Power Ties: Professional connecting welcomes international talent and strengthens the future of Michigan industries

Global Detroit shares the common belief that all residents should have access to employment opportunities that utilize their education and talent, and rewards their determination to be a contributing member of our communities. When residents are able to work in meaningful positions, our economy is stronger and our region more prosperous.

Through collaborations between our Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI) and Professional Connectors programs, we have hosted two professional networking events this year to support the international talent residing in Michigan.  Both drew more than fifty people and fostered countless new connections amidst a bustle of meeting and mingling.

Harsh Shetye, a Master’s of Automotive Engineering candidate at Lawrence Tech with a bachelor’s of mechanical engineer from the University of Mumbai, was eager to make his way through the room at the engineers networking event in February, which drew 35 of Michigan’s talented international students and professionals studying or working in engineering to mingle with 20 of southeast Michigan’s leading engineers.

“The opportunity to meet with engineering professionals that are leading the local industry and know the ins and outs of Michigan’s marketplace was exciting, and I had a good time talking with people that have been in the field for some time,” Shetye says. “They are the experts that I need to know for my career – they know what it takes, and where to look, and I will put to good use the advice they shared.”

Immigrants and international students often lack the social and familial networks that many Americans rely on to grow their careers. In a culture where it’s all about who you know and a majority of job openings are not posted publicly but instead circulated amongst industry leaders, building relationships within your field is vitally important to career advancement.

The more than 32,000 international students studying at Michigan colleges and universities, the majority earning degrees in STEM fields like technology and engineering, need support learning the local market for jobs in their field and the culture of our hiring process. Additionally, many foreign-educated or trained professionals in Michigan struggle to get back into their fields despite being often overqualified (think: doctor driving a taxi cab). These individuals add a diversity of experiences and ideas to the innovative and creative fields driving our economy.

“We have a long history of including newcomers into the automotive industry in Michigan, and are confident that continuing this tradition is critical to Michigan’s future.” notes Beth Szurpicki, Global Detroit Director of Special Projects and Manager of the Professional Connectors Program. “Immigrants helped build these industries that created the highest level of middle-class living the country had ever seen.”

Earlier this month, Global Detroit joined forces with How to Start a Startup’s Ben Seidman to host a networking event featuring an immigrant entrepreneurs storytelling panel, moderated by Global Detroit Director Steve Tobocman at Bamboo Detroit.  Highlighting tech and IT talent, the event was another opportunity to build networks with metro Detroit professionals.

Supporting the next generation of talent will strengthen southeast Michigan’s economy, improve access to the global marketplace, and make Detroit a more welcoming community. Lou Wassel, Talent Management for Chrome Star, was impressed with the caliber of attendees. “I’m glad I could share some of the insights I’ve had over the years with Michigan’s future workforce,” he says. “The challenges that they all face are the same ones I faced 40 years ago when I graduated.  A lot of the principles are the same: it’s about making connections. Hopefully we can keep them here in Michigan and remain a competitive industry leader.”

Since the events, Global Detroit’s Professional Connector program has facilitated the one-to-one matching of 30 of the talented attendees to area professionals for additional coaching.  The Professional Connector program is a great volunteer opportunity for Michigan’s business leaders to get involved in supporting the next generation of workers and strengthen their industry’s regional economy and competitiveness.


In response to the current administration’s executive orders and  proposed policies, which threaten to severely impact the rights of legal immigrants working in the United States, as well as the supply of talent to the American economy, Global Detroit launched our Champions for Growth campaign of local business and community leaders to highlight awareness of immigrants’ economic contributions, oppose weakening of existing immigration laws, and build stronger regional policies. Take the pledge as a show of support that immigrants are powerful contributors to our job creation, economic growth, and regional prosperity, and get active as a Professional Connector or through one of the many other opportunities available.


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