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Boston startup helps international students meet staffing shortages in IT, nursing

Imran Oomer (right) and Chris Hoehn Saric cofounded Boston startup InSpring, which aims to fill staffing shortages in IT and nursing.InSpring

Even in a slowing economy, staffing shortages remain acute in fields such as cybersecurity, IT, and nursing. A new Boston startup posits part of the solution might be hidden in plain sight among the thousands of international students graduating every year from US colleges and universities.

InSpring cofounders Imran Oomer and Chris Hoehn Saric got the idea after working together for nearly a decade at Shorelight, a Boston-based service that helps international students apply to US schools. Their new startup launched in November and just raised $6 million in seed funding.

“The group of students we were aggregating wanted to contribute not just in academia, but also to society and in building their careers,” said Oomer, whose parents came to the US from India for graduate school. “There was an opportunity to be able to help launch them into the first phases of their careers.”

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The company is building a network of educational institutions to connect with international students, recruiting students for openings in IT and nursing, and offering additional training that may be needed for specific positions. InSpring also manages the process of getting legal work authorization for job candidates.

InSpring is hardly the only company focused on staffing shortages in nursing or IT. In nursing, Quincy-based IntelyCare reached unicorn status last year, valued at over $1 billion, and Waltham-based connectRN and California-based Trusted Health have each raised over $100 million in backing. For IT, the competing firms include giants like Adecco and Insight Global, as well as startups such as Wonolo in Oregon and Instawork in California.

With the recent cutbacks at many tech firms, the market for tech talent has cooled somewhat but remains strong, said David Chang, general manager at recruiting firm Hunt Club and an investor in startups. In part, that’s because many non-tech companies which had been unable to afford cybersecurity experts and software developers during the boom years now can. Chang is “seeing continued demand for those types of roles,” he said. (A report from industry group CompTIA forecasts 3 percent growth in tech jobs this year.)

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Oomer, the chief revenue officer of InSpring, and Hoehn Saric, the chief executive, said their focus on international students will give the company a unique talent pool to draw from, one which is often overlooked. Part of the firm’s offering to employers includes handling the visa process for job applicants.

Students can typically stay in the country and work after graduation for three years or more in certain fields, and another three years if they get a graduate degree, Oomer said.

“It sounds complicated and [employers] tend to look at international and go, ‘That’s spooky. We don’t want to deal with that,’” Hoehn Saric said. But employers “don’t have to ignore this massive population of high-quality candidates who could be filling positions around the country and who are mobile, who are bicultural, and who actually come with ... a lot of grit.”

Still, in the nursing field, the solution to rampant staffing shortages may not be adding more candidates to the job pool, said Katie Murphy, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and a nurse herself. Difficult working conditions and understaffing by hospitals trying to save money are driving many from the field.

“We do have nurses here,” Murphy said. “What we need to do is change the circumstances under which they are working.”

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Oomer still believes adding more talent would help alleviate some of the challenges. “There is truly such a headcount shortage that exists in nursing that is creating the crisis,” he said.


Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him @ampressman.