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Immigrant mindset critical for economic growth

Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Ratanjit Sondhe is the proverbial success story of an immigrant who pursued the U.S.-American dream and achieved it.  “Immigrant is like fresh water in a pond, without the mindset of an immigrant the pond will die,” said Sondhe, speaking at the City Club of Cleveland on March 25, 2011.

Ratanjit Sondhe speaks at the City Club

He arrived in Akron, Ohio from India in 1968 with two master degrees and only $8 in his pocket, to complete his Ph.D. in Advanced Polymer Chemistry.

Making the region his home, Sondhe founded POLY-CRAB Inc., employing 51 people, only to let them go several years later because he was broke.

Rather than file for bankruptcy, he reinvented the business approach and going against the grain sought to hire recent graduates, training them in multidisciplinary positions.

To his surprise, he found 70 percent of U.S. born applicants walked out during the job interview; and his company relied heavily on foreign born students. He attributes this to the zeal foreigners have to survive and achieve in their adopted homeland, facing challenges head on, because often an alternative option does not exist.

This mindset of ‘survival mode’ gives immigrants unique perspective to look at common problems from a different vantage point and often find solutions.

 “We think of immigrants in two terms now, legal and illegal,” he said; instead their contributions to U.S. society are evident in products we consume, especially in technology. As most jobs rely heavily on technology and are easily off shored – U.S. employees need to face the competition in the global market.

He said immigrants have enriched the U.S. economy through ideas, patents, and skills filling in the gaps of excellence in sectors like math and science. As world markets rapidly catch up with the United States and standards of living and opportunities increase in China and India the supply of highly skilled immigrants is declining.

 This reality, in combination with a failing education system, should spur the country to: “Grow our own immigrants,” said Sondhe.

Calling the U.S. education system “obsolete,” Sondhe said, ‘it is only providing students basic tools in math, reading and science but studies show they lack critical thinking or analytical skills crucial for jobs of the future.’

“Ninety-three percent of Cleveland’s ninth graders will not earn a college degree,” said Sondhe, and the seven percent who will are more likely to pursue MBAs versus science or engineering degrees. “They don’t understand the purpose in life.” 

He said universities are not focusing on educating for the future or emphasizing leadership integrity and ethics, which are not associated with religiosity but morality, that is, doing the right thing. Citing sobering statistics that claim 75-98 percent of U.S. students cheat in school. Sondhe cautioned, “This is the stock from which our future leaders will emerge.”

He said the current economic demise was brought on by the best and brightest former students from some of the most prestigious universities who failed to instill ethics and added it was absurd to expect the same people to find answers.

“Today we have a choice to become part of the solution,” said Sondhe and proposes creating a Mega University overseas that would provide the best education in a foreign environment encouraging the immigrant mindset.  He said it is vital for the nation to maintain its lead and should begin as at an early age.

 “Somewhere we have to correct the cycle.”

Sondhe is an author and motivational speaker who specializes in stress free living.  For more information visit: http://www.ratanjit.com


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Revised: 10/12/11 21:02:41 -0700.





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