Economy
5:14 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Michigan's international students key to ecomomic growth

Michigan needs workers with training in science, technology, engineering, and math
Credit Morguefile.com

Michigan needs to fill 274,000 jobs by 2018 in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  And according to a report released by the Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI) of Michigan, the state's international college and university students are key to meeting that demand.  

The report says that Michigan's international students are three times as likely as Michigan students to major in those fields.

Steve Tobocman is director of Global Detroit which launched GTRI and which collaborated on the report. He says one-third of Michigan's high-tech firms started over the last decade were created by immigrants.

"The number one reason they came to the country was to get an education," said Tobocman. "So we see international student retention as the pathway for Michigan to become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest."

The report lists key findings from its data:

-- Michigan's international students who use their student visas to work in the U.S. after graduation are nearly as likely (58%) as domestic students (63%) to stay in Michigan after graduation rather than choosing another state.

-- Michigan's international students who work after graduation on their student visa are almost three times as likely (58%) as out-of-state students (22%) to stay in Michigan.

-- Michigan's international students who work after graduation are more than four times as likely to major in STEM fields (59%) as domestic students (13.7%) nationally, and more than three times as likely as Michigan students (18%).

-- More than four-fifths (82.2%) of Michigan's international students who use their student visa to work in the U.S. after graduation earned advanced degrees. 

"We want to tap into the strategies that will make us a high growth economy, that will raise the income of our residents and that will lower the unemployment rates," said Tobocman. "And we think tapping into international students and the strengths of immigration are critical to making that happen."

He says we need to provide more opportunities for international students to remain here legally. The report notes it is also important to improve primary education  to produce more domestic STEM college and university students. But this could take a generation to yield results.

According to the report, more than 25,500 international students are enrolled at Michigan's colleges and universities. They contribute more than $750 million to Michigan's economy each year.

--Virginia Gordan, Michgian Radio Newsroom