Paving the way for students to stay

As the population of international students in Eastern Iowa continues to grow, economic development officials are realizing the advantages of providing a clear, unobstructed path for these students to stay in the Corridor after graduation. International students make valuable contributions to the state’s economy. Iowa’s 11,563 foreign students and their families contributed $325,218,000 during the 2012-13 school year to the Iowa economy, according to numbers provided by Katie O’Connell, associate director of media relations and advocacy at the National Association of International Educators. At the University of Iowa, 3,571 international students created or supported 1,482 jobs from 2012-13, according to NAFSA. “From a talent perspective, diversifying our workforce is a business necessity,” said Oather Taylor, director of security, facilities and business continuity at Alliant Energy. “From the standpoint of talent acquisition and the talent pool, we do recognize that international students and employees who aren’t necessarily originally from this area are essential for the future of this company,” said Taylor, co-founder and past chair of the Employee Resource Group Consortium, a group of 16 Corridor employers who are working to create a regional diversity community plan. The question is how to help international students overcome challenges to staying and working in the Corridor while helping them see the benefits of doing so. A newly formed task force being led by the Iowa City Area Development Group is focusing on answering these questions and providing pathways for these students to start their careers here once they’ve finished their education. Challenges The state’s changing demographics are well documented: Fewer young people are coming from rural areas to help populate cities like…