H-1B Day of Action: The Global Talent Opportunity

Tel Ganesan PhotoTel Ganesan’s enthusiasm is infectious. As the founder and CEO of Kyyba, he provides over 500 jobs and generates $40 million of revenues on an annual basis. “All I wanted to do when I came to this country was to pursue the American dream,” Tel has said. In addition to his own business, Tel is a Board Member for Global Detroit and the Board Chair for TiE Detroit, a local entrepreneurship network connected to TiE Global, the world’s largest entrepreneurship network with roots in Silicon Valley started by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals with roots in the Indus region. 

Tel came to Detroit to attain a graduate engineering degree at Wayne State University and worked for 13 years after for Chrysler using his student visa and an H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is for highly-educated foreign professionals in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.

What is H1BOn Thursday, April 7th, the federal government closed the window for U.S. employers to file applications for H-1B visas for workers who could fill unmet talent needs that are limiting those employers’ ability to grow their business and compete on a global scale. Last year, the federal government received 233,000 H-1B applications from U.S. employers for 85,000 available visas. We expect the number of applications this year to exceed the limit at the same rate or higher than previous years.


The H-1B crisis negatively impacts Metro Detroit’s economy. In fact, according to a 2015 Brookings Institution report analyzing 2013 H-1B approvals Metro Detroit ranks 8th in the nation in H-1B approvals—more than Seattle, Boston, the Research Triangle, Houston, Philadelphia, or Atlanta—and 9th in the nation in the density of H-1B workers (comparing the number of H-1B approvals to the total employed population in the metro) with more than twice the national average. These numbers show that Metro Detroit relies on the H-1B visa, and as demand continues to grow beyond supply, solutions must be found.

Today, Global Detroit joined its peers in the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network for a joint day of action on immigrant impact to stress the need for federal immigration law reforms, but also to highlight existing opportunities for the region’s employers to address the crisis for skilled workers. Global Detroit has focused on building local infrastructure to make the region a leader in global talent attraction, retention, and integration.

h1b-jda-2016_block_3Global Detroit oversees the Michigan Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI), the nation’s first international student retention program. Given the fact that between 40 and 70 percent of all the graduate students at U.S. colleges and universities in STEM-related fields are international students, this is a talent pool that is too valuable to ignore. It is the talent pool that originally brought talented business leaders like Tel Ganesan to our region.

Additionally, Global Detroit actively supports the Michigan International Talent Solutions (MITS) program created by the Michigan Office for New Americans in partnership with the national nonprofit, Upwardly Global.  The MITS program assists high-skilled immigrant professionals in Michigan in re-entering their professional career paths. With licensing and credentialing guides for over 20 common professions, dedicated staff to assist college-educated immigrants and refugees, as well as employers seeking talent, Michigan is a national leader in integrating high-skilled immigrant and refugee talent.

The opportunities and challenges surrounding high-skilled global talent are not just issues in Silicon Valley and the coasts, but are at the core of America’s economic future in regions from Detroit to St. Louis to Buffalo. While federal action remains stalled in the Congress, Metro Detroit has moved forward to become a national leader in attracting, retaining, and integrating high-skilled global talent. This not only provides our local companies with a competitive advantage, but positions the region for rapid growth should the Congressional gridlock ever get untangled on immigration.


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