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Talented Immigrants: The Answer to STEMM Shortage

Thursday, June 19, 2014

According to estimates from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, over the next decade, there will be one million fewer graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) than U.S. employers are expected to need. A report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government, predicts that the federal government will likely be among the biggest losers due to this shortfall. While senior STEMM employees in the federal government can earn a competitive salary, the feds are unable to compete dollar-for-dollar with private enterprise when it comes to competing for the brightest U.S. graduates in the STEMM fields. One reason for the shortage of qualified STEMM candidates is the current, unreasonable cap on H-1B visas for highly talented workers. 

A recent report from Partnership for a New American Economy, in fact, found that denials of H-1B visas under the current lottery system stunted job growth in the tech sector. The report estimates that the denials visas for highly talented individuals directly resulted in a loss of as much as $3 billion in potential wages to U.S.- born workers because tech industries were unable to expand to their potential. Inability to grow resulted in stagnation and missed opportunity to create as many as a quarter-million new jobs for U.S. workers with college educations.

Moreover, with the retirement of Baby Boomers, tech employers are losing their most senior workers at a rate that isdisproportionate to the number of new graduates entering STEMM fields. This is most apparent in the federal government,which relies on huge numbers – as much as 50 percent of each agency’s staff – of STEMM workers to staff agencies ranging from NASA and CDC to the nation’s nuclear programs. Despite these numbers, the federal government has yet to develop a strategy to ensure that it replenishes its STEMM workforce as older employees retire.

The U.S. is simply not going to produce enough STEMM graduates to meet U.S. employment demands over the next 10 years. Clearly the solution is for government and industry to work together to lure and retain talented foreign-born workers in the STEMM fields via immigration reform. Not only will this serve to boost the U.S. economy, create jobs and aid in tech sector expansion, it offers a solution to the government’s own loss of skilled STEMM workers.

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