Is the US facing a Talent Exodus?

For the last 50+ years the US has been importing the top intellectual minds from developing countries, through offering subsidized education, the promise of full-time employment, and a better standard of living… ie ‚ÄúThe American Dream‚Äù.

As these Top Immigrant Intellects completed their degrees, masters programs, and PhD’s, US companies snatched them up with lucrative visa policies and wages that provided a very high standard of living, compared to their home countries. Today, many of these immigrant intellects are among our brightest doctors, scientists, researchers, engineers, and other professionals.

This government and corporate funded intellectual importing policy has been reliant on the promise of a better standard of living, full-time employment, and immigration support. In return, these professionals have returned the favor by staying in the US, becoming integral to one of the United States greatest strengths, our intellectual capital.

Many US colleges and universities are already seeing a slowing in international enrollment, due to post 9/11 immigration issues. While this is disheartening, there is an even bigger concern… a potential and immediate US Talent Exodus.

Unfortunately, the chapter of importing, educating, and retaining the top international intellects might be over for the US, at least onshore.

Are we already witnessing the beginnings of Reverse Migration?

The Great Recession has splintered the promise of a full-time job and better lifestyle. Employees of all levels and all industries have been let go, including many of these Top Immigrant Intellects, that we have invested so much in. A recent Business Week article detailed the account of many High-skilled techical workers leaving the US.

In “The World is Flat” Thomas Friedman, discussed the equity of lifestyles that is dramatically lowering the attractiveness of leaving these countries. As more and better paying professional level jobs are being exported from the US, the attractiveness of leaving home and family for a foreign land and culture has weakened.

The standard of living in many countries, such as India and China, has dramatically increased in the last 10 years. This not only decreases the willingness of individuals to leave their countries to come to the US, but also, and more importantly, increases the possibility of individuals migrating back to their home countries, immediately after their education, or worse mid-career.

If the US economy continues to decline or goes into a inflationary period, these prized immigrant intellects might find more reasons to leave than to stay.. Just when we need them the most!

Many of these professionals are deeply embedded within our US labor force, often holding senior research, engineering and management positions in companies across all industries. In February 2009, IBM announced layoffs in the US and Canada, but offered the option of “international relocation” if employees would be willing to move to Brazil, India, China or a dozen other lower-wage countries.

What will happen to the US “War for Talent” if we let these 10+ year professionals walk out the door?

If this happens, the biggest losers will be small to midsize US businesses. Global enterprises will continue to thrive, through outsourcing and off-shoring, but what about small and medium size businesses?

What affect will this have on the US entrepreneurship that we so much strive on? Most would agree that the greatest innovations are coming from small organizations, without the procedures and policies of global enterprises. If small and medium size business loose their innovators, where will we be from a talent pool?

I certainly don’t have the answers…

What are your thoughts? Please add your comments below.

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