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Latino Daily News

Wednesday June 25, 2014

Puerto Rico’s Economic Woes Spur Exodus of College Grads

Puerto Rico’s Economic Woes Spur Exodus of College Grads

Photo: Puerto Rico

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The economic crisis and the lack of good jobs in Puerto Rico is convincing thousands of college graduates with professional experience to leave for the U.S. mainland.

In an interview with Efe, Pedro Eloy Guzman, Jesus Manuel De Leon and Jaime Rodriguez, a trio of engineers ranging in age from 27 to 33, told how they saw themselves forced to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

During 2012, some 75,000 people with an average age of 33 left this U.S. commonwealth in the Caribbean for the continental United States, according to figures of the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute.

Of those, 52 percent had some kind of university education and 35 percent were married.

Guzman represents that profile perfectly: He is a 33-year-old husband and father with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

“The (Puerto Rican) labor market is a relatively closed ecosystem, it makes an engineer look like just one of the many,” Guzman, who found himself jobless last November after having worked for Alternate Concepts, Microsoft, Boston Scientific and Doral Bank, said.

His wife suggested that he look for work with Microsoft at the software giant’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Finally Amazon, based in Seattle, hired Guzman, who has been less than a month in the Pacific Northwest and finds it “a pretty big change, both professionally and personally.”

“Corporate culture here is much freer than in Puerto Rico, because the atmosphere is calmer, and it promotes the idea that any employee can make a difference to his company,” he said in a telephone conversation with Efe.

A similar story was told by De Leon, also 33, married and with graduate studies in Electrical Engineering and an MBA.

After working since 2006 as an engineer in several telecom companies, the last of them wouldn’t renew his contract and he was left unemployed on an island that has been sunk in recession for almost eight years.

“The field is completely saturated - there’s much more supply than demand,” De Leon, who has been living and working for just a few weeks in New York, home to a large Puerto Rican community, said.

Up to now, De Leon never dreamed of leaving, because he always wanted to stay on his native island, but realized that “I was going to have a hard time finding work in Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez, 27, agrees with his colleagues that engineering in Puerto Rico is “completely saturated.”

“There are so many students who finish university with perfect grades, pass their final exams and take their degrees, but they still don’t find work…and for many of those who do, it’s not because of what they know but who they know,” he said.

He’s now in St. Joseph, Missouri, where he says he feels “scared, alone, nervous” because he doesn’t know anyone, but at the same time he’s “happy to start an adventure and a whole new chapter.

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