Regional and governmental cooperation is one of the main ways to reduce brain waste, but it does not magically solve all the problems that keep skilled people from getting skilled jobs. Here, employers have a role to play.
“We know that employer reluctance is real and a very, very difficult hurdle to overcome, but not impossible,” says Batalova. Outright discrimination must be eradicated, of course. But employers can also be made aware of qualifications from other countries as well as the exclusion effects of conventional hiring processes.
Annie Fenton, the director of MITS, the program Aldhaheri went through, understands the companies’ hesitation. They may think “there is a higher level of unknowns” when dealing with foreign nationals. But she says retention rates tend to be much higher for foreign-born workers than for those born in the United States, which is just one argument for making it easier to recruit them.
However, there is some momentum for change. Some governments are already simplifying requirements for professions where there is a labor shortage, but this has received an added boost due to Covid-19. “The pandemic has to some extent become a wake-up call,” says Batalova, around the urgent need for healthcare workers.
In the UK, the Medical Support Worker program allowed doctors not registered with the General Medical Council – which can be time-consuming for qualified overseas doctors – to work in certain functions for the National Health Service, under supervision. And decrees in Peru and Colombia issued during the pandemic have allowed expedited approval of qualifications for health professionals who graduated in another country.
These types of programs are helpful but tend to be small scale – sometimes only a drop in the bucket compared to the need and availability of skilled labour. But “the ball is definitely rolling,” according to Batalova, who herself saw many educated Moldovans start from scratch as construction workers or domestic servants in Western Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union. .
One foot on the ladder
In Michigan, Aldhaheri was relatively lucky. He has long been accustomed to speaking English because his wife is American, and he had previously worked with English speakers in an NGO in Yemen. “It helped me a lot when I arrived,” he says. “I didn’t encounter the difficulty that some people encounter” with the language.
Aldhaheri’s hard-earned tech support job was initially part-time and short-term, but his contract has since been made full-time and extended for a year. It still isn’t his dream job, as he isn’t able to use all of his skills as a programmer. But he’s happy to be back in the tech industry. Aldhaheri hopes this position gave him the footing he needed to get back on the professional ladder and that he can use the references and experiences gained there to progress in his career.
Having this chance “after suffering for two years, I’m really happy,” he says of his current role. The challenge for years to come will be to ensure that capable people like Aldhaheri and Sandoval are not left out of jobs that badly need them.