Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Underemployed immigrants: A plug for Maine's 'brain drain'?

Many immigrants are working at menial jobs, yet have graduate and professional degrees in their homeland. Maine is trying to find a way to use their education and skills.   - - Donna Poisl

by Ben McCanna

PORTLAND — Sally Sutton is working on what she believes is a win-win proposition for Maine.

Since December, Sutton has served as program coordinator for the New Mainers Resource Center, a two-year pilot project to help skilled, foreign-trained professionals pursue their former careers here in their adoptive country. She estimates there are hundreds of immigrants with professional degrees in the greater Portland area who cannot work due to barriers of language or licensing.

They are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, teachers and computer scientists who are unemployed or underemployed. In a state where the buzzword has long been "brain drain," the newly arrived Mainers provide an opportunity to stem the tide, Sutton said.

"As a state, we need these people. We are old, we're aging out of the workforce," she said. "They are who we need for our workforce now. And if they're better off, we're better off."
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