Objective: Strengthen the workforce and engage an underutilized talent resources through a pilot program to assist Wichita Falls firms with hiring international graduates from MSU.
Midwestern State University is home to a large population of international students, most of whom are from the Caribbean. International students have been an integral part of MSU for decades, but when it comes to Wichita Falls’ workforce, they represent a major untapped resource. Stakeholders said that many of these individuals would like to remain in Wichita Falls after graduation but are unable to do so because they cannot find employment with a local company willing to sponsor them for a work visa. One input participant remarked that these students “have big ideas and are in great fields but want to go to Dallas. We need to find a way to keep them here.”
To remain in the United States after graduation, international students who graduate with certain types of four-year or advanced degrees must find work with an employer that is willing to sponsor them for a special visa. This is commonly an H-1B visa, which according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “provides the most streamlined process to gain permanent resident status for a foreign employee.” Navigating the H-1B process can be complex, however, which input participants said has acted as a deterrent for some local companies.
Stakeholders in Wichita Falls – including Talent Partnership staff and MSU administrators – have already started discussions about how best to assist both companies and international students with the visa process. This Key Initiative seeks to translate these initial conversations into a formal pilot program to provide technical and financial assistance to companies seeking to hire international talent in Wichita Falls. This concept generated significant interest among business leaders contacted during the input process, and stakeholders added that the opportunities will only increase as MSU seeks to build on its historical recruiting strengths in the Caribbean to attract an even broader range of international students from Europe and other areas.
1. Convene an International Talent Working Group to establish the pilot program
- Convene representatives from MSU, local business executives and HR professionals, the Chamber, and other relevant partners to guide the design and activation of the pilot program
- Identify opportunities to engage Wichita Falls’ existing international population – including international SAFB personnel and families – in program design and outreach activities
- Outreach to immigration lawyers and other professionals with relevant experience to participate in the group or – if participation is not feasible – offer guidance as needed
2. Perform initial program research
- Leverage existing resources, including the H-1B guide published by the U.S. Chamber
- Survey employers on their international hiring experience, current practices, and future interest
- Work with MSU to examine historic trends for where MSU graduates have ended up and to survey the current international student body on post-graduation plans
- Based on the scan of existing resources and local research, create a custom one-pager or whitepaper that establishes the “business case” for hiring international graduates in Wichita Falls
3. Design and brand the pilot program
- With the International Talent Working Group, design a pilot program to help Wichita Falls companies hire international graduates from MSU
- Create a specialized brand identity to help with program recognition
- Develop an International Hiring Guide with clear instructions (e.g., flowcharts or step-by-step procedures) for firms in Wichita Falls seeking to hire international talent; ensure that the Guide provides instructions for a variety of hiring scenarios, including individuals on student visas, MSU graduates seeking H-1B visas, international talent from SAFB, etc.
- Work with the group to develop other needed technical assistance and designate a liaison to help interested employers access resources for assistance
- Develop resources to support subsidized legal services; evaluate the feasibility and desirability of pooling resources to keep an immigration attorney on retainer to assist companies as issues arise
- Align advocacy agendas to support policies favorable to hiring qualified international graduates
4. Establish program targets and metrics to inform program trajectory
- With the International Talent Working Group, identify a desired number of successful H-1B visa applications for the initial pilot
- Confirm metrics to track employee retention, employer satisfaction, and return on investment
- If successful, scale up the program to engage more companies and prospective graduates
- Monitor immigration law and administrative policies for any changes that would impact program design and implementation