Alexandre Giorgi-Vigo: US Citizen, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from hhoover’s photostream

Pittsburgh’s “Eds and Meds” economy is having an unexpected benefit: Our region’s foreign-born residents “comprise the most highly skilled immigrant group in the entire country.” A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delves into what the headline calls our “brain gain.” While our region has the lowest immigration rate compared to 15 similar cities in the country, over half of these immigrants hold at least a bachelor’s degree — with a concentration in science and engineering. They note a similar pattern for immigrants in older industrial cities. Certainly a major draw to attracting these highly skilled international workers to Pittsburgh are our research universities. Another benefit that comes from this immigration is that once students study abroad, they often stay to found new companies.

Oakland Land Lines, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from KitAy’s photostream

What our city is lacking is a more robust pattern of immigration — something which continues to hold our overall population size down. One segment which has increased is an influx of refugees. The article notes that lesser skilled immigrants and refugees need systems of support in order to thrive. Even the highly skilled set, and their families, can use support. One group which works to provide this is Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization which helps to enable a more diverse workforce. From the P-G:

A new effort by Vibrant Pittsburgh, founded in 2010 to promote diversity, attempts to find the common needs of stem-cell researchers and indigent refugees. The organization’s nascent Welcome Center envisions a portal for all newcomers.

Melanie Harrington, Vibrant Pittsburgh’s director, ticks off the shared priorities.

“There are similar issues,” she says, “employment, trailing partner connections, sitters and schools, housing, translation and interpretation skills for those with limited English.” She sees the Welcome Center as a means of linking new arrivals with existing services.

Another resource for immigrants to Pittsburgh is the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. They offer classes in conversational English for adults from foreign countries. According to their website, they draw students from both groups.