We navigated a challenging 2020, marked by a global pandemic, record-level job losses, escalating inequality, and the start of a national racial reckoning. Upwardly Global’s community of immigrant and refugee professionals were deeply impacted by these forces, which hit women, Black, indigenous, immigrant and people of color the hardest. Even in the best of times, our community experiences unemployment and underemployment at heartbreaking rates and most live at or under the poverty line. In a survey of our job seekers just weeks into the pandemic, nearly half reported losing “transition” jobs; 70% reported having one month or less of savings; and one in three spoke about mental health challenges and feelings of isolation.
It’s easy to dwell on the challenges. Yet early in the pandemic, one of our job seekers wrote a note that epitomized the courage and perseverance we saw in our community throughout the year and that has motivated us every day since: “I have the potential and ability to serve my country, and I hope there is a chance to do so.” Read More >
In 2020, Upwardly Global chose to focus on three crucial areas of response:
Our community responded to the year’s blows with fortitude. In 2020, nearly three times more immigrant and refugee job seekers in our program took classes to upgrade their skills and gain certifications, even as they waited longer to find employment and struggled to keep hope. Over 93% of the healthcare professionals in our program told us they wanted to serve in the pandemic response, and we are working now to help many support the vaccine roll out efforts and more equitable health outcomes. We are proud that our alumni are now among the thousands of professionals serving on the frontlines of our nation’s pandemic response, caring for COVID-19 patients and building the infrastructure that kept the country running. These moving stories illustrate what is possible when our nation embraces the talents of immigrants and refugees, and when we enhance opportunity for everyone—regardless of background—to contribute their skills.
2020 marked Upwardly Global’s 20th anniversary and one of our most critical years as an organization. We were bolstered by the incredible support and generosity of the members of our Upwardly Global family, and by the thousand acts, small and large, that opened real opportunity.
As our economy reopens, with new urgency around finding solutions for our energy, technology, and human development challenges, Upwardly Global’s work is more important than ever. Immigrants and their children will drive all of the growth in our workforce through 2035. If we can get this right, we can help our country build the shared prosperity that we need to thrive. As you peruse this report and contemplate with us the critical work ahead, we will ask for your continued trust, contributions and partnership in the spirit of one of the healthcare workers in our community: “I know we can do this together.”
President & CEO, Upwardly Global
Chair, Upwardly Global Board of Directors
Faced with extraordinary job loss in 2020, and armed with deep analysis of the quickly shifting labor market, Upwardly Global created career communities in five high-demand sectors: business, engineering, finance, health care, and information technology, integrating cohort-based learning, expert industry volunteers and career pathways mapping. We substantially expanded our skilling and credentialing platforms. And we offered free access to our most popular online courses for vulnerable job seekers, U.S.-born and immigrant alike. Finally, we were able to offer emergency help to job seekers facing dire circumstances and extra support to our entire community so they could continue their search, invest in skills and hold hope.
“When I became a physician back in Rwanda, I took an oath to help people. Now, I’m keeping that promise in my new home, fighting COVID-19 as a Contact Tracer with my local Health Department. I’m proud to be back in my field, and to be keeping my promise. Upwardly Global has helped me every step of the way.”
“I am part of a pandemic task force at my job, understanding how COVID is affecting staff & operations. I am grateful to UpGlo for helping me rebuild my career so I can support my colleagues during this time.”
“I've always been interested in tech and how it can make our lives easier. I'm proud to be part of the workforce that has allowed so many people to work from home and help us all practice social distancing. It's an honor to give back to my new home during this difficult time, and I’m grateful to Upwardly Global for helping me get there.”
“I’m a fully licensed physician in Poland, but haven’t been able to complete the long process to re-license in the U.S. It was hard to watch COVID-19 spread through my community – but it was tougher not to be able to help. I knew my duty was to be on the frontlines, and so, with support from Upwardly Global, I’ve started working at a medical center providing COVID-19 screening.”
2020 taught us the importance of resilience, innovation, and adaptability—traits that are consistently linked to diversity in our workforce—and reminded us of Corporate America’s role in advancing both immigrant inclusion and racial justice. In response, Upwardly Global redoubled our work with employers, holding virtual job skills events with over 1,600 corporate volunteers, and building new opportunities for work-based learning in key companies and sectors. Corporate listening sessions around equitable recovery and immigrant workforce integration resulted in trailblazing research and catalyzed an ongoing Roundtable with 40 leading companies committed to moving the bar on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and including immigrants and refugees in the discussion.
“Resiliency, to me, is the rare ability to take adversity and turn it into opportunity – a common thread I find in the stories of immigrants and refugees. But it is this resiliency – from fleeing conflict to serving on the frontlines – that will be essential to our ability to build an inclusive future where everyone can thrive. This is why Upwardly Global's work to bring more immigrants into the workforce is so important right now, and an effort we fully support”
Ebony Beckwith, Salesforce Chief of Philanthropy
“I want to recognize the incredible immigrants and refugees who have helped build America and make us a country synonymous with innovation & opportunity. We are proud & grateful to have hired through UpGlo nearly 50 talented & inspiring people at Accenture. We know that we are a better & more innovative company because of our partnership with Upwardly Global.”
Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture
“At O.C. Tanner, we work every day to build cultures of respect and appreciation in our workplaces. We made a commitment long ago to hire and promote refugees seeking safety in our country and to welcome them fully and completely. It is one of the best business decisions—and human decisions—we have ever made. It is why we are committed to working together with Upwardly Global and moving from the vision of a more inclusive and welcoming America to the reality O.C. Tanner has been so fortunate to experience over the last few decades.”
Mindi Cox, SVP, People & Great Work, O.C. Tanner
Upwardly Global works to shape narrative and shift systems by sharing and centering the stories of our community. In the face of political gridlock, Upwardly Global helped inform a bipartisan bill aimed at advancing immigrant inclusion—one that we anticipate will gain traction in 2021— and supported the streamlining of state healthcare licensing so that immigrants and refugees could more fully contribute to lifesaving efforts. In the process, we created dozens of headlines and, along with national and international partners, advanced a new narrative about contributions of immigrant and refugee professionals, the formidable barriers they face, and the ways we can move inclusion.
Unaudited 2020 Numbers
“Having partnered with Upwardly Global since August 2011, Standard Chartered colleagues have had the privilege to support immigrants seeking to access and contribute to the country. We look forward to continuing our commitment to strengthening local communities, businesses, and the economy by building stronger pathways for migrant job seekers and future generations to come.”
Torry Berntsen, CEO, Standard Chartered
We are grateful to all who support our vision of a United States where immigrants are seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the United States and
the fabric of American life, and are recognized for the value they add to both.