Author Archives: Cort Johnson

H-1B Visa Program’s Effect on the Foreign Technology Workers in the US

The NY TimesRoom for Debate Blog has been discussing the issue of ‘does the US need foreign technology workers?‘ The conversation is an interesting one because it seems that all of the participants view the H-1B worker visa program as a significant problem to the future success of the US. The underlying argument of the conversation is that the current immigration policies of the US (specifically the H-1B program) promoting growth of the US economy or are they making it easier for employers to move more jobs to low-cost countries?

I find this discussion to be an extremely important one as it has an immediate effect on the US job market for international student graduates but also because if the US becomes viewed less and less by prospective international students as ‘a land of some opportunity’ rather than ‘the land of opportunity’ we may see students flocking to other premier education destinations such as the UK, Canada, Australia, Western Europe over the United States.

The participants in the conversation included:

Vivek Wadhwa, an executive in residence for the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and a senior research associate in the labor and work-life program at Harvard Law School.

Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis.

Guillermina Jasso, professor of sociology at New York University, research fellow at IZA Bonn and a principal investigator on the New Immigrant Survey.

Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology and co-author of “Outsourcing America.”

Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association.

John Miano, lawyer and computer programmer

Nearly all the participants in the conversation allude to the fact that the H-1B visa program is flawed in one way or another.

In one camp we have a group that sees the issue with the H-1B visa program as not truly finding the ‘best and the brightest’ talent from around the globe. US companies are using the H-1B visa program as a way for companies to exploit cheap foreign labor rather than having to hire ‘expensive’ American labor.

Norman Matloff writes that ‘The world’s “best and brightest” should be welcomed, but most H-1B workers are not in that league. Meanwhile many of our own best and brightest are squeezed out of the market once they become expensive.’

Ron Hira says that ‘Loopholes enable employers to hire H-1B workers at below market wages and bypass American workers, never even entertaining their applications for a position. In fact, some firms replace American workers and their contractors with guest workers on H-1B and other visas, at times even having their American workers train their foreign replacements.’ Ron goes on to explain that after a recent audit by the Department of Homeland Security, ‘more than one in five H-1B visas were granted under false pretenses, either outright fraud or serious technical violations.’

John Miano explains ‘when the annual quotas on H-1B visas are exhausted, one often hears lobbyists arguing that the world’s best and brightest are being shut out’ but in reality ‘the people who seek H1-B visas and may be barred by the quotas are not extrememly highly skilled workers.’ He sums up the H-1B visa program as ‘a cheap labor program being marketed as a program for the highly skilled.’

In another camp the argument is that the enitre visa program from student to H-1B to permanent resident status is causing foreign born workers to live as second class citizens resulting in an exodus of highly skilled talent.

The argument by Vivek Wadhwa is that a major portion of technology start-up success has been derived from foreign born workers, $52 billion worth in 2005. But even though we are increasing the number of H-1B visas every year we are failing to increase the number of permanent residency visas resulting in 500,000 foreign born workers stuck in what he calls ‘immigration limbo’. If these workers have to live as second class citizens while awaiting a permanent residency visa most will decide to leave for their home countries where they may make less money but experience a higher quality of life. Mark Hessen takes a completely different approach to the issue and looks at it from a start-up company standpoint. He believes that foreign born workers by their immigrant status alone tend to be risk takers and because many have scientific backgrounds with a focus and ability to invent breakthrough products and services. The problem however that he sees is that by having a quota of only 65,000 H-1B visas per year, US start-up companies are being deprived of the quality talent they need to grow. Ultimately he says that ‘to maintain our competitive edge, we have to remain a magnent for global talent. Shutting our borders to these entrepreneurs is counterproductive. The more of them we can attract, the more jobs for everyone.’

Listening to all sides of the issue on immigrant workers in the US tech space I can understand the obstacles that the US faces ahead. I am a huge advocate for international students to remain in the US after they graduate to participate in the US economy and workforce. It seems to me that there are major issues with the H-1B visa program but ultimately what needs to happen for the US to stay competitive is to find and embrace the highest quality foreign talent (much of which is already studying in US colleges and universities) and allow them to cultivate their skills which as seen in the past can create an incredible amount of jobs and prosperity for American workers. Unfortunately we will have to deal with the fact that corporations will worry about their bottom lines more than the future success of the US and therefore until proper oversight can be administered to the H-1B visa process smaller start-ups need to fight to get H1-B visas for the talent necessary to make their companies succeed.

Hopefully we can solve this issue with a positive result as the future of a country completely compsed of immigrants is at stake.

Photo by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary


Recession Woes in Recruting? Get Personal with Prospective Students

As the economy continues to affect the ability of prospective international students (and domestic students for that matter) to afford tuition, we all know how important it is to turn as many accepted students as possible into deposits. NPR has an ongoing series this week investigating the impact of the economy on higher education. One of the pieces titled, Colleges Work Harder to Lure New Students shows how some schools are employing traditional marketing initiatives to create personal connections with accepted students.

Let’s take a look at one of the techniques described in this article and see how we might be able to enhance it through the use of social media!

Becker College in Worcester, MA is having a group of freshman students call prospective students encouraging them to apply to the school as well as calling accepted students and selling them on enrolling in the school. This is an absolutely great idea because it is all about creating personal connections. Current students are able to answer any questions the prospective student may have about the social life, academics, ect. while being able to have a great impact on the decision making of the student due to their ability to easily relate to one another as students.

So how can we take this model and potentially make it more effective? The millennial generation prospective student thrives off of personal connection. If you don’t believe me ask one of your students how many friends they have on Facebook, AIM, MSN Instant Messenger, cell phone book and so on. These millennials love to interact quickly whether it is a status update on Facebook, a wall post on Facebook, text message, a chat conversation on AIM, etc.

So if this is the type of conversation that these prospective students embrace why not get in touch with them this way as well as over the phone?

One idea is to continue leveraging the ability of your current students to personally connect with your prospective students via social networks. Have your current students ‘friend’ these prospective students on Facebook and Orkut and begin conversations that way. This medium of connection can prove to be so much more effective becuase not only can students verbally interact but they can share links to blogs, videos, podcasts, websites, Facebook page, online applicatoin and any other convincing material you want to share with prospective students.

It’s also important to understand how effective the results can be when we the admissions office take the initiative to get in touch with students! Think about this point when you are creating your Facebook page, YouTube channel, podcast page, blog and aren’t getting the results that you expected.

In order to achieve results we need to take the initiative to get in touch with our audience! If we can take anything away from this difficult recessionary period it should be to realize how effective our recruiting can be when we make an effort to get personal with our prospective students!

Photo by Aussiegall

Social Media Club Boston – change-dot-gov Panel

If you haven’t been to a Social Media Club Boston event definitely consider making it to the next one!  Here is Sandy @skalik, one of the organizers of SMC Boston with a little info about the event…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Qik | SMC Boston [change-dot-gov]“, posted with vodpod

You Don’t Have to Use it Yet; Just Be Open to Social Media

I was at the Social Media Club – Boston event last night where the topic of conversation was “Change dot Gov”.  The panel included Brad Blake, the Director of New Media Strategy for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Matt Viser, a political reporter for the Globe, Brian Reich, a consultant, author, blogger and State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan.

While listening to the panel, I was struck by how similar the rhetoric used by State Senator  Jennifer Flanagan was to some of the admissions offices I talk to.  Senator Flanagan, while having a constituency that includes an older demographic argued that she receives enough e-mails, talks to enough people while out and about in her community and through the use of her website and blog views Social Media as yet another tool that requires too much time without providing enough benefit for her constituents.

I think her argument can transition well into the international student recruiting space.  Like Senator Flanagan some of our offices may be concentrating our recruiting efforts in countries where students don’t have the same kind of access to the internet or high bandwidth as the developed nations.  This means we don’t need to start using certain tools of social media  just yet because let’s face it, we will be wasting our time.  However this barrier to using social media by developing nations will soon be knocked down.

So how should this affect the way our offices embrace social media?  We need to stay on top of what’s available and how it works. Our prospective students are only becoming more knowledgeable digital natives meaning they have grown up using all this great Internet technology, especially web 2.0 technology.   While next year and the year after prospective students may not require you to engage them exclusively through social media there will come a time where that will be the only way to effectively recruit.

Twitter for example may in fact be the worst tool to recruit international students right now but as it’s global popularity grows, agents in developing nations will begin to pick it up, potential university partners will pick it up, prospective students and so on.  So jump on Twitter and get used to how it works.  Understand how it can be used as a viral tool.  Understand how you can meet new people and develop relationships using it.

My recommendation to admissions offices is not to worry too much about using all the tools right now but to keep up with what’s out there and more importantly how these tools work!

Photo by David Ohmer

Developing Personal Relationships Results in More Effective Student Recruiting

Life is all about relationships.

I recently had a conversation with an admissions recruiter at a school in Boston and our conversation turned to how she became so effective at recruiting international students.  She told me that her success was a symptom of her ability to connect with prospective students and their families.  To get students to apply and ultimately attend her school she never regurgitated her university’s talking points and facts but rather took time to get to know each prospective student on a personal level.

Her conversations with students were about her family, her life, her experiences of traveling around the world.  She would ask prospective students’ about their lives, dreams, motivations and goals.  After taking the time to have a conversation that was not merely ‘small talk’, the student and their family would start asking questions about the school she represented.  That’s right, by taking the time to create a personal connection, the student would begin to ask unprompted questions about her school leading to a submitted application and many times a deposit!

So if personal relationships help us recruit quality prospective international students, how can we create more personal relationships without having to spend excessive amounts of money to travel around the world?

Embrace the conversations that students are trying to have with you on social networks!  Today’s prospective student, without being conscious of it, loves to develop relationships.  This can be seen with the phenomenal popularity of social networks.  Students live on social networks, spending hours leaving comments on their friends’ profiles, photos, blogs, etc.  They ask and answer questions in forums about how to get a student visa or how to beat the SAT exam.  They update their status on Facebook and Twitter.  The point is that with social networks, today’s prospective students are more personal than ever and we need to embrace this fact.

We as admissions offices need to gain the confidence of today’s prospective international student today more than ever before.  If we want to attract the top talent to our schools we need to respond to their comments and questions we need to comment on their content, we need to get conversations started, we need to share our lives and create personal connections.

To get personal we need to do more than put up a Facebook page, more than direct students to our website, more than write e-mails.  We need to interact, communicate and get personal with our prospective international students!

Social Media is not a Waste of your Admissions Office’s Time

Not only is our interaction with students via social networks going to grow but the fact of the matter is that it is much more effective to interact with students via social networks and here’s why…

Many admissions recruiters have this idea that social media (web 2.0) is not a productive use of time.  One example of this is the apprehension admissions offices have of setting up a Facebook page.  Some of the offices I have spoken with feel that if they run a Facebook page they will be wasting time having to moderate slanderous comments left by visitors or even have to interact with more prospective students.

Rather than worrying about having to respond to all these comments positive or negative we should realize that these interactions are a great opportunity for us to reach tens, hundreds even thousands of prospective students!

Let’s imagine we are in New Delhi giving a presentation about our school to a group of 100 prospective international students.  100 students are sitting, listening attentively to how our school offers international students a life changing experience.  We talk about how our school is connected to job opportunities in various fields like, the sciences, engineering and finance.  We talk about how easy it is to get involved in the current international student community.  We talk about how many great international student events and student groups there are.

As we wrap up the presentation we ask if anyone has any questions.  One student raises their hand and asks ‘I want to know what I can do to improve my chances of being accepted to your school.  What kind of extracurricular activities do you like to see?  Which test scores do you look at closely?  What range of scores would give me the best chance of being accepted?’

As we prepare to answer this question we think if it would be easier to talk to the student one on one after the presentation or if we should answer the student right there and then?  This decision is a very important one!!!

If we decide to answer this question right there and then, 100 people get to hear our answer.  That is 99 more than if we answer the students question after the presentation!  Remember how our teachers in school would tell us not to be afraid to ask a question because 10 other people in the class probably have the same question? Well the same goes here, there are many other students with similar questions who might be afraid to ask so it is always important to answer as many questions as we can in front of as many people as we can.

So how does this relate to social media (web 2.0)?  Say on our Facebook page someone writes a comment on our wall asking the same question as above.  Or consider someone posts a comment about our school that is false and we now have to take a few minutes to share the truth.  By answering the question or the comment on our wall (not a private message or e-mail) it is as if we are answering that question in front of a large audience like in New Delhi.  Just because we are responding to one student doesn’t mean that tens, hundreds, even thousands of other students aren’t reading our answer!

Think about that for a minute.  Any time we respond to a comment left on one of our photos, videos, wall, etc. there is a possibility that there are tens, hundreds, even thousands of people who are reading what we write!

That is the power of social media (web 2.0).  Even though we aren’t aware of all the people who are reading what we write on Facebook, the effect of our communication via that medium is much more effective than writing e-mails or private messages in response to each individual student’s question or comment.

Consider this thought:

E-mail response = 1 person hearing the answer to a question

Social media response = tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people hearing the answer to a question!

Which do you prefer?

Photo by Hoong Wei Long

Are Podcasts An Effective International Student Recruiting Tool

There was a question recently posted to an international student recruiting list serve about the use of podcasting with international alumni as an effective tool for prospective international students and educational advisers.  It made me think a little bit about how schools can use podcasts effectively to recruit international students.

Here are the two questions posed with my thoughts underneath:

1.  Do you think this is a good idea?

I think that creating social media (video, blog, podcast, twitter, etc.) is a great idea but only if done with respect to one’s overall social media marketing strategy.  For example, creating a podcast is great but a few things should be considered:

First, what is your intention of creating these podcasts?  Is it to entice prospective students to become interested in your school?  Is it for students who already know about your school and are merely looking for additional information?  Is your intention to create some sort of buzz around your school so students who haven’t heard of you are now learning about your school?  A clear understanding of the intended use of social media development is very important.

Second, to go along with why you are creating this content, clearly define who is your intended target market to hear these podcasts?  If your intended market is prospective students, have you considered if your podcasts are compelling enough to create a word of mouth buzz?  I have found through my experience that creating any type of social media merely to create it is no longer compelling enough for students to help spread content virally.  I have gone into more detail on the idea of creating compelling/wow type content in this blog post…

Third, consider how you’re distributing this content through the Internet.  The beauty of social media is that it can be easily ‘shared’ through various platforms.  For example, the podcasts that we have created are distributed through a newsletter, integrated across our other outreach on Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, Blog, Website, etc. where we not only allow prospective students to listen to it but to also easily ‘share’ the content through their favorite mediums.

2.  Is your institution doing this already?  If so, do you have any feedback to share?

We have found that the most successful podcasts are on the hottest topics like getting a visa, jobs after school, finding scholarships, tips for the SAT, etc.  While students are interested in learning what it is like to live on a school’s campus, the issues that are the hardest to overcome for a student are the ones that students tend listen to in droves.  Plus it is this ‘controversial’ content that tends to be shared the most virally, so definitely keep that in mind if your intention is to create viral buzz with your podcasts.

Photo by Juan Pablo Olmo