May 17, 2024 - News

Denver launches workforce program for immigrants

Venezuelan immigrants work with Denver volunteers to begin the work-permitting process. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver is rolling out a new workforce development program to connect asylum-seekers on a path to work authorization with education, training and employment opportunities.

Why it matters: Thousands of people who've arrived in Denver over the past year from the southern U.S. border have struggled to find jobs.

  • That's in large part because newcomers who've applied for asylum have to wait 150 days to file for work permits and up to six months before being approved.

How it works: The program, called WorkReady Denver, is designed to build a pipeline for local jobs experiencing significant labor shortages — like retail, hospitality, construction, child care and health care — with a new talent pool of about 500 immigrants.

  • People in the program will be taught new skills, including English, financial and digital literacy, as well as how to apply and interview for jobs.
  • WorkReady is part of Denver Mayor Mike Johnston's new asylum-seeker program he launched in April.

Zoom in: The $2.25 million contract with Centro Humanitario Para Los Trabajadores, which will oversee the program, was approved by the Denver City Council this month. It runs through June 2025.

The big picture: City leaders say the program will support the economy by acting as a win-win for both asylum seekers and employers struggling to staff up.

  • With the help of volunteers, the city has assisted about 1,800 people with applying for work authorization since February.
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