Arjun Venugopal moved to the United States from his native India in 2015. Like many international students, Arjun, a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering graduate from Wayne State University, was experiencing what most of us would consider a frustrating employment search.
“I had secured interviews with several companies,” Arjun recounts. “The day before my interviews they cancelled. I was told they were not looking to hire international students, and they do not do visa sponsorships. It was very disappointing because the hiring manager wanted to give me an interview for the position. It was an issue with HR.”
Arjun’s luck changed after he attended an Engineering job fair at Wayne State University. There, Arjun shared his resume with Global Detroit’s Global Talent Initiative team and several prospective employers. Following the job fair, GTRI shared Arjun’s resume with Process Control & Instrumentation, a system-integration and industrial automation engineering firm located in Detroit. An immigrant-owned business enterprise, PCI understood the process for hiring international students as well as the benefits to growing their company with global talent.
“We recognize that in order for PCI to maintain its competitive advantage as a global leader in our industry, we need to hire the world’s most talented and best-educated STEM workers,” notes PCI’s Office Manager Sophia Chue. “PCI has hired U.S.-born, foreign-born, and international students to maintain that edge.” The company hired Arjun, who secured one-year Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) status.
While working at PCI, Arjun continued to network and attend GTRI-sponsored workshops on career readiness, OPT/CPT and tax preparation for international students. Through his expanding network, Arjun secured a full-time position as a project engineer with ZF, an automotive supplier in Livonia. ZF applied for an H-1B visa for Arjun in spring 2018. The H-1B visa is available to foreign-born “specialty workers” in specific, largely high-tech, fields, and must be sponsored by an employer. The number of visas awarded to companies in a given year is subject to a cap. Since the cap was decreased to 65,000 visas annually in 2003, the demand for H-1B visas has far outpaced supply, making securing this visa a challenge. So Arjun was ecstatic when, just four weeks later, he was awarded his H-1B.
“It’s an unusual case, the process usually takes months.” said Arjun with a wide smile. “I was very worried because I had read some scary experiences of students who applied before me. But my story changes everything.”
Arjun credits his success to Global Detroit, “If you take GTRI out of the equation, where would I be?” He is giving back by volunteering with Global Detroit to help connect other international students to employment opportunities. Our work with Arjun is one example of the ways Global Detroit connects international students with Southeast Michigan employers, closing the region’s talent gap.