is a member of a Georgia Behavioral Health planning and advisory council. And, Doctor Gulshan Harjeeis, uh, in Clarkston with the Clarkston Community Health Center. So, uh- uh, Pierluigi, you want to start with, uh, what’s going on with workforce-
Pierluigi Mancini: (12:07)
Andy Miller: (12:07)
… these days?
Pierluigi Mancini: (12:08)
Thank you so much, Andy. Good morning everybody. Uh, my first words were gonna be th- thank you Mr. Chair, (laughs) but thank you Mr. Chair fill-in for, uh-
Speaker 2: (12:18)
Representative Kashi: (12:18)
Pierluigi Mancini: (12:19)
… for having this committee here. My name is Pierluigi Mancini, I’m a psychologist by training and trade. The last four years, I have been working nationally in dealing with the workforce, uh, development and the workforce barriers in behavioral health. Uh, so you’ll hear a lot from me, I’m very biased to the behavioral health workforce that we all need. We’ve seen all the statistics from the last, uh, 18, 20 months. 38% increase in anxiety, 47% increase in depression, suicidality. And, this effects our- our workforce in the state of Georgia and it’s something I’ve been working on in Georgia for about 20 years.
Pierluigi Mancini: (12:57)
So, I successfully had a- a multi-lingual clinic in Norcross, where we were able to serve people in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. We developed our own workforce, uh, over 40 clinicians that were bilingual, helped them achieve licensing in the state of Georgia. So, it gave us the opportunity to know that this can be done. And the exciting part about this is that we get to build it, ’cause it doesn’t exist. So, this is a foundation to build this workforce that we don’t have in behavioral health. You know, some of the numbers that I, and I wanna repeat them ’cause I think they’re in your packet, um, but there are some that are pretty significant.
Pierluigi Mancini: (13:37)
Um, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard in- in the state of Georgia, we have a million, uh, over a million foreign born individuals, uh, but we also know that about 47% of them report they’re still learning English. You know, people forget that it takes three to seven years to master a new language. So, to ask someone to wait three to seven years to talk to me about your depression or that you wanna kill yourself, it’s not realistic, right? So linguistic access becomes the biggest barrier for individuals to, uh, receive services and have that opportunity, which is the challenge, is the opportunity to have a good life.
Pierluigi Mancini: (14:16)
But if we don’t have this infrastructure, the individuals won’t have that opportunity. So, barriers are same as many for the general population, right? For behavioral health, there is cost, there is lack of insurance, uh, there are not enough providers. Uh, there are many counties in the state of Georgia that don’t have a single counselor, at any level of counselor. So there are a couple of things that I like to focus on when I talk about workforce development. It’s not just the fact that you’re hiring someone or bringing in someone that speaks another language fluently and that has the education, the training, and the experience to provide the clinical services. But you also have to, um, support that individual the same way you support all other clinicians, with bilingual supervision, with trainings about the cultural barriers and the cultural aspects that the clients are gonna be presenting.
Pierluigi Mancini: (15:15)
We, um, and- and all of it, you know, unfortunately people miss the- the- the point when they- they want to, uh, deviate from the fact that it’s a, it’s a human being, it’s a person that’s in front of you that’s having these struggles, and we’re all familiar with the struggles. We’re all familiar with the behavioral health struggles today. And behavioral health, just for clarification, is mental health and substance use disorder. You know, during COVID, we had 500% increase in alcohol sales, we’ve seen laws being changed so you can have alcohol brought to your home. You know, this… So, alcohol is- is a very important aspect of this ’cause we’re trying to medicate, because there is no where to go.
Pierluigi Mancini: (16:03)
Um, we have, uh, language lines that can maybe save lives, provide us some kind of- of emergency, uh, information, but not ongoing. And, we have interpreters. In the state of Georgia, interpreters don’t have to be certified except for the courts. Any one of us can print a business card that says we’re an interpreter and there’s no where for us to- to check on that. So, we have to make sure that- that we do have the full workforce. And when I talk about the workforce in, um, I wanna make sure that they continuum, the entire spectrum, right, from the highest levels in behavioral health, highest levels of education and training, psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinicians, all the way down to a new workforce that’s called certified peers.
Pierluigi Mancini: (16:49)
Because there are people in recovery from addiction or from mental illness who are trained to talk to other people who are in, trying to get in recovery from addiction or mental illness. And that is the fastest way to get linguistic and cultural services to the community, until we build those clinicians that need to provide the services. I think I’ll stop there, if that’s okay. And-
Andy Miller: (17:15)
Dr. Harjee, uh, talk about, um, what, uh, the im-, workforce shortages and what’s going on with COVID?
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (17:24)
So, uh, thank you very much. And, uh, Mr. Chairman and the committee, I am, um, grateful for this opportunity to present to you, but also, to time, in a timely manner, address this- this situation. The, uh, shortage of healthcare providers did not need COVID to tell us that the situation is real. When I arrived here 40 years ago, we were already talking about the shortage of physicians at that time. I entered Morehouse School of Medicine [inaudible 00:17:57] and I arrived, uh, during the Iranian embargo, I was a student in Iran. And, Morehouse was a- a part solution to address the shortage of physicians. Well, how do you address shortage of physicians and providers?
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (18:13)
You can increase class sizes. That is a possibility and we’ve done a good job. We created, uh, licenses for healthcare extenders and we’ve done a good job of that. Uh, but there are other issues that we need to talk about, is the investment that is required to create a doctor. Um, and I will talk about a few resolutions that I authored at the Medical Association of Georgia that were not received with, uh, any enthusiasm. Uh, but, the investment is significant. I have a daughter in med school right now. It takes $100,000 dollars a year, clear, to support a student in- in medical school. You’re talking about $400,000 dollars to create an MD. Uh, and that is not acceptable.
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (19:11)
Uh, one of the, uh, resolutions I authored that, uh, got zero enthusiasm was to shrink, uh, the, uh, curriculum of medical school to six years. In other words, a student comes out of med school, o- of high school and if they are committed to, uh, to be a doctor, they should be allowed to have a combined degree, a bachelor’s degree and an MD in six years, rather than having to go to college for four years and then go to med school for four years. Well, what got, what happens is the students come out sooner, uh, and they don’t have the debt of college.
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (19:53)
You don’t, uh, let me tell you, I’m 68 years old, that’s not a secret, it’s, everybody knows that. But, I spent half my life trying to be a doctor and I didn’t need to be. The experience of going to college, doing research, da da da, trying to fluff up your resume is not necessary. If you have somebody who is dedicated, wants to go to med school, we should not have to put them through all these other experiences. And- And to- to- to- to say the least, that this narrative of a shortage of physician is an old narrative and we’ve lost a lot of time. It was in 2011 I authored, among many resolutions, there were a few resolutions that I offered. One was to shrink the medical school curriculum to six years, did not go through, zero.
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (20:52)
The other was the, uh, license for an assistant physician and I think it is still valid today, from 2011 to 2021, this was a lost opportunity. We lost 10 years and we lost the opportunity of creating a new license for an assistant physician. It- It- It did not stay on the floor for more than three minutes, literally. But what happened was other states ran with the idea, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, they took the idea and they tweaked it in many different ways. They created a license for an assistant physician and it, and they are doing fine. And, what happened is many of our foreign physicians who were looking to enter into residency programs in the state of Georgia immediately left to these three states. And afterwards, other states also tweaked the idea and they created a new license for the assistant physician.
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (21:51)
And this is, let- let me say congratulations for picking up this subject today, but let us not lose the momentum. There are thousands… And I wish I could give you any numbers, I don’t know where the numbers are. There are thousands of foreign medical graduates in this country that are wanting to get in the workforce. There are so many hurdles. The, uh, process of getting certification of this exam, that exam, this exam, that exam, it costs thousands of dollars. You got somebody coming from another country, just the- the- the value of the dollar, they don’t have that kind of money in their pocket, and they have families they are supporting. Uh, to have to put somebody from a foreign country who is significantly over qualified…
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (22:45)
And- And to, not to, I- I don’t mean, uh, to- to downgrade or demeanor the, uh- uh, the expertise of a healthcare extender. Nurse practitioners and PAs are phenomenal. I could have not practiced for 30 years without them. But certainly an assistant physician or physician from a foreign country is definitely more qualified, than, uh, a nurse practitioner and PA, and has a lot more to offer to our- our country and our citizens. We are almost 2,000 physicians short in the state of Georgia. And, throughout the United States, probably 50, 60,000 physicians short. How are we gonna create that many physicians? There- There is not that revenue. And who, how many, how many, are there 60,000 people out there that want that investment of $400,000?
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (23:45)
We have to create tuition forgiveness for these students to go in. And students who are interested in going to med school, uh, look at four years of college, four years of med school, and they are going crazy, and they’re saying, uh, “I can’t do that.” And so, let’s make it, let’s- let’s create ways where it makes exciting for somebody who is looking to go to med school and make it fun for them. Okay. So, yes, we do have a significant shortage of physicians, in especially rural.
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (24:21)
And this assistant physician, the way the, uh, resolution was authored is that, um, a foreign physician comes into the picture by working with a certified, a board certified physician in rural Georgia for whatever, a couple of years, to give them the experience of healthcare in the United States so that they can learn the prescriptions, they can learn the system. Uh, and, um, in two years, be qualified either to go back and do a mini residency, uh, or they can be given a assistant physician license where they can continue to work as assistant physicians under a certified practitioner. But it is up to us to create that license. It is entirely up to us to create that license and I think it is very, very doable.
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (25:25)
And, at Clarkston Community Health Center, we have so many requests for these foreign medical graduates who want to help us, who want to see patients, and want to volunteer, but certainly because they are not certified, they cannot, they- they cannot see patients. But what we allow them to do is that they can scribe for a volunteer attending, so that they do not touch the patient. They go to, through HIPAA training, but we do not let them examine the patient, but they work with an attending physician and they scribe the notes. And it is a beautiful, uh, it- it- it- it works beautifully. It’s good for us, it’s good for the patients, it’s good for the attending who is seeing the patients, and it is great for this foreign medical graduate who’s trying to figure out how they are going to work into the workforce in the United States. But, I’m sorry I went over my time and I thank you.
Andy Miller: (26:23)
Dr. Mancini, you wanna talk more about obstacles as well, currently?
Pierluigi Mancini: (26:27)
Yes, thank you so much. And, you know, I- I’m also an immigrant. Um, you know, people forget ’cause I used to have an accent, but I, um, wanted to expand on that. I, there are many immigrants who are trained in their home countries, they have their degrees, um, they are practicing clinical work. But when they move here, they start facing all these barriers. So, and there is a precedent. In 2002, I actually got some of you guys to help me write a bill. And we wrote a bill for foreign clinicians. It died in committee because people didn’t get it, I think it was too soon.
Pierluigi Mancini: (27:10)
But what it was is, if you can validate somebody’s education, somebody’s training, somebody’s experience, which can be done, it’s not that difficult… I was proposing you give them a two year temporary license to work in a facility so they can learn the American system, not everyone follows the American system of- of healthcare and behavioral health. They can learn the terminology of behavioral health. And then, they can sit for their full license exam like everybody else, right? I think we can still do that today, so if you guys are interested, send it over.
Pierluigi Mancini: (27:46)
Um, we also have barriers wh- when- when we have, um… So, I tend to submit unsolicited proposals. Um, so I sent one to the governor and I sent one to the Department of Behavioral Health. I think it’s time for Georgia to have an office or a division of cultural and linguistic responsiveness, similar to what they did with the Division for Deaf Services. And this division will be able to navigate, how do we develop this bilingual, bi-cultural workforce? You know, there are more than 10 of, the- the- the- the top 10 foreign languages spoken in the state of Georgia, they’re huge numbers. And you’ve heard before, uh, Vietnamese, Korean, uh, Arabic, even German, I mean, there are pockets in Georgia where we have communities and they don’t have access.
Pierluigi Mancini: (28:41)
Unless you’re fluent in English, there’s no access. So I think that office of division… Uh, loan forgiveness. I think if you’re a bilingual, bi-cultural clinician or physician and you’re working in a rural area where there is no one, that maybe you should be allowed to have a break on your, um, on your debt, your $400,000 dollar… You know, for- for behavioral health, it’s not that much. But still, you know, these kids are graduating with a hundred, $120,000 in debt. Um, the, uh, Secretary of State, right, the licensing office, uh, relaxing some of those rules. Right now, if you’re a licensed clinician in Alabama, Georgia gives you represo-, reciprocity. But if you’re a licensed clinician in Florida, Georgia doesn’t. Georgia’s very difficult for reciprocity.
Pierluigi Mancini: (29:32)
So I think that relaxing some of those rules would also help us increase, and- and in this case, not just bilingual, but in general. We also have 6,000 shortage of clinicians in the state of Georgia. 246 in the country, 246,000. How are we gonna make them? There are not enough in the pipeline. You know, behavioral health, um, during COVID, it was great opportunities, right? Another, uh, besides delivering alcohol to your home, we opened telehealth across states, right? That was forbidden before. Now, we have clinicians that can see patients in other states, right? So, but that also created a huge demand. So we have clinicians that can’t see anybody ’cause they’re full, and then we have others that burned out and are leaving the profession.
Pierluigi Mancini: (30:23)
Compassion fatigue is something that is really hurting our profession right now. The last one I’ll say is the mandatory training for the cultural and linguistically appropriate services standards, the CLAS standards. There are 10 states that require mandatory training of those standards for healthcare, uh, 10 states that have pending legislations. Uh, Georgia does not mandate it. We’ve actually tried three times and it never made it out of committee either. And so, I think that’s, those are low hanging fruits. These are things we can implement in order to, uh, promote existing organizations to open the door and begin serving individuals in their service areas. That right now, in Georgia, there are 500,000 individuals with limited English proficiency that have no access to behavioral health services unless they become fluent in English. Thanks.
Andy Miller: (31:24)
Dr. Gulshan Harjee: (31:26)
Uh, one, um, other item of, uh, mention, uh, one of the resolutions I had proposed at the Medical Association of Georgia was to relax the immigration issues for foreign medical graduates, um, which again, was not met with enthusiasm. But, these are the hurdles that, um, immigrant physicians face-
Doctor Harjee: (00:00)
… this, and I think there, um, there is an opportunity for us to explore, um, you know, the, the possibility of, of bringing or encouraging some of our foreign physicians who are in the country who are looking to get into the workforce is to bring them into the, into the equation.
Mr Chairman: (00:24)
What, uh, obstacles do they specifically face? You mentioned the cost, there’ was a cost of licensing issues, correct?
Doctor Harjee: (00:32)
Exactly, the, the, the licensing is expensive. Some of these examinations cost $3500, $1000, and they got, they have to have some kind of preparatory course, um, in order to become familiar with, uh, our, our drugs, because a drugs in, in the British, British system, hae different names, drugs in Indian system have different names to what we ha- we, we call them here. Uh, Zantac is something else over there. And so, um, you know, they, they need some preparatory courses that will allow the, uh, to become familiar with test, just the test taking, um ,issues is, is a skill. They can be extremely knowledgeable uh, they are very goo clinicians, many of them are already ex- overqualified, they’ve already practiced in their countries successfully. Uh, but taking a test of a multiple choice, uh, can, can be of an issue. And so they n- the, there are funds that they need, um, to, to prepare them for these examinations.
Doctor Harjee: (01:43)
So, those are some the hurdles, and then of course, housing, when they come here, where do they stay? I mean, my house, my garage apartment was, uh, like a, a hotel suite for any point graduated, contacted me and wanted to, uh, you know, wanted to come to Clarkston, and, and have a place to stay. Uh, and a- a- you know, when I sold my house that was one thing I really miss is the garage apartment. Uh, but over my career of 30 tears, um, I have tried to empower, uh, a- whatever it is, I try to empower people who wanna come into healthcare, that is my passion. My passion is to see patients, um, and my whole life has been chasing my dream to become a physician, and, um, ex- pardon me for being so emotional today.
Doctor Harjee: (02:37)
Uh, coming from a village, uh, in Tanzania, to be addressing, um, a- an esteemed, uh, group of people here on, uh, most powerful place in the State of Georgia is, is an honor for me, and I wanna thank this country for the opportunity of a greater education I received. I came to this country with six months to becoming stateless. And, uh, um, had no documents to prove that I had already started med school in Iran, and if it was not for Doctor Louis [Sullivan 00:03:17] who believed me, and believed that what I was telling him was true, that he asked me to go take step one, I passed it, and he brought me into the second year of Morehouse School of Medicine, it was a sheer stroke of luck that, that I entered by attrition in the second year. My plan B was to be a flight attendant, because I could mix a few drinks, I spoke six languages, and I could do CPR. And I came real close to signing up with Eastern Airline.
Doctor Harjee: (03:49)
But, um, fate had me to continue to chase my dream, and, uh, uh, when I interviewed with Doctor Sullivan, he said, “Now, you know what our mission is, our mission is to serve the underserved.” And I promised him, and that’s what I did. Clarkston Community Health Center is my, my promise to Doctor Sullivan. Uh, I sold my practice prematurely so that I could do this and get back to society, and be able to say than you to this great nation. And I’m thinking that when you bring these foreign physicians into this country that they will turn out to be very loyal. They will deliver, they will serve, and they will do it with great passion and love, and if you go into rural areas, check out and see, look at the names of the people that are serving in rural areas, and you will see who they are. Because nobody wants to go to rural, but these are the people who, due to whatever, their immigration status, or whatever it is, they will set up shop, they will do whatever it is, it takes to serve, and that’s what they are here for, and that’s what I’m here for. This is my seventh year pro bono at the Clarkston Community Health Center.
Mr Chairman: (05:08)
Doctor Harjee: (05:09)
Mr Chairman: (05:09)
Um, ay- uh, we’re running short on tie, but thank you so much Doctor Harjee, Doctor [Mancini 00:05:15], um, I’m very interested in, you, you mention, I may have missed it when I was out in the hallway, but mentioned several times resolutions, was that, was that to the Georgia General Assembly?
Doctor Harjee: (05:26)
That’s correct, sir.
Mr Chairman: (05:27)
Could [crosstalk 00:05:28]-
Doctor Harjee: (05:28)
It was not to the Georgia Assembly, my, pardon me. It was to the Medical Association of Georgia.
Mr Chairman: (05:32)
Medical Association. Okay. Be interested, would you be able to get that information to Miss Morgan, and, and similarly, Doctor Mancini, the, the, some of the things that you know mentioned, could you get that to… So that we could follow up in some of that. We do have one question, uh, Representative Carpenter.
Representative Carpenter: (05:49)
Thank you very much Chairman, uh, Doctor Harjee, this is a quick question, is there a possibility um, I know the, the medical profession is changing obviously, and hospitals are becoming bigger, and bigger, and Doctors becoming employees of hospitals, would it be n I’m- a possibility for hospitals to invest in this town, p- give ’em that seed money with the idea that on the backside, you know, I get a… Almost like a baseball scenario where you got single [inaudible 00:06:17] “I’m gonna finance you through the farm system, and then I get a couple of years, uh, you know, little bit cheaper on the front side, and then, you, you know, after two or three years, you can sign the contract or go elsewhere,” type scenario. Is that a, is that a pro- um, a program that exists, or something that could be developed?
Doctor Harjee: (06:32)
Yes, sir. And thank you know for bringing that up. I sat on the board of a major hospital, uh, in the city of Atlanta for 18 years, and, uh, I know that that does happen, but it is mostly focused for nursing candidates. Um, there is a certain amount of investment that goes into that, you need in-house attorneys, and legal counsel, uh, to help process, uh, the immigration status for, uh, different, um, physicians. But I, I feel very confident that that can happen in hospital, in hospital situa- they have large, they have bigger pockets, and they can do that. And certainly if they invested, say, maybe 50000 per, per candidate, that’s nothing for, for a hospital. So, yes, that its completely possible, and I think, uh, that would be something that has to happen from the powerful people over here.
Mr Chairman: (07:35)
(laughs). Well, thank you for your time today, and we’ll move onto our next presentation at this time.
Doctor Mancini: (07:43)
Thank you very much.
Doctor Harjee: (07:43)
Mr Chairman: (07:43)
Thank you know very much. Your stories were very inspirational.
Mr Chairman: (07:48)
Post secondary ac- education and building the global talent pa- pipeline. Our presenters would make their way to the front please.
Mr Chairman: (08:13)
So, are you gonna [crosstalk 00:08:14] moderate this, Darlene?
Uh, we are actually gonna have them take it away.
Doctor Harjee: (08:19)
They will each, um, share remarks, one after the other, uh, thank you.
Doctor Harjee: (08:25)
All right. The floor’s yours.
Paedia Mixon: (08:33)
Um, hello everyone, I, I actually met this committee at, at the, uh, the first meeting of, um, the Global Talent Committee in, in Clarkston. My name is Paedia Mixon, I am the CEO of New American Pathways. Um, I originally spoke to you, sort of terms and, and, and issue setting, but I’m presenting in a different capacity today. ‘Cause prior to my role as, um, CEO, I was, uh, I managed a refugee education programs for seven years. Um, both, uh, adult education, um, and, uh, K-12, after school programs for refugees, and parent support. Um, and, uh, I, one job that I did hold was I was a vocational counselor for a program that helped, um, refugee find advanced English training, and enroll successfully in technical college. And so, um, I’m gonna just talk a little bit about that experience, and some of the barriers that I think maybe, it may be possible to address, um, about getting refugees into technical colleges. ‘Cause I think we’ve talked a lot today about all of the great resources that technical colleges can provide. So, do we wanna just go into it, or do introductions?
Paedia Mixon: (09:52)
Paedia Mixon: (09:53)
Okay, we’ll just, well just go into it. Um, ’cause I know, I know it’s been a, kind of a long day.
Paedia Mixon: (09:59)
Um, so my, my job was to work with refugees to assess English, find English, uh, classes, um, that would help people get ready, because even in, even folks who came who were proficient in English, often would go and take placement tests I schools, and, and, and not meet the qualifications. So having those transitional English classes, and then navigating the process of choosing what I’m gonna study, how to do an application, what is financial aid, all, all of those things. And, and through that experience, um, I kind of found that everybody had individual barriers, my job was to go over, under, around, through, bust down barriers at an individual level. But there were barriers that you saw over, and over again. And so that’s what I wanted indre- address.
Paedia Mixon: (10:53)
Um, the first thing is I feel like we covered a lot today about the lack of information about the process, and one of the first things that we had to do in our program was just sit down and talk about the education system in the United States. And what was a technical college, what was a community college, what is the difference between a college, and university. How did, uh, you know, how did Americans, uh, navigate these systems, and what I- what, what does a diploma mean, what does a certificate mean, what is an associate’s degree mean in terns of, of getting a job. The, this kind of informa- and then what is the process that you go through. And so getting that information on what was possible and what was to there was a major challenge, um, it, it’s completely different system than a lot of the countries that our, or clients came from, and so that was a big part of what we had to do. And, and having more centralized and better ways to get the information to people, and being able to get information that’s, that’s linguistically appropriate it, it could be extremely helpful, and was a big part of my job.
Paedia Mixon: (12:02)
Second was we found that, while there were lots of English programs available in communities, you could graduate the highest level of what was available, and not be able to get into, um, the programs at, at, at k- at technical colleges, or, um, also even adult education programs like GED. You know, I had a client that went through the circular process over and over of finishing the highest, at the same school, finishing the highest level that ESL provided, going to the GED program, taking the placement test, scoring low because their math, and, and, and you know, writing abilities weren’t great, and be referred back to that same ESL program that they’d already graduated out of. Two or three times that kinda circular, you know, referral, because there was a gap between what was being provided in community ESL, and the skills that were needed to get into a GED program.
Paedia Mixon: (13:01)
That same issue is there to go into technical programs. So, I think on the first day we heard from, uh, Georgia Piedmont Technical College about bridge programs, and industry specific ESL, and, um, these were one of the, one of the services we eventually provided in our program, was a transitional ESL class to get people from, you know, where you are when you get out of level six ESL, and where you know need to be to get into technical school or college.
Paedia Mixon: (13:29)
Um, and finally, uh, there were just enrollment challenges around documentation, and when I say that I don’t mean immigration documentation, I mean documentation of your prior education. What was available, and what could be considered by the schools that you were enrolling in. So a refugee fleeing a war torn country, I, I ask people all the time to imagine you’re, you’re fleeing for your life, and how many people wold stop and grab their diploma? Um, probably not very many, um, and so, and then you’re a country where you are an enemy, you are considered the enemy of the state, or where a was has destroyed a lot of the infrastructure, how do you ever get proof? But what can you know prove? Can you prove a long experience of working in the field, and can that be taken in consideration? You know, what are the kinds of things that we can consider to get somebody into a technical program so they can get trained very quickly, and are there any alternatives? If there are not, how can we better connect our immigrant refugee population with GED programs, and, and, and have success?
Paedia Mixon: (14:39)
Um, and then finally, for, for the refugee population, and, um, for special immigrant visa holders in particular, one of the issues was we would have people who hadn’t brought a lot of relevant skills and experience, um, maybe even had worked with the US government overseas, came into our office, ready to enroll in school with a high level of English, and we had to wait six, seven months to establish residency. Um, because refugees, you know, they have to be in Georgia 12 consecutive months to establish refugees, and, and I know that is the rule for everyone, but refugees, um, the average amount of time they spend in a camp is 10 years. So, spending a decade as a stateless person, a resident of nowhere, um, going through the security screening process for the US government to come here takes two years. Um, so there is already a substantial wait.
Paedia Mixon: (15:46)
And so some states, there, there are three states in, in the past couple of years have been waiving out-of-state tuition for refugees and SIVs, um, for that first year in the country so they can get into training programs very, very quickly, and use their skills very quickly. Um, I think that could be incredibly helpful, because I did have the experience often where people would come in ready to go to school, and I would have to say come back in six, seven, eight months down the road. Once you get into school, English is your second language, you test into developmental studies, that can take three to six months. So you’re talking a year and a half, almost two years before you actually get into the technical program.
Paedia Mixon: (16:27)
Um, and I think we have a wonderful opportunity right now, because we have a large group of people who, uh, are coming from Afghanistan into Georgia, who, um, have English language ability, and many who have experience working with US companies and the US military who could get certified very quickly, we have an opportunity. And so, um, those are the three things really that I saw over, and over again. There, there, you know, lots of challenges, but really it’s about how do we get the information about how the process works, and help people navigate through the process? How do we make sure that, um, our English language programs are preparing people to enter adult education? And then how do we get people in quickly so we fill these jobs as quickly as possible? And how do we really consider all of the skills and experience for people who are coming out of an environment where maybe that high school diploma isn’t so easy to get even you’ve earned it?
Paedia Mixon: (17:33)
And that’s, uh, my presentation. So, I’m gonna pass it on.
Doctor Harjee: (17:36)
Uh, if I could ask a question quickly before we move on. Uh, I felt like you said one thing, and then you kinda said another. So, let me make sure, I probably missed something on residency requirements.
Paedia Mixon: (17:49)
Doctor Harjee: (17:49)
I thought I heard you say it’d be nice if they could get residency quicker, so they could get into school, and then immediately followed that with what I thought I heard you say how long it takes before they’re ready to go to school, that it takes several years. What percentage of refugees would be ready to go to secondary education within the first year of them being here?
Paedia Mixon: (18:13)
So, it’s, there are different levels of experience that people bring in. So, when somebody comes in English, English proficient, and with previous experience in the field, those individuals are ready to go very quickly, um, and can enroll. That’s a portion-
Doctor Harjee: (18:29)
Paedia Mixon: (18:29)
… of the population. There are other folks that are gonna come in and getting that English language is gonna take time, and for those folks, that 12 months is not really gonna be an issue.
Doctor Harjee: (18:39)
Paedia Mixon: (18:40)
Because it’ll take longer than that to get your English level proficient. So, it’s about addressing the needs of two different groups of people.
Doctor Harjee: (18:46)
Gotcha. Thank you for that clarification. Yes, mam.
Gigi Pedraza: (18:53)
Good morning, good afternoon everyone. Uh, Chairman, committee, thank you for having us. My name Gigi Pedraza, my real name is [Hilda Rosa 00:18:59] [inaudible 00:19:00]. Uh, but you can call me Gigi Pedraza, I’m the Executive Director of the Latino Community from Georgia. We’re a non-profit organization, are a non profit organization, latino led, immigrant led, working to support immigrants, community members, English learners like me, um, as well as organizations [inaudible 00:19:20]. We believe everyone should participate in democracy, by volunteering, by voting, by supporting each other, um, by keeping elected officials accountable, uh, building each other, so that we are more effective and efficient in the work that we do, and also facilitating economic opportunity.
Gigi Pedraza: (19:36)
I am, I think, part of the community we are discussing today. When I first came to Georgia 19 years ago, I had a Master’s degree in tourism planning and development. I had two executive certifications, a Bachelor’s degree in hospitality, and the only job I could get was at the [inaudible 00:19:53] getting 5.75 an hour. Um, I left because the hours were horrible, and I worked as a, in the kitchen for a caterer, for a couple of years, peeling shrimp, and making eggs for breakfast. I hate, uh, scrambled eggs, my husband knows it. Uh, and I peeled shrimp because it was cheaper to pay me than to purchase peeled and clean shrimp.
Gigi Pedraza: (20:18)
I am the Executive Director because I created myself down to the organization, and because I picked the r- the right man, I always say, because he had papers. And he has a good job, and I can afford to do this, this work. And my husband, you know, feeds, feeds my kids. Um, one of the reasons why, uh, I am here today is because I want to share with you a few facts. One is that, and these are all from the trade commission in Georgia, also from Chris Clark, CEO and President of the Georgia, uh, Chamber of Commerce.
Gigi Pedraza: (20:50)
So, we know a few things, we know that of course, Georgia is the tenth largest state in exports. Actually outranks the entire nation in the percentage of exports. We also know that 60% of the jobs in the future will require full secondary education. We also know that 20000 people died because of COVID in Georgia, and we know that there is gr- there are great challenges, uh, to get jobs. So, my intention today is to see how we could capitalize on what we already have. Folks like me to be, e- continue to contribute in Georgia.
Gigi Pedraza: (21:26)
And so already we know that some of the top trade partners in Georgia are China, Mexico, Germany, Japan, Korea. At the same time, our school have the eighth largest percentage of individuals and children, that speak language other than English. So, you can see a match. Paedia mentioned about English, uh, as a second language, it means learning English. Do you all know that last year 2020, only 9% of all the students involved on ESOL graduated, exceeded the program, we don’t know why. Because there is lack of accountability on that program. A multicultural workforce means, yes, people that speak great English. And excuse me if I s- confuse, you know, and I say chicken or kitchen, because I, 19 years later, I’m still learning. Um, but so that is one of the, the opportunities. [inaudible 00:22:21] has already five hundred and fi- 550 international companies based there. I want to believe that it has something to do with [inaudible 00:22:30] also having over 100 languages spoken in the county. And some connection with that workforce.
Gigi Pedraza: (22:37)
Um, we also know by Chris Clark, that it is estimated that up to 25% of the workforce may be retiring in the next 12 to 24 months. Um, so these are some of the things that I wanted to bring with you. I wanted to, uh, share a few ideas. One is we know that the singe- the single be- most predictor, or better predictor for educational success is parental engagement, right. And so what happens when, you know, you have between 127000, and 144000 students that speak languages other than English ready to be part of these global international trade economy? Uh, they want to study, right? We come here because we want to be better, because we want to give education to our, to our children. We want them to have opportunities. What happens if the parents don’t speak the language, don’t understand what to do?
Gigi Pedraza: (23:33)
So, I do think a language access policy at the state level will do, will create good opportunities, and it’ll also be a tool for accountability, and responsibility and partnership between parents like me, and administrators, educators, staff, teachers. Um, I also believe, um, that expanding access to scholarships, and in-state tuition, and financial aid for all Georgia students in K-12 is extremely important, it makes total sense, it’s great fiscal policy. We already invest over 500 million dollars every year in these students. Why not capitalize on that investment, and ensure that they are ready to fill in these vacancies, at whatever level they want? If they wanna go to technical school, if they want to be professionals, if they wanna pursue graduation, or, you know, graduate, graduate degrees, or academic degrees, that’s great, let them decide. Our job is to make sure that we facilitate access and opportunities.
Gigi Pedraza: (24:32)
Um, something else is accountability, like I mentioned, for the ESOL programs. Um, and so those are some of the, um, what I wanted to share with you, um, parental success, poverty remains the biggest obstacle to higher education. And the last one, um, [inaudible 00:24:50] ensure access to all STEAM, STEM and gifted programs. In Georgia, stud- there’s 11.6% students that are part of these gisted- gifted programs, only 1.2% come from ESOL programs. There is absolutely no correlation between speaking more than la- one language, and not being smart. In fact I had to advocate for my own daughter in my own public school to make sure she’s not removed. She was removed from the gifted math program. Um, it was her and another, uh-
Mr Chairman: (25:28)
Gigi Pedraza: (25:28)
… student. So, those are four recommendations. Thank you so much.
Jaime Rangel: (25:37)
Um, are there any questions, Chairman, from anyone?
Jaime Rangel: (25:42)
Uh, well thank you, good morning, um, it’s great to be with y’all, um, again for the last day of this, um, this hearing. Um, my name’s Jaime Rangel. I’m the Georgia State immigration Manager for FWD.us. We are a national bipartisan organization that focuses on fixing issues in our broken immigration and criminal justice system. Specifically here in Georgia, we have an office that’s solely dedicated in bringing brid- in building bridges between communities and lawmakers, to fix tissues within or broken immigration system both at the federal and the state level.
Jaime Rangel: (26:11)
Um, I’m here to talk to you know about an issue we’ve heard already at every single hearing which is state tuition for DACA recipients. You heard my personal story when I, how I got here, and my first hearing. We went to rural Georgia, in my neck of the woods, [inaudible 00:26:28] state college, and we heard from [inaudible 00:26:31] of the business leaders in that rural community how tuition equity is extremely important. And, um, in reality is you heard it throughout this whole process, this whole there da- um, three hearings that we have a labor shortage.
Jaime Rangel: (26:44)
Uh, we are the number one state in which to do business, but in order to do that we have to be competitive. We have to think outside the box, and pass policies that will ensure the next generation of Georgians are going to our educational systems to fill those jobs, and fill those labor shortages. Um, and tuition equity is, I think it’s an answer for that. I wanna come- commend Representative Kasey Carpenter, who introduced bipartisan legislation HB-120 that will allow DACA recipients an opportunity ray- to pay, um, tuition, uh, in-state tuition, um, at our, at, at our mighty fine institutions.
Jaime Rangel: (27:16)
We got some of the best institutions in the whole country, and I would say even the world. But unfortunately we have individuals like myself who grew up in this country, we know no other country, this is our state, this is our home, and we can’t a- get those, we can get that higher education, and I wanna be perfectly clear to these members of the committee that there’s a lot of false information out there. We are not asking to pay a lower rate than any Georgia US citizen. In fact the proposed legislation that Mr car- [inaudible 00:27:45] Representative Carpenter introduced does not do that. We’re just asking for a fighting chance to pay in-state tuition in the only state we know, we grew up with.
Jaime Rangel: (27:55)
And I actually wanna share some facts about a new report that’s coming out tomorrow that, um, I’ll be happy to share with this committee. But 21 states have already extended in-state tuition across the country. Texas, uh, legislation, and Florida’s actually more one than the proposed legislation that representative Carpenter has. It’s both a Republican and democratic issue, um, an issue that lawmakers have come together to solve. Um, right now, currently Dreamers, DACA recipients contribute 1.3 billion in spending power to Georgia’s economy each year, and nearly 100 million in state and local taxes. If tuition equity was to pass, Dreamers graduating from technical colleges would pay back the state’s investment within 10 years, and individuals earning a Bachelor’s degree would pay it back within 16 years, via per- via better paid jobs, higher tax contributions, and higher earning power.
Jaime Rangel: (28:44)
And also our report indicates that in-state tuition from, uh, for DACA recipients and Dreamers could add as much as 10 million to the economy each year. I just wanted to share those facts that, Mr Chairman, um, I just wanted to also sh- also share that right now there’s 680, 40000, DACA recipients nationwide 400000 of those are parents of US citizens, including me, I have a 19 month-old, um, who I love, and who drives me crazy every day. Um, I just want y’all to know that I may be here representing FWD.us, and you know, and their immigration portfolio, but I’m representing my family. I’m representing, uh, the future of my kid. I wanna be a good example for him. I wanna get that higher education degree, and show them that it’s possible. Whether he wants to go to technical school, start his own con- construction firm, or he wants to go to Georgia Tech, or UGA, uh, and do great things in our state, and I wanna set that example.
Jaime Rangel: (29:41)
Um, I look forward to working with every single member of this committee, um, as we, uh, get closer to session do- and during the session. I’m here to be a resource, more than anything, and answer any questions you may have, and I thank you know. And I also wanna commend all the great work you have done. Really truly, this is, this is awesome. Um, never have I, you know, this is, this is… We’re heading in the right direction. Were the number one state in which to do business, and I promise you, with conversations like thee, we’re gonna be number one state in the whole world to do business. So, thank you so much, Mr Chairman, members of the committee, may God bless you, and I guess, again, I’m, I’m here to be a resource and answer any questions you may nave.
Thank you, Jaime. Uh, any questions from any of the committee members? Uh, Renee?
It’s more of a, a statement Mr Chairman, If that’s all right. Actually two, if that’s okay. Jaime, to your point about the DACA and he in-state tuition, Mr Chairman, this is something that, um, before DACA actually became a word, I would imagine, it was 1998, or 1999, I was called by the HAC, by, uh, a writer, who was writing an article on in-state tuition. And, uh, he insisted on converting, changing my words, to that what I wanted was to pay to allow illegal, illegal folks education. I said, “No, I wanted to create a educated workforce.” [inaudible 00:31:07], but this has been going on since 1998, 1999, that’s the first one.
The second one is when you mentioned, and I didn’t think about that until you brought it up, Kasey, right? Ka- Is that-
Paedia Mixon: (31:16)
Katy, I’m sorry. Um, you know, when you mentioned how refugees are…
Speaker 1: (00:03)
When you mentioned that, I didn’t think about that until you brought it up. Kasey, right? Hey? Is that right?
Speaker 2: (00:07)
Speaker 1: (00:08)
Katie, I’m sorry. Um, you know, when you mentioned how refugees or people fleeing their countries, don’t forget their, their documents. Well, it reminded me how I left [inaudible 00:00:18], a refugee as well. And 15… 53 years ago and… 53 years, three months ago, um, and I’ve been here almost seven years, so that gives you my age. Um, I was playing across the street with a little firetruck. And, uh, armed, uh, police officers came to my, to my house across the street. I didn’t know why, and my mother yelled out my name, “Come, run.”. And the little boy next to me said, “Leave- leave your toys. You’re leaving to America.” I had no idea where America was.
Speaker 1: (00:48)
My point is, I walked in, we were given 15 minutes to leave our home. So, we left everything behind. So, right until I was 18, I had no country, no state. My passport was voided. And I don’t remember what it was, but I had no birth certificate because it was left behind. And I don’t recall why my mother needed it, but we had to go through the Catholic church to call and get that documentation. And I don’t recall what it was for, but I couldn’t… whether it was for school, or because I was too young, but my mom had to go through it.
Speaker 1: (01:21)
But to your point, you don’t think about a birth certificate when, when you’re fleeing a country. And that’s all I wanted to share.
Speaker 3: (01:28)
Good points. Good points. Any other questions or comments from the community members? Yes?
Just a quick com- comment. Um, I… As an, uh, as a immigrant myself, and working with immigrants and refugees, uh, what Gigi just mentioned about, like, uh, parental education is so vital, um, because I considered myself kind of learned and had seen the world. But still, I struggle with my two, um, high school students and the school system. And, uh, um, now they are getting into junior and senior and going to college, college preparation. What is out there? It’s so hard for me to navigate and I cannot imagine if, if… With, uh, you know, language, um, uh, obsta- … Being a language, being an obstacle would be so, um, yeah. Thank you for bringing that up.
Speaker 5: (02:29)
Thank you. Um, Sushma. I, I want to add a couple points of information. I think Chairman Choka asked around uh, about scholarships and Pell grants. So, we know that uh, 60% for example of all Gwinnett College uh, student, this is statistic, it’s for English learners that are Hispanic, actually has, have Pell grants. Uh, because it’s easier to access. It’s a federal grant. There are some language access.
Speaker 5: (02:54)
However, only 10% have a Zamular grant, and often times, [inaudible 00:02:59] And often times, that is precisely because of language access. It’s extremely complex for a parent and for a student and folks like me, for example, that, I, I didn’t go to school here. I don’t understand if I don’t get in language necessarily the technicalities to access uh, those scholarships and, and, and the situation. So I just wanted to make that point, thank you.
All right, anyone else? Okay. Thank you very much. Very helpful information today. So, Darlene and Daniela, we’ll get you guys close us out.
Daniela Perry: (03:31)
I’ll make a microphone adjustment here. Um, good morning everyone. Um, my name is Daniela Perry, I’m the vice president of the Georgia Chamber Foundation, and I’m so excited to be here today to kind of, close this out and really appreciate y’alls um, efforts over the last few months to consider this issue, and your time. Um, I know you all have numerous commitments.
Daniela Perry: (04:06)
So, I hope at this point you’ll expect a few numbers from me. Um, kind of, just an overview of where the economy is at this point. Um, over 300, three, 3,000 active job postings in the state of Georgia, around 180, 200,000 Georgians are currently unemployed. That’s as of August 2021, which is the most available data.
Daniela Perry: (04:27)
You’ll see that our labor force participation rate has gone up since this time last year, which is great news. Um, certainly though 61, 62% is not exactly where we’d like to be in terms of the number of individuals um, actively contributing in the workforce.
Daniela Perry: (04:45)
The Georgia Department of Labor also recently did a survey, and I think I shared this at our September meeting. But, I’m wanting to highlight, kind of, the number one reason that people said they weren’t returning to work, and why the individuals employers weren’t hiring applicants. And it’s the fact that they can’t find positions that I’m qualified for, and there’s a lack of experience. So again, we’re seeing this mismatch where you have individuals that say, “I have skills, there’s nothing available for me.” And then employers saying, “Well, you don’t have the skills that I need to do.” So, I know we’ve heard a lot about this skills mismatch, credentials streamlining. But just want to highlight that this is something that’s ongoing as we see our workforce shortages across the state.
Daniela Perry: (05:32)
So, I know we’ve heard a lot about higher education and I’m gonna talk about a little bit more today, because we certainly see it as a vital component of our long term workforce strategy. So on average, the state of Georgia spends um, over 121, hundred thousand dollars on every student and that’s from K-12 through … That’s from kindergarten through their twelfth grade year. Um, this is just the state and local FTE. So this isn’t incorporating any federal dollars that are also, um, brought down to the state to help with the costs of educating our kids in the K-12 system.
Daniela Perry: (06:06)
So, that’s a lot of money for uh, every individual student and of course, that doesn’t account for any kind of additional services or things like that. That’s just the, the basic um, state funding for students. We’ve also talked a lot about higher education, in terms of the fact that we, you don’t need a credential or you don’t need a four year degree for every um, job that’s available, and to earn a really great living.
Daniela Perry: (06:30)
And that’s true. It certainly is. And there’s always exceptions kind of, to the rule in terms of what your earnings are, based on your education level. However, it is a fact that if you have some kind of certification or credential, you will earn more. Um, that could mean a certificate, can be an associates degree, bachelors, masters, you can see all the numbers. But, earning a degree does increase your earnings.
Daniela Perry: (06:55)
So, when we’re thinking about providing a higher quality of life, upward mobility for individuals, so they can continue to grow in their communities, contribute more towards state’s tack base, tax base, this is an important component um, because we know it does affect what they’re able to earn.
Daniela Perry: (07:10)
This is some data from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. They have some really cool dashboards if you haven’t been able to play around on them. Um, and I know we’ve also included some additional information in your folders um, about the kind of, where your community ranks on this. But for the class of 2018, we looked at where did these kids go? Did they enroll in college? You know, what happened? And you’ll see that about 61% of graduates enrolled in higher education, either in the state of Georgia, or outside the state of Georgia.
Daniela Perry: (07:50)
After two years, you can see that that number has decreased to around 54%. Um, so, about seven, eight different points of folks. Um, you can also see that we have almost 20% of those graduates are working without a credential, without enrollment. They’ve just completely stopped, and we have 17% of those graduates that we have no idea what they’re actually doing on a day to day basis. Not comforting.
Daniela Perry: (08:17)
So, um, look at class of 2016, which we have a more complete picture, because more data is available. They’ve been out of um, high school for a little bit longer. And I really want to highlight, you know, the fact that the 63% and the 61% is pretty similar. Um, but you’ll see at this point, only about 24-25% of graduates are still enrolled in post secondary. 27% at this point are working without a credential, or enrollment, and only about 18% have actually completed their post secondary path, whatever that may have been when they enrolled. Only 18%, and now we’re up to 25% of those kids we have no idea what they’re doing.
Daniela Perry: (09:00)
So, I, I really … We share this information because it’s something that’s incredibly important, if we’re thinking about the fact that we need kids to have some kind of certification credential. We need some kind of tool for employers to know, this is what you’ve learned, this is where you are in your stage. So, if we have individuals that are going, and they’re getting a year of education here, a year of education there, they’re spending time, they’re investing money. They’re not earning anything at the end of the day. So, they don’t have the credentials to say, “Okay, let me get into a better job here.” They’re continuing to spend more and more money on tuition and they don’t have anything to show for it.
Daniela Perry: (09:42)
So, not helpful for the Georgians that are going through this. And certainly not helpful for employers, because we need those certifications and tools. It doesn’t help if you’ve got three and half years of college. We need that four year degree.
Daniela Perry: (09:57)
Affordability is a key reason why students do not enroll, persist, progress and complete at higher education credential. We know that’s a fact. And uh, we work with some partners at Georgia State University as well. They’ve been real pioneers in this area. But, there’s less than a 30% chance that any kid that stops out, will ever go back to higher education and that degree. That’s not a percentage that I like. Um, so you’re seeing that once kids do stop, there’s this huge barrier for them to return to those post secondaries. It’s not something that you can kind of, start and stop. It is a huge hurdle, mentally and financially to do that.
Daniela Perry: (10:40)
And then of course, the university system um, had some recent research that came up and just showed the huge impact in lifetime earnings and what this means to the state’s economy too. Um, 59 billion dollars is a lot of money, and our state certainly benefits from it.
Daniela Perry: (10:57)
So, I know we’ve heard a lot about in state tuition for DACA recipients, um, and there’s good reasons why. Of course, if affordability is a key concern, being able to create parody um, for students that have spent so much time in our K-12 education system, that 121 thousand dollars that the state has invested through their K-12 career. You know, the state could you know, get some return on their investment eventually if these individuals are able to complete a degree, contribute to the workforce, buy a home in their community, and create a high quality of life for themselves and for their families.
Daniela Perry: (11:33)
The other thing I wanted to mention is these last mile completion grants, and as I mentioned the Georgia State University has been a real pioneer in this area, with their Panther Grant. Um, it’s something that they found … They had an incredibly high number of students that were stopping out, that were attending class regularly, had good grades, no disciplinary issues and they were stopping out due to around 900 dollars or less. Nine hundred dollars was preventing them from completing a college degree, having a credential and continuing their life.
Daniela Perry: (12:10)
And again, you saw that these kids aren’t going back to Georgia State. So, Georgia State’s also at this point losing money because they aren’t able to keep these kids enrolled in college. Not good for the students, not good for Georgia State and not good for um, the state of Georgia as a whole. So certainly, they created this program, and it’s funded privately at this point. Um, but they give kids that are in their junior or senior year of high s-, of college um, and meet all of those qualifications. They’re on track to graduate, doing great, and they provide them a grant of 900 dollars or less. And they have had incredible success, um, in graduating these students. I think like, 90% of them actually do graduate.
Daniela Perry: (12:55)
Um, and we can certainly follow up with additional resources there. But, the Technical College System of Georgia also has created a program through their foundation um, to do the same thing, and their awards are about 500 dollars or less. So, I really want you know, to just support the growth of these completion grants because we know there are opportunities where you hit a gap. But if we’re able to keep these kids, and help propel them with a very small amount of money, we certainly think it’s an opportunity to continue future growth.
Daniela Perry: (13:25)
So, those I think are all of my slides. But I’m happy to take questions, or turn it over to Darlene.
Speaker 6: (13:34)
I don’t see any questions, Daniela.
Daniela Perry: (13:35)
Speaker 6: (13:36)
So, thank you.
Daniela Perry: (13:36)
Thank you. All right. So, we’re in the final stretch. I’m gonna try to keep it short. Um, this is the wrap up portion (laughs) um, global talent, the talent has arrived. We know that. We know Georgia has a deep pool of global talent that’s really the envy of the south. Many more people here who can contribute to our economy um, and we know that we have businesses who need them. Workforce shortages, evolving technologies, and it’s a perfect time to maximize the talent we have to meet the business needs that we have, and not only that, to really help all Georgians, however they got here, uh, thrive.
We know the problem is brain waste. Georgia loses 960 million in forgone, forgone earnings and 700 million in lost tax revenue each year, because we have foreign born Georgians in low uh, low skilled job, lower skilled jobs than they’re able to handle. And the task is HR 11, and so we, I’m really thankful to everybody here. Uh, task number one and two is completed I would say. Uh, we have heard uh, about the areas of need for Georgia businesses across all sectors. Uh, we’ve heard about solutions to maximize global talent in these different areas, and the next step is for you all to develop recommendations to strengthen Georgia’s economy by enabling foreign born Georgians to contribute to the fullest extent possible.
So, the next three slides, I just want to hit some of the um, recommendations from each of these categories that we’ve highlighted, or the different panels have highlighted.
Speaker 9: (15:26)
Darlene, can I interrupt?
Speaker 9: (15:28)
And ask a question about your second slide?
Speaker 9: (15:31)
You know, we’ve talked a lot about in state tuition and helping foreign born Georgians get a college degree. But then we see that 20% that have the college degree, are either unemployed or employed at a low wage job.
Speaker 9: (15:47)
Help me with that.
Well so, you know, I think throughout these days, we’ve, we’ve had two different categories I think that have come out. And some are kids who have grown up in Georgia and are trying to enter, you know, trying to get a college education and having some troubles. We also have people who are coming here from other countries, that already have these skills.
Speaker 9: (16:12)
Oh, I gotcha, they already have them.
Um, and so, this is really focusing on people like um, Dr. Rihyad who we saw earlier, uh, who isn’t able to contribute or what the healthcare …
Speaker 9: (16:23)
I get it. I get it. I mi-, I, I was, I missed that point. Yeah, I got it.
No, no, no. I think it’s been, you know, it’s sort of weaved through. So, um, global talent is a broad uh, term, but I think we have for sure, we’ve heard from uh, different sectors of the business community here, about the need for global talent. Uh, and we have identified some solutions or possible solutions in these categories. So, um, education and training again, expand tuition support. I know we’ve spoken a lot about um, tuition support for Dreamers. Um, and Paydia spoke a little bit about classifying refugees and special immigrants, including people who worked with the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq as in state students when they get here.
They haven’t lived in any other state. They haven’t … They’ve been told to be rece-, by the US that they will be resettled in Georgia as their first state. So, Georgia is their home state and when they come here, they can be classified or should be classified as in state students, and get uh, going on their education right away and other states are starting to do that same thing.
Um, remove unintended bars to admission and we talked about that, not having your papers with you, meaning your diploma, your transcript. What are some alternatives to just get over that hurdle? Um, and we’ve talked a little bit about different kinds of things that the college systems can do. Um, and then this of course has come ar-, uh, up quite often. Invest in English learning.
Um, one of the things that we talked about at the beginning of this process and we talked about today, was advanced or vocation specific ESL programs. So, we know students are getting through the highest level of ESL to enter adult ed, and that’s not enough. Um, either they don’t have advanced level or they don’t have the vocabulary for the specific trade that they’re trying to enter. Cybersecurity is one that’s been a very hot and growing industry in Georgia, and now uh, Piedmont is, Technical college is working on a bridge program just for that.
Um, and we could do that across the state. Um, and we could get over some of those English language hurdles. Um, today we heard a little bit about um, issues arising below the post secondary level, trying to get K-12 students and this again, is prob-, students who are growing up in Georgia uh, into college by making sure that they have ESL, that their parents have access to um, the support they need in the languages they need so they can support their K-12 kids.
Um, the other thing we heard about today was experience in the STEM industry and I should have that on here, the idea of having uh, mentorships or apprenticeship programs, um, in the business community and having some state incentives for something like that. Um, and the other thing I would add here from today, was the awareness component. Right? We know Georgia does a lot already, uh, there are dual enrollment programs. There are … The Hope Scholarship is amazing. Um, but there seems to be some sort of disconnect and a need for awareness raising.
Occupational licensing, we spent some time on that and that’s been a recurring theme. Um, last time we talked about uh, occupational licenses for the skilled trades. Uh, we know construction, manufacturing, uh, there’s a tremendous need for skilled tradespeople, like plumbers for instance. Um, and it’s very difficult for people who were trained as plumbers in other places, to enter the plumbing profession here in Georgia. And there’s been some state you know, SB-45 is sitting in the regulatory c-, uh, house regulatory committee right now. That would allows some level of reciprocity for people who trained in another state. But there’s nothing for people who trained in another country.
Um, and so, you know, we are losing people like clients we have in Clarkson who have been welders on you know, US military bases and they come here and they can’t be a welder, and they’re working in a grocery store, or, or a restaurant. So, perhaps we could expand uh, legislation like SB-45 to really apply for all qualified Georgians, whether they’ve got their training in another country or in another state.
Facilitating pathways for foreign trained doctors, and dentists and counselors is probably one of the most urgent needs we’re seeing right now in Georgia. There has been all sorts of activity nationwide around this, and different approaches, including associate doctors, um, in, subsidizing residencies. It’s a really broad range of things that can work, and I would urge this committee to make this an urgent um, uh, an a, uh, one of the top priorities is to figure out how to get this wealth of talent uh, into rural Georgia and other parts of Georgia where we need doctors and dentists and, and uh, a who-, counselors.
And there’s ma-, I can also pro-, I know you’ve asked for some um, of the prior bills and, and, and uh, resolutions that the panel has spoke about. I’m also happy to share more on um, on that, on medical licensing as well if you’d like. I will, I will note that you know, during COVID, there was temporary medical licenses that were offered to foreign trained officials in a number of states. When New Jersey offered a temporary license, they had more than one thousand foreign trained doctors apply to, to provide care for those people in New Jersey under a temporary license.
Now, New Jersey did not, does not now have a permanent pathway, uh, which is frustrating. But that just shows you the demand. We’re not just talking about Georgians already here with those qualifications and training, but we would attract people to Georgia uh, who could fill the gaps that we so um, so desperately need to fill.
Um, removing unnecessary, outdated immigration relation requirement in our licensing scheme. Again, we have the example of people who provided uh, security for our US military in war zones and they cannot work in law enforcement in Georgia. Um, they can be lawful permanent residents who’ve been here for years and years and years, in the citizenship process. Um, but they can’t serve um, their communities uh, in law enforcement. The, a citizenship requirement doesn’t seem um, to, to uh, be serving us, uh, very well in that respect.
Finally, is a whole bunch of things that came up and other states have found this to be really a fruitful area uh, is um, helping navigate uh, the licensing process and um, we know there’s everything from just developing some online licensing guides, which have been very effective in other states, updating the licensing website. I didn’t know if any of you have been on that website recently. (laughs) Um, with the dep-, uh, depart-, the Secretary of State, uh, to make it eas-, more easily accessible and, and to have language access.
Um, or to actually assign an FTE, one or two, to um, a department in Georgia’s, in, in the state government to assist skilled professionals arriving from other countries and coordinate some of these global talent ideas uh, and policies for developing and integrating these uh, professional. And we’ve seen that be very successful under Republican governors in Michigan and in Ohio for instance.
Um, I did want to add, because I know this question came up. Um, Dr. Hargee was asked how many uh, immigrant refugees with health degrees are under employed or unemployed in the country, and it’s 263,000 according to a report in 2020. 263 healthcare, thousand healthcare professionals on the sidelines in Georgia.
Small business development, we touched on that, particularly in the begi-, in the first committee but um, also today. We, they, there’s a possibility to incentivize entrepreneurship programs in different languages. Again, there’s a lot of call for simplifying the process. A one stop website, whether it’s for you know, licensing or small business start ups. This is a, a recommendation that actually the Governor’s Georgian’s First Commission um, has made similar to that, except they did not included um, making it friendly to all Georgian’s. Uh, with some uh, you know, language access and other kinds of, of support.
Um, and finally, childcare has been an issue across all of our meetings, and there’s a real opportunity to support childcare entrepreneurs and expand access to child care. So, there’s a desire in the refugee and immigrant community to star these micro-enterprises, so people can have a place to safety um, bring their children and they can go to work. And a lot of these folks prefer in home types of family childcare, rather than a big, big facility and certainly with someone who speaks their language or knows their culture.
Um, and so, there are groups working on this. How do we draw down on federal and state funds to support these micro-enterprise childcare um, childcares in the underserved communities, and um, offering you know, some more ji-, child development support in the technical schools.
Um, that is all I have, and I tried to be very fast. I know I spoke, maybe too fast, but Wes always nudges me when I’m here, so um, please uh, if you have anything that you’d, any questions, please let me know.
Speaker 3: (26:50)
Thank you Darlene. Any questions for … I think we’re good. You can tell when it’s toward the end of the meeting and people are getting hungry.
Speaker 3: (26:59)
The questions go away. Where’s the food is probably the only question on a lot of people’s minds. Well, thank you all for being here today and um, the committee will now be looking at all these recommendations and hopefully coming with some, some uh, recommendations from both the legislative perspective and a policy perspective to address some of the issues that have been brought up.
Chairman Cantrell: (27:17)
Thank you. We’re dismissed.