Two out of three STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs in the United States are going to international students. Where the United States has lacked in educating students in these areas (until recently) other countries have excelled. And now there are an overwhelming amount of STEM jobs available. April’s Hatching winner, International Student Career Service (ISCS) wants to help fill those jobs by making local connections for international students.
By breaking down the cultural barriers that can sometimes prevent these students from finding jobs, Lindsay Huddleston hopes to begin to fill a very large gap.
Problem Being Solved:
There is a huge deficiency in those qualified to fill the influx of STEM jobs becoming available. Because of the lack of STEM education up until recently, there is about a 20 year gap between the jobs opening now and when those trained to fill them will enter the workforce. ISCS wants to help international students connect with our culture and get the support they need to fill the jobs.
Where the Idea Came From:
The original idea for the business was a concierge type of service that would meet the needs of individual, international students. But through various conversations with exchange students, particularly those of Asian descent, one thing stood out. When looking for jobs, mostly at job fairs, many didn’t know which companies would be able to support them regarding the VISA process. They ended up wasting a lot of time at jobs fairs since they didn’t know where to begin. Lindsay saw a great opportunity to assist them both in pursuing jobs and learning the cultural differences that would be valuable to them in the hiring process.
Lindsay finds it exciting when he can help someone become available for a career choice.
Conversely, he is worried about the fact that there is a lack of American students qualified to take on the STEM positions and the effect it will have on the economy. “Schools have just started offering STEM classes,” he says. “But businesses don’t need to fill the jobs in 20 years, they need them now.”
The differences in cultures have presented some challenges, including getting the students into situations where they can make themselves available. There are some cultural aspects “you have to tip toe around,” says Lindsay, “But we’ve had some students be very honest about this.”
He’s also found it challenging finding Michigan companies who are willing to bring these students in and sponsor them through the VISA process.
“But,” adds Lindsay, “The reality is that there is a huge need in the market and not a lot of people to fill it. That transcends those (cultural) problems.”
Lindsay was surprised to find that MSU is also working in a similar capacity. “So,” he says, “I didn’t make anything up.” But he’s confident that there is room for growth across the board. He also recognizes the benefit of being a small firm vs big organization. “It’s great to have that personal connection. We become advocates for the individual and help with personal and professional development.”
Lindsay’s win at the The Hatching was very helpful when it came to funding. He is also working on bringing more students in to utilize the service. Once they do that, they will be able to gather more support from other organizations and business, raise awareness and get support. “We need to validate our concept to get sponsors.”
Lindsay would like to keep the “boutique” feel of the firm but continue to grow. Within a few years he would like to be assisting several hundred students a year and help numerous large businesses expand. “I’d really like to make young people aware of the great opportunities out there.”
He would also like to be considered a “go-to” organization that international students want to deal with before they even come to the United States. He would like to give students the chance to sit down at lunch with someone from a business and work on addressing the things that could help them get a job in the future.
Lindsay’s advice to future entrepreneurs is simple; “Be committed. Do research. It’s not about not failing, it’s about not quitting.”