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Immigration Innovation Act critical for stopping brain drain

Posted by Chad O'Connor  May 2, 2013 11:00 AM

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[Editor's Note: Join former Global Business Hub editors Devin Cole and Meg Reilly at Lir on Boylston Street on May 9th for the "Toast the Press" event to show some #journolove]

Finally the economy is in job creation mode.

My line of work is all about jobs- albeit placing top candidates in C-level positions globally. Having been at this for 30 plus years, I have seen many spikes, cycles, and trends. Even in lean times, finding the best technical minds to fill positions is a challenge for many promising firms. An obvious solution is to stop the brain drain from our best higher education institutions and keep the talent in the US. Don’t let the previous week’s events color your view of the issue: Immigration made our country great-don’t kill the American dream by preventing talented leaders from contributing to our businesses and society.

The immigration issue is back in the news this political cycle, but let’s take a little piece of this and demand action to keep talent onshore and fuel new industry creation and job growth. Successful passage of the Immigration Innovation Act would stop the brain drain of foreign graduate students from US higher education institutions in science, technology, engineering, and math by streamlining the process to make them US citizens. This capturing of highly coveted talent would fuel more start-ups and innovative ideas on US soil. Executive recruiters in the technology sector, like me, are acutely aware of the high demand for this skill set and the ripple effect of job creation when this talent pool is captured in our country.

Sadly, business and politics can be very polarized even when the end goal is identical- good jobs for good people. The tech industry wants an infusion of a highly skilled talent in the labor pool and incubators will thrive with the influx of hiring activity. Politicians would relish the added revenue and economic power to fund long overdue items from this feasible and simple endeavor. The Immigration Innovation Act can stem the brain drain!

However, the gridlock approach that is the hallmark of our current political system disconnected the STEM Act from short-term approval last session. That latest reissue is the STEM visa bill. As in the last attempt, the existing political powers only will approve this in an all or nothing fashion- no thumbs up for a quick infusion of talent unless the Dream Act and Immigration Reform goals are part of the package. Instead of tackling the bills in a baby step fashion- all of the items are bundled and nothing gets approved. Business wants all top talent: home grown, educated here, or an innovator that relocates here. When they are unable to recruit talent domestically the result is either an unfilled position or the position is sent offshore. The long-term effect is that global competitors capture this talent more quickly and gain a talent advantage.

This same scenario was at work with the fiscal cliff- entrenched mindsets sat on the fence until the 11th hour and prevented swift reform and resolution to the looming fiscal crisis. Main Street did not like it nor did Wall Street. Global markets and economies are continually bruised by the speculation mode instead of solving mode.

The legal process of how to get talent to the business world is truly a stumbling block. All of us suffer from the lack of ANY resolution to this issue, and history will be destined to repeat the boom and bust cycles of job creation, small business creation, and other global companies will reap the benefits of our inability to retain the best and brightest in our own economy. Perhaps for this session, both Main Street and Wall Street can entice our political players to remember the end game or they will be voted off the team!

Charley Polachi is Partner at Polachi Access Executive Search.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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