Friday, April 2, 1999


Web site tries
to stem Hawaii
brain drain

An new service hopes to link isle
companies with mainland-educated
kamaaina students

By Peter Wagner


Born in Hilo, schooled in Oregon and working near San Francisco, Jon Sakurai-Horita knows the path of Hawaii's debilitating "brain drain."

Brain Drain


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But the 47-year-old career counselor at Santa Clara University, wants to help stem the tide.

Sakurai-Horita was carrying an armful of student resumes on a return visit to Hawaii last year when the idea hit. Why not use the Internet to hook up Hawaii's far-flung students with employers back home?

The result was Kama'aina Careers, an online service now building a database of resumes from campuses across the country.

"Most of Hawaii's top companies find it difficult to effectively recruit Hawaii's students educated on the mainland," said Sakurai-Horita. "Lack of resources to tap into this talent pool previously discouraged employers. We provide easy access to these students."

Those who tap into Kama'aina's Web address -- -- will find separate registries for students and employers. The service, free to applicants, ultimately will charge a fee to companies wanting access to the database.

While targeting Hawaii-born students and recent graduates on the mainland, Kama'aina is open to anyone looking for work in Hawaii.

It's a fledgling effort with fewer than 100 resumes and no employers yet registered. But Sakurai-Horita thinks the service will click when its database grows.

"The word is starting to spread and we have some people applying who already have job experience," he said. "We're looking at our database being up and running in a few months."

Sakurai-Horita estimates there are at least 1,000 Hawaii-born students in Bay Area colleges alone, where he's done some recent recruiting. Many more are in colleges up and down the West Coast, in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and along the East Coast.

"A selling point is these students want to go home," said Sakurai-Horita. "It's not like they're relocating to Hawaii. And they have something extra to offer because of they did come to the mainland and their experiences are a little broader than those of students that stayed at home."

Quote Eric Yeaman, director of recruiting and audit manager at accounting firm Arthur Andersen in Honolulu, likes the idea.

"A lot of local kids that go away for school, because the economy's been slow, don't think there are opportunities here," he said. "Kama'aina is providing a bridge between students and companies here who really do have a need for people."

Like some other employers in Honolulu, Arthur Andersen seeks college recruits here and on the mainland.

Faye Maeda, manager of work force staffing at Hawaiian Electric Co., is similarly interested. "What we like about it is it helps avoid the brain drain," she said. "It could help keep talent in the state."

But a weak economy has made a scarcity of jobs and a multitude of applicants, Maeda said. Hawaiian Electric is doing little hiring and is content with newspaper advertisements and local job fairs to seek employees when openings occur, she said.

Sakurai-Horita acknowledges Hawaii's economy puts a damper on his efforts.

"Everybody says this is a great idea but the timing is not the greatest," Sakurai-Horita said. "But we're counting on things turning around."

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