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Why Mark Zuckerberg is willing to push for immigration reform: the painful truth

Sites include , . Published on June 3rd, 2013. Written by Loic Cobbina.

It there really a short supply of graduates in fields like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the United States? This is one of the key reasons for which businesses at Silicon Valley are willing to push immigration reforms.

The tech industry represented by some companies and interest groups at Silicon Valley has made it clear that they seriously needed way more STEM graduates in US to meet their needs. Their claim is that because the United States alone is not able to supply enough of those graduates, they have to look elsewhere and bring in foreign talent for their company to achieve its goal.

What they fail to acknowledge is that in reality, students with STEM related degrees are in abundance. There isn’t any shortage in technical degrees. The truth is there is a different kind of shortage but the big companies wouldn’t admit it in public. What Silicon Valley refers to as shortage has to do with ultra-elite American-born talent. The tech industry company wants to work with the best in the world and what America has to offer is not a match to its expectations. Americans may have the number of graduates needed but not necessarily the best students.

Silicon Valley just can’t come to the public and admit that they are only looking for the best and not all American-born graduate is up to the task. That will be offensive to the public, so the strategy is to present the issue in a way to make it look more like a general shortage.

The STEM shortage is not real

A paper was published a few weeks ago by the Economic Policy Institute and the information provided in it debunked a lot of myth around technical skills shortage.

In basic economics, when there is a shortage of a product and the demand for it is high, the price will also go high. If indeed the supply of technical workers has gone low, that should have resulted in the rise of the paycheck of those currently employed. But that did not reflect in the survey.

Further more the unemployment rate for STEM graduates is not as low as expected. This is quite surprising in a situation where tech industry claims there is not enough of them.

Another report released by the Georgetown Center on Education showed that the unemployment rate for graduates in information system was 14.7% while that for computer science was 8.7. The lowest was for those in mathematics with 5.9%.

Not all STEM graduates majors do necessarily end up working in a tech environment. This could be explained by a matter of choice but when looking at the statistics showing the reason for which they chose not to work in field related to their major we realize that unemployment is an important factor.

In one of the graphs presented, it shows that 31,6% of graduates in Computer and Information Science were not working in their major because there were no jobs available. This completely contradicts the argument presented by Silicon Valley with respect to STEM shortage.

And again if there is a real shortage why are the tech businesses not willing to absorb those graduates who chose not to work in their majors because they felt like their paycheck was relatively low. The graph shows that there are 52.7% of those. If there are enough tech skills available, why is Silicon Valley claiming that there is a shortage and uses that as a justification to loosen up immigration policies?

There is an answer to the question and it is a painful one.

The fact is the claim of the STEM shortage is not supported by rudimentary economics. So what is really going on. Qualified skill is available in the US and the Tech industry is still pretending there is not enough workforce. What could be the explanation to that?

The fact is Silicon Valley has higher standards and the fact that somebody holds a degree in computer science doesn’t mean he meets those standards. Not all degrees are created equal. The reputation of the college a student comes from may matter when it comes to employment and let’s face it a C+ graduate is definitely not what Google is looking for.

At the end of the day Silicon Valley is not obliged to employ every American.

The hard truth is not everyone deserves to work in technical oriented businesses. We all know that not all wannabe astronauts will make it to the Space Shuttle, it is the same for the tech industry. They are looking for the best of the best, la crème de la crème.

It is important to note that when Silicon Valley executives look at American colleges they can see that a lot of foreign students in there are performing much better than the homegrown talent. That is the workforce they are looking for. They want to be able to hire that talent without having to deal with visa issues.

So one can understand why they are pissed off to know that they cannot keep the talent they are willing to pay for just because of immigration related policies. So they have to find a proper way to present the problem to Americans. They cannot tell the average person the whole truth. So they chose to focus only on one side of the truth.

You can’t blame them. Some of the greatest tech companies in the world were founded in America. But to compete with other tech companies around the world it is crucial that they bring in the best brains they can get even if that has to come from another country. The problem needs to be addressed.

That said Silicon Valley based businesses need to find a better way to present the problem to the public because should they find out what is really going on they are going to realized they’ve been duped and the tech industry leaders are going to lose their credibility.

Another good read: Why Google and Facebook are fighting over Waze?

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