Ever since Sheila Laurore immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 2015, she has been working hard toward her goal: A degree and a job in computer science. “I like that in the United States you have the opportunity to get a better life. You can go to school, and after college get a job quickly,” she says.
Laurore has a computer-science license and spent many years as a data administrator for Catholic Relief Services in Haiti, helping the organization manage vital information about health, education, and hurricane relief programs. “I did that job with all my heart,” she says. “I liked being able to manage the information and use my skills to help people. It was a pleasure for me.”
Currently, Laurore is working to attain her English proficiency at University Settlement, a nonprofit organization that helps new immigrants integrate into America. She then hopes to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. “I want to have a good job and get a better life. I think a master’s degree could help me do that,” she says.
When she enters the workforce, ideally in data administration, she will bring critical skills. Currently, the country is facing a serious shortfall of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The federal government estimates that within five years the United States will be short 1 million STEM workers, a deficit that will threaten America’s ability to compete in the international economy.
You have to think about what you are going to do when you leave your country. If you want a better life, it’s going to be difficult, so you have to have a plan.
Foreign-born STEM workers don’t just help fill a critical need for workers, they also help create jobs for U.S.-born workers. Research shows that when a state gains 100 foreign-born STEM workers with graduate-level training from a U.S. school, an average of 262 jobs are created for U.S.-born workers in the seven years that follow. Among U.S. states, New York stands to gain the most from retaining STEM graduates. New American Economy research finds that even if only half of the state’s 7,479 foreign-born STEM graduates in 2014 remain in New York, 9,797 new jobs will be created as a result.
Even while she’s a student, Laurore will help support her local economy in the United States, through tuition payments and spending on housing, books, and other day-to-day expenses. The Association of International Educators (NAFSA) estimated that the more than 1 million international students at U.S. colleges and universities in the 2015-2016 academic year contributed $32.8 billion to the economy and supported more than 400,000 jobs.
As for Laurore, she is grateful for the opportunity to come to the United States, and she thinks it’s important for all immigrants to have a clear strategy for how to assimilate into American society. “I would like all immigrants to have an idea and a dream about how to have a better life,” she says. “You have to think about what you are going to do when you leave your country. If you want a better life, it’s going to be difficult, so you have to have a plan.”