By Bob Gourley
As the saying goes, you should not believe everything you think.
Actually, maybe a better saying is, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
A recent study by a firm with a nice website and a long list of politicians as advisors has just published a study that says the US has plenty of STEM-trained people. This group, which might be influenced a bit by big labor, is called the Economic Policy Institute. They have an issue to push, they want to stop tech talent from coming into the country from elsewhere.
Where do I stand on this? I know the economy is in bad shape, and that impacts technologists of all ages and all disciplines. When horrid government policies and global economic slowdowns combine it causes lots of hardship and times are tough for STEM-trained people in the US, that is a fact. But savvy STEM trained leaders are our big hope for getting out of this mess. I’d love for our STEM-leadership to come from the US but bringing the brains of the globe to our country will accelerate innovation and job growth. I really believe that.
In 2009 we wrote about “A Proposal Regarding High Tech Immigrants to the US” It captured trends at the time that said:
- Most computer science PhD’s in the US are being awarded to non-US Citizens. In 1993 about 50% of computer science PhD’s were going to non-US Citizens. By 2005 it was at over 60%. And the trend is towards increasing amounts from overseas.
- Of those, most possess temporary visas. In 2005, 90% of the non-US Citizen PhD degree students were on temporary visas. Their intent is to go right back home with their new degree.
In another example, this report on “Who Is Winning The Real Cyber War” documents how US colleges are doing in programming contests. Winners used to be all US, back in the good old days. But now winners are Russian and Chinese institutions. The quality of our STEM student programmers relative to the rest of the world really has changed and there is plenty of evidence of that.
I’ve also watched great technology innovators from Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere in North and South America come to the US and form incredible companies that generate capabilities enterprises and consumers are really calling out for. I have seen proof positive that getting great technologists to come to the US to innovate helps the US.
Then on the ground here in the DC area I see first hand how many companies big and small are struggling to find technically trained talent. The government prioritizes technical positions to the point that even in this environment of sequestration they advertise for technologists (check out the CTOvision Jobs Board).
By improving US education in STEM and by smartly attracting global technology innovators to the US I believe we can make positive improvements in the US economy. I know we have many technologists here looking for work so we certainly need balance. And with software already eating every sector of the economy (including my favored Government sector) there is going to be continued disruption of the US workforce and I want to see US workers hired first. But I really would like to see balance found on issues like H1B immigration and paths to citizenship that accelerates bringing the best minds to the US, it will be good for us all.
One thing is for sure, I do not believe biased research will help us find balance. We need brains with STEM training to help us find the path forward here.
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