CLEVELAND — It seems businesses in nearly every field are struggling to hire enough talent and labor shortages are impacting companies across the country and here in Northeast Ohio. A new report from Global Cleveland is working to address that issue by highlighting the need for international candidates to be more strongly considered for positions they're more than qualified for.
The report, "Where are the Workers," issues a call to action for local companies to address the talent and labor shortage by following four main steps—the first of which is hiring international talent.
Joe Cimperman, president of Global Cleveland, said there are three different groups of international workers looking for work in the area.
"We have over 35,000 people a year who are paying full tuition, who are coming to our colleges, universities, who are really learning their trades and their skills here," Cimperman said. "How do we keep those people here working in in our companies working in other places where we know we have a talent shortage?"
Cimperman also noted the thousands of refugees in Northeast Ohio looking to find work, as well as individuals who moved here from another country simply out of desire. In all three cases, these individuals are seeking opportunities that they just aren't receiving.
"We know that every single company right now is looking for workers. They're here. They want to stay here. So how can global Cleveland help those companies and those engineering firms in those manufacturing places, make it easier for them to hire these international folks," Cimperman said. "The work that we do is trying to make people who are amazing how to make them visible. There's such an invisibility about it."
Feeling invisible is something that many international newcomers in the area experience, including Bakht Zaman, an Afghan asylee living in Cleveland.
Zaman came to Northeast Ohio from Afghanistan last August after conditions in the country changed and it was no longer safe for him to remain there. Working for a United States mission, threats to Zaman prompted him to head to the U.S., landing in Virginia but making his way up to Cleveland where he had some friends already living.
"Fortunately, currently I'm counting Cleveland as my second home and I'm enjoying my life," Zaman said. "Still, there are a lot of challenges."
Challenges like finding a job that utilizes his skillset and allows him to support his family here in the country and his parents back home.
"It is quite challenging to find job, finding a proper job. I have a bachelor's degree from the University of Delhi, an MBA from American University. And I have 11 years experience in project management, project monitoring and evaluation with international organizations, but still, I'm trying for last 10 months to find the appropriate job, but couldn't succeed," Zaman said.
It's not that the jobs don't exist or that the vacancies are sparse, Zaman knows that to be true thanks to all of the applications he's submitted.
"I applied for almost more than 200 vacancies, but I didn't get any positive response from almost 99% of them. I got some positive response from some organizations. But that was quite like that was looking like a formality," Zaman said.
Zaman is not alone. Cimperman noted the hiring process that some companies follow and mentioned websites excluding international applications from their search outright.
"Take things out of your websites that say no internationals applications today, like if we really want to be that kind of welcoming place. Let's see who's out there," Cimperman said. "These are people who pay taxes, who send their kids to school, who build companies that employ people who are born the United States. And these are people more importantly, who are neighbors who are sisters and brothers who are bringing a different corner of the world here."
Global Cleveland's report calls for businesses to include international workers in their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts to help their skillset and workforce abilities be better utilized, in all areas of employment.
"Our goal is that by doing this study, people realizing that there's a job here for them, and companies realizing that this talent is here for them, that they could come here and make their American dream come true," Cimperman said. "We just need our companies now in our corporate community to say, we're going to look at this person—not take a chance on this person, but take a look at this person and see 'do they fit our company?' If they do, we're going to give them the opportunity to work here. We are sure that if more companies do it, it is going to vastly improve our entire community for everybody. For the immigrant as well as the native-born person."
For people like Zaman, he hopes this study helps companies in the area see that international candidates aren't only qualified for entry-level jobs or physical labor jobs but can contribute the skills they learned outside of the country to help this one prosper.
"Most people are saying that United States of America is the land of opportunities, and it's correct—but it is a land of opportunity for Americans, it's not the land of opportunities for newcomers," Zaman said. "So that's one of the things, Cleveland is the best place, but as for finding a job, it is quite challenging for newcomers, refugees."
Meanwhile, Cimperman said that Global Cleveland plans to have conversations with Cleveland-based companies to further address the report and hopefully push for international candidates to be more strongly considered for positions they are qualified to fill—not for charity, but for the benefit to both Cleveland's workforce and those aiming to enter it.
"The people who are coming here are coming from places where they may have been a nurse or they may have been an engineer. They may have been a custodian or they may have been a teacher. They have skills," Cimperman said. "And the mistake we make as Americans is that we look at refugees and immigrants and we think of them as charity cases. Okay, they might need our help right now, who amongst us hasn't needed help at some point in their life? But the truth is, they have a lot of talent and they have a lot of gifts to give, and they want to do it here. So why wouldn't we make it easier for them to make all of our lives better?"
To read the report and learn more about Global Cleveland's initiative, click here.
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