Construyendo puentes por la economia digital/building bridges across the digital divide: Integrating Latino immigrants into the 21st-century workforce

Garrett David Harper


Latino immigration to the U.S. continues at a rapid pace amid increasing complexity in the economy, workforce, and technology. Job opportunity in the Sunbelt motivates much of this migration. Urban centers like Chicago with long immigration histories offer limited solutions for cities new to this Latino growth. Challenges exist for economic development to understand new workforce cohorts with language and skills gaps. The 'Digital Divide' is only one aspect of the information technology gap between Latino population and other U.S. groups. Community based organizations, educational institutions, and job training agencies possess opportunities as intermediaries in delivering technical skills to immigrants. Case studies of Chicago organizations serving first generation Mexican-Americans yield results in a grounded theory application. These Latinos achieve low levels of integration into U.S. society with much access to traditional, or nontraditional, paths to career advancement lacking. Community-based organizations, educational institutions, workforce-training centers, and other agencies operate somewhat remotely from demographic and economic forces involving Latinos. Weak relationships between employers and these entities, small scale of programs, uneven training and materials, and staffing inconsistencies impede Latino workforce integration. This research offers a new theoretical framework termed Mutual Technology Integration Readiness that describes the state of new immigrants and host society, perhaps by proxy organizations, recognizing and assuming shared responsibility for social and economic integration.