Note: The Des Moines metro area includes Polk, Dallas, Madison and Warren Counties; Data: Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
The number of people with limited English proficiency increased by more than 70% in Des Moines' four-county metro area since 2000, according to a new report from the DSM Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
Why it matters: As its population becomes more diverse, the city faces a growing need to assist English learners.
Worker shortages can be better alleviated by adequate language assistance, which refugee advocates say fosters job readiness, community engagement and economic self-sufficiency.
Plus: Most governments in the U.S. have an obligation to implement systems that can assist people with limited English proficiency.
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By the numbers: 29,146 people who are age 5 and older in Polk, Dallas, Madison and Warren counties have limited English proficiency, according to 2019 census estimates.
That's up from 16,994 in 2000.
Driving the news: Des Moines had the second fastest-growing immigrant population in the last decade, according to a study by Heartland Forward that Axios reported on this week.
Business recruitment was credited as a reason for the spike.
The big picture: Iowa's aging population is stagnant and its lack of workers was recently described by a leader of the Iowa Business Council as "bordering on a crisis."
More than 90% of restaurants don't have enough employees, Iowa Restaurant Association CEO Jessica Dunker told Iowa PBS' Iowa Press this month.
What to watch: There's a growing need to better link academic and business groups to increase job readiness, Pablo Ortega, director of DMPS' English Language Learner program, told Axios.
Des Moines' public school district has nearly 7K students in its English Language Learner program, up from less than 1K three decades ago.
"Yes, there are language barriers but that's not insurmountable," Ortega said.
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