New state job created to help immigrants and refugees in Minnesota

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The State of Minnesota is creating a new senior leadership position specifically designed to help immigrants and refugees.

This is the first time the Governor's Office will have a primary specialist working with and for these communities.

"This is a critical success factor for our economy," said Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development Hamse Warfa, with the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Warfa is an immigrant himself, moving to the U.S. from Somalia about 25 years ago.

He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the new position housed in his department, assistant commissioner of immigrant and refugee affairs, will work directly with the Walz administration.

One of the biggest tasks for the new role will be reducing barriers for immigrants so they can get plugged into the workforce.

Warfa said Minnesota is facing its worst workforce shortage in history, with more than 146,000 open jobs and only about 80,000 current job seekers.

He noted many immigrants want to work but face a number of challenges, including language barriers, transportation issues and foreign credentials that don't transfer.

"It is frustrating," said Radhika Patel, who's originally from India and now living in St. Paul. "You know many things, you want to do many things, you are ambitious, but you can't do it. I don't have any idea how to search jobs here."

Patel has a master's degree in finance from India but has struggled to find a position in Minnesota. She sought help at CareerForce, one of the workforce development locations run by DEED. She was able to find a volunteer position at the Ramsey County Government Center while waiting for her work permit.

According to DEED, immigrants make up significant portions of the workforce in Minnesota. For instance, 40% of butchers, 30% of software developers and 22% of doctors are immigrants.

The new assistant commissioner of immigrant and refugee affairs will coordinate with various state agencies to help connect more immigrants with employers.

"This is going to be a win-win for all. It's going to accelerate and advance our economy," Warfa said.

DEED is accepting applications for the new position, which will pay up to $142,000 per year. They hope to have a person in place by April.

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