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Human Resources

Gloria Christie (US) - Does the US Lack of Qualified People Affect the World's IT Workforce? (Part 1)

The U.S. believes it has two very different impediments to efficacious U.S. immigration.   The first involves a porous southern border with Mexico, and that issue is worthy of discussion another day.  The second is a perceived and potentially accurate lack of technically qualified workforce.

Naturally upgrading the U.S. education system will create a different sort of infrastructure, a network built from the populations’ intelligence bank.  Of course that is a long-term goal. So in the meantime, how will the U.S. maintain a competitive market? 

First we must challenge the underlying assumption that the U.S. lacks a qualified pool of properly educated and experienced workers. 

In an online town hall a women whose husband is an unemployed semiconductor engineer asked President Obama, “"Why does the government continue to issue and extend H-1B visas when there are tons of Americans just like my husband with no job?”

Current and former technical workers in the U.S. are well aware of the incoming H-1B visa holders (people in a specialized field that requires advanced education).  Until now, there have not been any effective protections of the U.S. technical workers against the waves of incoming H-1B visa holders.  Although improving, the real unemployment numbers are still high. 

Why isn’t the U.S. striving to match unemployed or underemployed people with high-tech needs? 

President Obama responded to the woman’s question about her husband, “…industry tells me that they don’t have enough highly skilled engineers…there is a huge demand for engineers around the country right now.”

On the contrary, employers complain that they can’t find skilled workers to fill some 3 million jobs. They want more H-1Bs.

The visa "should be reserved only for those companies that say they cannot find somebody in that particular field," Obama said.

Some of the attention to H-1B visas can be attributed to an election year.  The Indian Times said of this process, “The U.S. government will force IT majors to hire locals for vanilla skills and train them and choose lower cost destinations in the U.S. As regards senior skilled folks, the market should be able to absorb the costs. The decision of the U.S. government will force IT majors to hire locals.”

This year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the U.S. will require 178,300 more engineer within 10 years, specifically in biomed, civil, environment, industrial and petroleum engineering.

More than a quarter of U.S. technology and engineering businesses launched between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born founder, indicated a Duke/UC Berkeley report.
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing and software publishers are among the most highly-paid professions in the U.S.

“India-based IT contracting firms could have been hiring U.S. citizens for IT contract work.”  Does this mean that there is no shortage of U.S. IT workers and no need for the H-1B visa program?

The Indian Times publication indicates that U.S. IT workers with commonly-performed IT tasks (vanilla) skills have already updated to these skills on their own.
One need only watch TV advertisements for universities and technical schools to understand the number of different training opportunities available to U.S. IT.

    Sample 2011 Fortune 100 Companies and H-1B Salaries
 COMPANY RANK    VISAS FILES FT/PT          SALARY RANGE      
1 Wal-mart             5/0            $75394-185,000
2 Exxon Mobil         10/0            $85600-115600
5 Fannie Mae            26/0            $61000-129000
6 GE Infrastructure         80/0            $62,000-132500
9 Bank of America        395/0            $53,914-390,000
15 McKesson            6-/0            $45286-114940       
30 Home Depot         14/-            $55,000-110,000
31 Pfizer             116/0            $38,012 -765,000

Why Is H-1B Visa So Popular with Corporations?

A group of up of 400 nondenominational mayors has organized into The Partnership for a New American Economy and published a report.  It indicates that there are four key advantages of H-1B visas.

•    Immigrants with advanced degrees boost employment for U.S. natives.
•    Temporary foreign workers—both skilled and less skilled—boost U.S. employment.
•    The analysis yields no evidence that foreign-born workers hurt U.S. employment.
•    Highly educated immigrants pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
•    Conversely, numerous unemployed and underemployed people fear job loss.

A bipartisan group of CEO’s has come together, Technet, to promote an innovating economy by a full overhaul of U.S.’s highly-skilled immigration system to take it into the 21st century,Technet believes that this can be achieved by raising the H-1B visa caps, faster implementation of the green-card applications and retaining foreign students with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

In 2006, Bill Gates, Microsoft proprietor, has lobbied hard for H-1B visas.  In 2006 he lobbied to increase the H-1B raised from 65,000 to 115,000 with a 20% increase annually according to the India Times.  He noted the irony of educating high-tech foreign students only to have them return home due to a visa shortage.

“And I have people who have been hired and who are just sitting on the border waiting ,'' Gates, who was in Washington, D.C. to lobby the U.S. Senate to increase H-1B visas, told a newspaper.

By Gloria Christie, partner at The Christie Group. Part two of the article can be found here.

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