How a new group plans to keep international students in Hamilton

A new group is launching its to keep skilled young graduates-especially international students- in Hamilton.
Global Hamilton Connect executive members, from left, Harin Dalal, Layla Abdulrahim and Rouxanne Irving, hope to keep more young, talented people in the city. (John Rieti/CBC)

A new group is launching its efforts to keep skilled young graduates—particularly international students— in Hamilton.

Global Hamilton Connect, run by an executive core of eight recent post-secondary graduates, is set to hold an event for 100 people at Radius Café on James St. S. on Wednesday night.

It’s a networking event, yes. But it’s also a chance for the group to sell newcomers on the benefits of staying in Hamilton.

“We’re trying to keep talent in Hamilton,” the group’s Layla Abdulrahim told CBC Hamilton.

“Anyone who’s at that stage in their lives and is willing to listen and see what Hamilton has to offer.”

Showcasing opportunity

She said the group plans to “showcase” employment and volunteer opportunities in the city, as well as provide time for guests to network and discuss their employment experiences in Hamilton.

International students are among the top priorities, but the group can be for “anyone who wants to make Hamilton home,” said Harin Dalal.

The group is linked with the city’s Global Hamilton Office, as well as the Hamilton Hive, a group for young professionals.

The obvious question the group will have to answer is what jobs exist in Hamilton.

“As a group, we’re not able to create any job opportunities, but we can do is help understand the job market,” said Abdulrahim, who works in the community building field.

If people are struggling in finding work, she said her next questions would be about their approach and application. She said there are “lots of resources” available in the city, but they can be hard to find for international students.

“I would say it’s just opening doors to what already exists.”

Dalal said the group hopes to act as link to those resources. There are jobs out there, he said, but it can be hard to get the right people into jobs where they’re “best suited.”

Don't neglect networking

The networking aspect of the group’s work aims to fill a gap in students’ preparedness for the job market.

Rouxanne Irving, another member of the executive, said students often focus on their studies but underestimate the value of something like volunteering while in school – something that could make a big difference once classes are done.

Abdulrahim said formal networking – from LinkedIn to hob-nobbing at events – is discussed at school but it’s something students need to practice. If they get good at it during their post-secondary studies, she said, “they can tackle the market as opposed to trying to catch up once they graduate.”