Wadhwa on PBS: Why America Needs More Foreign STEM Workers07 Aug 2013
Vivek Wadhwa, a prominent academic and frequent commentator on high-tech immigration, recently appeared on PBS to talk about why America needs more foreign STEM workers. [See The Immigrant Brain Drain: How America is Losing its High-Tech Talent, PBS Newshour, The Business Desk with Paul Solman, 25.Jul.2013.] Wadhwa was responding to protectionist arguments that advocate a more restrictive approach to immigration, out of concern that there might not be enough high-tech jobs to go around.
Those concerns are wholly unfounded, Wadhwa says, because American companies are already finding it impossible to hire enough STEM workers – foreign or domestic – to meet existing needs – and the lack of tech workers is actually stifling growth and innovation, just when we need it most. According to Wadhwa, restrictions on H1B visas are actually driving jobs offshore, as American tech companies find themselves stymied by the relative scarcity of H1B visas, compared to industry demand.
Not surprisingly, the need is especially acute in Silicon Valley. As Wadhwa tells the PBS Newshour:
“I learned of the dire need that the tech industry has for skilled workers by speaking to the founders of technology companies and observing the bidding wars for talent. Things are so bad in Silicon Valley that, as NPR’s ‘All Tech Considered’ reported, big companies are buying hot startups – not for their products, but for their people. They call these ‘acqui-hires.’ They are paying ridiculously high prices for top talent.”
Wadhwa also took issue with recent claims that American colleges and universities are actually producing more STEM grads than the domestic market will bear. Nonsense, Wadhwa told the PBS Newshour – do the math:
“According to the National Science Foundation, only 37,000 Americans graduate each year with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and another 10,000 with a master’s degree. So how many job openings are there for computer workers? Six hundred thousand at any time, according to the Conference Board. Moreover, the Conference Board calculates that there are roughly four job openings for every unemployed computer worker, in comparison with an average of 0.4 job openings per worker in all fields. In other words, there aren’t nearly enough job seekers with the right skills or new graduates to fill demand for computer workers.”
He also points out that wages for STEM graduates, especially computer and math workers, “have increased and soared relative to most workers, even though computer and STEM workers are already among the highest-paid.” In other words, Wadhwa argues, opponents of immigration reform are painting an ominous picture that bears no relation to what’s going on in the world outside. “So if we’re going to debate immigration,” he says, “let’s open the window and look at the reality before trying to manipulate the data.”
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