Is there really an IT shortage?

On Thursday, a week after former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates argued for amnesty and for an unlimited number of high-tech guest-worker visas, Microsoft announced it would slash 18,000 jobs….

…Bill Gates, along with Sheldon Adelson and Warren Buffett, advocated removing "the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States."

However, numerous nonpartisan scholars and studies have determined that there is a surplus – not a shortage – of American high-tech workers. Moreover, after a recent Census report found that "74% of those with a bachelor’s degree in these subjects don’t work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs," the mainstream media may finally be catching on and taking away the high-tech industry’s "free pass." CBS News, for instance, concluded that the Census data suggest the high-tech industry’s contention that there is a shortage of American high-tech "is largely a myth.

cheap labor

A shortage of scientists and techies? Think again

A common refrain among corporate and political leaders is that the U.S. needs more engineers, scientists and other workers with the kind of specialized expertise needed to boost economic growth. And that assessment plays a part in a range of public policy debates, from how to change the nation’s immigration laws to how to energize job-creation.

But new federal data suggest that idea is largely a myth, and it raises questions for students who are planning their careers. Roughly three-quarters of people who have a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering and math — or so-called STEM fields — aren’t working in those professions, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

What do you think?   


9 thoughts on “Is there really an IT shortage?

  1. I strongly support Gates and Buffet in their belief that an unlimited number of visas should be granted to foreign nationals who earn “graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States.” As you know, a majority of all American start-ups have a foreign born founder or co-founder.

    America needs to do a much better job at attracting the best and brightest from around the world. One of the reasons that US GDP growth has slowed is that America now attracts a much smaller share of the world’s best and brightest than America use to.

    My belief is that attracting less talented immigrants is one of the reasons US productivity growth has sharply slowed since 2005. Lower productivity means lower real incomes and lower quality jobs.

    Living standards are determined over time by product development, process improvement and creativity. Or what economists call productivity.

    Globally, the typical 2015 college graduate will likely encounter the best job market of all time. Whether they graduated in North America, Brazil, Mexico, Asia, Germany, Russia, or Botswana. In fact, this is the primary cause of increasing global income inequality. Young college graduates are increasingly earning more than the rest of the work force all over the world. Rampant ageism all over the world is exacerbating this trend.

    As Mark Zuckerburg famously said “Young people are just smarter.”

    In my opinion, the single thing that drives leftists angrier than anything else is jealousy about how well young college graduates (including minorities, immigrants, children of immigrants, ethnics, and foreigners) are doing.

  2. Many other countries (Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, New Zealand, Israel), aggressively try to attract the best and brightest from around the world. America should do likewise.

  3. Anon, you’ve got a number of issues in one response. But It’s interesting. I don’t think that’s the reason Gates wants this mass VISA opening. My experience say that the shortage isn’t quite like it’s portrayed. There are many unemployed or underemployed IT people. Now are they any good? That’s debatable. But good response. You realize many great startup were created by non-college graduates? Ummm Gates….

  4. You can see the best estimates we have for US productivity growth here:
    Column 3 or “multi-factor productivity growth” is broadest measure of productivity we have.

    Many IT jobs are becoming a type of new “blue collar” job. We need more innovative tech professionals. What Steve Jobs called the merging of the arts with engineering.

    Gates wants unlimited visas for foreigners who earn Masters degrees or PhDs in science at US institutions. Not unlimited visas for all foreigners. Often foreign graduate students are subsidized by Americans. It makes sense to try to capture as much of that talent as possible.

    You are 100% right about non-college graduates. Many C level and VP level executives in Silicon Valley and really all over America never went to college or never completed a bachelors degree. Often they are a lot better than others with bachelor degrees.

    But it is harder to sort the diamonds from the noise among this population. This is why Gates supports unlimited visas for those with graduate degrees at US institutions; but limited visas for foreigners with merely bachelor degrees at US institutions; or with no college degrees as all.

    Many American employers prefer more recent college graduate techies to older techies. We live in a time of rampant and perhaps unprecedented age discrimination. Many IT professionals are underemployed because of age discrimination. Unfair, but true.

    How else can you explain rampant wage inflation at a time when there are so many educated experienced unemployed technology professionals available to be hired?

    Many techies who have been at jobs below their skill level for a few years find it very difficult to break back into their professions.

  5. Your last three paragraphs I agree with 100 percent.

    I’m just not sure that Graduate degree or PhD, is the answer. Like any profession ground level experience is needed to understand the affects of decisions. Too many are schooling without working. But that’s not to say there those that do both. So I’m not against seeking out the best in the profession but I’m also not for searching far away when we have many at home that would excel given the chance.

    I really don’t disagree with what your saying other than the idea of no CAP on Foreign visas. The CAP can be adjusted if necessary but I don’t think the proof is there that it is necessary yet.

    I’m against unregulated immigration period. That doesn’t mean it can’t be streamlined or adjusted as needed.

  6. JB, I think we need a lot more legal immigration to maximize economic growth. At the same time we need to regulate immigration. Primarily because of terrorism, organized crime, ordinary crime, communicable diseases.

  7. They have an unofficial rule where they don’t poach each other’s talent.

    Debugging and working out technical difficulties, creating solutions out of thin air, that requires real creativity, not college educated obedience to authority. So they are lacking in quality if they are poaching the competition’s workers.

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