Is Puerto Rico the Next Epicenter for Talent?

Recruiters are turning to Puerto Rico to fill jobs in the Midwest.
By: | February 14, 2019 • 2 min read

Manufacturing companies in the Midwest are looking beyond the continental U.S. to fill much-needed positions. According to the Wall Street Journal, recruiters and staffing companies are setting sights on Puerto Rico. In the past year and a half, Integrated Staffing Solutions has recruited approximately 300 Puerto Rican employees to the Midwest.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the island has lost nearly half a million residents over the past 10 years, in part because of the flailing economy. For instance, in December the unemployment rate in Puerto Rico was 8.3 percent, more than double that of the 50 states. Natural disasters like Hurricane Maria have also sent hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to the mainland.

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Recruiters are turning to the island’s residents because, as U.S. citizens, there’s no need for them to obtain visas or undergo other lengthy government processes.

Carlos Román Román, an administrator at the Department of Labor and Human Resources in Puerto Rico, told the WSJ that the Puerto Rican government has authorized 200 companies to recruit in the U.S. territory over the past four years. In that time frame, more than 2,000 workers have been hired spanning across industries from healthcare to agriculture.

The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce website offers visitors an option to become a member or purchase recruitment plans designed to tap into the vast network of workers to promote and market U.S. job opportunities.

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Bayada Home Healthcare, an in-home care provider, told the WSJ that it hired 26 nurses from Puerto Rico for positions in Minnesota, 13 of whom are currently getting licensed in the state.

Rolando Borja-Trujillo, CEO of Integrated Staffing Solutions, said he recruited dozens of Puerto Rican residents to work at Norcold Inc., an RV-refrigerator-manufacturing company based in Sidney, Ohio.

While these employees are meeting employer’s needs, the transition from island life to the Midwest is hard.  While Norcold provided its new hires with airfare, temporary housing and clothing, the latter still had to contend with other obstacles including the lack of transportation and cultural misunderstandings. One Norcold employee, Yezery Maldonado Alvarado, told the WSJ that when she went to open a bank account, she was told she needed a green card. Maldonado Alvarado explained that she’s a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport but the bank wasn’t convinced. Eventually, she was able to open an account elsewhere.

Additionally, business at Norcold started slowing down, which forced some of the Puerto Rican employees to find work elsewhere.

Danielle Westermann King is a former staff writer for HRE.