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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Changing faces of the American workforce

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Orlando Gil offered insights into hiring immigrant labor to fill area business' needs during an Employers' Council of Iowa meeting hosted Wednesday afternoon at the Iowa Lakes Community College campus in Spencer.

"From the onset, I want to tell you it's not hard at all to do," Gil told the agricultural, manufacturing, banking and telephone company representatives in attendance.

The native of Venezuela relocated to the United States nearly 34 years ago on a student visa. Gil completed his own paperwork and eventually became a resident and U.S. citizen.

Today, the Dickens-based business owner admits it wasn't until eight years ago that he decided to stay.

"That's a long time to be in limbo," he said with a smile, further noting Ana, his wife of eight years, is a Brazilian who currently works as a teacher associate in the Spencer school district. Like her husband, Ana Gil also wants to become a U.S. citizen.

After giving their personal example, Gil asked those in attendance why the immigrant talent topic is pertinent today.

"Because our country and culture has changed," he answered.

With over 76 million baby boomers reaching retirement age, a labor shortage is predicted, Gil said.

"People want to come here because we're cutting edge," he added, pointing to the 482,052 worldwide immigrant visas issued in fiscal year 2010. " ... When you look at the available workforce today, it's hard picking."

The owner of TCTS Global LLC, a consulting company that helps businesses bridge the gap with Latino talent in agricultural and food-related industries as they meet their needs for a professional and skilled workforce, explained needs aren't just obvious in these two industries. Latino and Hispanic answers to workforce needs within the health service sector are already happening, Gil said. The hospitality, construction, telecommunications and manufacturing areas have also expressed a need for qualified workers.

As he further outlined the need for immigration, Gil cited Australia, Canada and New Zealand as countries which are welcoming to immigrants.

"Why are we not trying to bring Latinos in," Gil asked. "It sounds radical, but it could be because of perceptions."

"Asians, by the way, are the next wave," he added.

Gil mentioned the United States' past "melting pot" designation and its current "salad bowl" status. He then predicted the country will return to being a melting pot in the near future.

"I believe the nation will become more brown," he said.

When asked why Hispanics and Latinos should be considered as a viable alternative, Gil pointed to the nation's anticipated change in demographics. (See "Population trends for USA" on right.)

"There are emerging opportunities for our country to tap into this talent," he said. "And, whoever gets there first will get them. They're low-hanging fruit."

"In general," Gil advocated, "we are becoming better educated and will continue to do so because we do value education. And, as we go through and actually break some of the barriers, in terms of how we view education and our place in this country, I think we will continue to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered here."

Next, Gil outlined what organizations need to do in order to hire Latinos.

"There needs to be an awareness of diversity among people in the workforce," he said. "You also need to ask what really satisfies people."

He listed safety, respect, recognition and challenges as examples.

"Money is important, but it is not everything," Gil said.

Changes need to start at the local level, the consultant advised.

As Gil explained Hispanics and Latinos are a more "laid-back" culture, he encouraged American employers to take the initiative and engage in conversations.

Effective marketing campaigns cannot take a "one-for-all" approach, he added.

"The one thing I would suggest is: Don't patronize me please," Gil said. "Value me for what I am and for what I bring to the table."

Attendees were also introduced to Amanda Emery of the New Iowan Center, an Iowa Workforce Development initiative which focuses on providing workforce development services to people who have recently moved to Iowa and are seeking employment. The New Iowan Center also attempts to bridge the gap between employers, individuals and communities. Its program, recently based at 217 W. Fifth St. in Spencer, provides training and referrals.

"From April through October, the new Iowan program is extremely busy in the migrant and seasonal farm worker program," Emery explained. "I travel to 19 counties in northwest Iowa and provide services to migrant workers, as is federally mandated. I also assist individuals and employers in all 19 counties. Therefore, during the summer, I have limited hours in the office and spend most of my time traveling to meet with employers, organizations and workers in northwest Iowa. All services are provided at no cost."

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