With today’s technology, it is difficult to ignore that all businesses are now competing in a global market.  As our clientele continues to diversify, so must our companies.  Investors expect to see their interests represented and customers gravitate towards services and products that reflect their values.  Culturally competent staff is therefore essential to a company’s growth and continued success.

I know the importance of a diverse workforce is not a new concept, but in a time of high unemployment, how could we even consider hiring anyone other than a fellow Michigander?  The cold, hard truth is that the talent supply in Michigan (and the U.S.) cannot meet the immediate demand for advanced tech and engineering skills.  Among graduates from U.S. universities each year, more than 60% of the PhDs in the Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) fields are awarded to international students.  In order for Michigan to get back on its feet economically, we need to fill these positions with qualified individuals, no matter where they come from.  Without considering international students as part of the talent pool, employers would be dismissing more than 60% of the most promising talent. It is this talent that will develop new products and technologies, create jobs and put the rest of Michigan back to work.

Funded by the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, the Global Talent Retention Initiative of Southeast Michigan (GTRI)has partnered with seven universities in Southeast Michigan, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, regional economic development agencies and Global Detroit to design the very first economic development program that focuses specifically on international student retention.  GTRI offers programs and resources that will help international students prepare for the cultural differences they may experience when searching for a job in Michigan, connect to employers who need their talent, and show them what the Detroit area has to offer as a destination after graduation.

Many of these students are very motivated to begin their careers in Michigan, but employer apprehension with the U.S. immigration process is their biggest obstacle.  With the proper planning, the immigration process is not as difficult or expensive as what most people think.  GTRI partners with immigration attorneys to help employers understand this and educate them on the immigration, taxation and cultural aspects of hiring a foreign national.

GTRI is growing fast and continuing to develop new resources for international students and employers.  Most recently, GTRI has collaborated with our partners to offer career development conferences for international students.  Our first two conferences attracted more than 200 international students and more than 60 employers and professionals.  We have one more conference scheduled for April 24 at Oakland University.  More information about these conferences can be found on our website.  Everyone is invited to be involved!  If you would like to join us as a panelist, employer/recruiter, or a professional interested in networking with a very unique group of students, email me at Athena@urcmich.org.

You can also follow GTRI’s progress by connecting with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.