Is STEM Skill Shortage Killing Trump's 'Hire American' Plan?

by CXOtoday News Desk    Feb 14, 2017


US President Donald Trump’s ”Hire American” rhetoric seems to be giving a tough time to Indian technology providers. These companies are seeing a dearth of local tech talent on US campuses.

After Trump administration proposed a new law for H1B visa holders, restricting the entry of Indian software engineers in the US, tech majors such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro and others are compelled to recruit local talent in the US, which is one of their biggest markets.

One of the key challenges is techies in the US are far lesser in number than in India, where IT companies hire a pool of fresh engineering and science graduates and train them in writing software codes. As Nasscom chief R Chandrashekhar explained, it is the underlying shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workers in the US that has “led to all companies bridging the skills gap by bringing skilled workers on work visas including H-1B”.

Majority of students for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses in US universities is foreigners primarily Chinese or Indians and not Americans, according to Nasscom and HR heads of IT companies. The issue is also with the higher cost involved in hiring anybody with a strong STEM background.

The US produces 237,826 graduates a year in the space of engineering, manufacturing and construction, show data released by the World Economic Forum in 2015. The US Department of Labor estimates that there will be about 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs by 2018, with more than 50% of these in IT-related fields. About 80% of Indian students in the US are in STEM fields, but under a new Bill moved in US Congress, work visas will be hard to come by. If the US wants more IT jobs to go to Americans, it has to start from within by first producing enough skilled professionals, according to a TOI report. [Read the full report here]

Nonetheless, IT services companies like Infosys, TCS, Wipro and HCL Technologies  who get as much as 60% of their revenue from the US, are going ahead with their hiring plans in the US since they can’t risk losing businesses.

Read more: US Tech Leaders Denounce Trump’s Immigration Order

Meanwhile, the CEOs of Google, Apple, Microsoft and other tech giants voiced concerns over the executive order on immigration from President Donald Trump that bans nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, which they believe would affect their own employees working in the country. The technology companies of Silicon Valley for years have relied on a steady flow of skilled engineers from different parts of the globe to help them build their products and solutions.  

However, what leaders want to convey is that, America needs talented, highly skilled workers [both US and foreign workers] to provide technical expertise, innovation and creative energy to Silicon Valley. Instead of thinking of these skilled foreign workers as an anchor on US jobs, they should be thought of as the high-octane fuel that we could use to rapidly grow to the US economy, they suggest. As in a recent post in NY Times, Larry Cary, a Manhattan lawyer, is the president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association, offers an objective view of encouraging and investing in STEM education. “If President Trump is doesn’t want to create a shortage of well-paying scientific and engineering jobs in the US, he needs to invest in the kind of education that produces them.”