House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce Chairman Richard Hanna (R-NY) today led a hearing on the small business Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce shortage and how immigration reform could help address the problem.
Many small businesses report a shortage of workers with post-secondary and advanced degrees in STEM disciplines. According to the NFIB, more than one out of three small business owners who hired or tried to hire in the last three months had trouble finding qualified applicants, while another study found that by 2018 there will be more than 200,000 jobs requiring graduate-level STEM training that businesses will not be able to fill with native-born workers. The Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a study, last year, that found that the American economy is facing a shortage of STEM talent, and that foreign-born STEM workers are complementing – not displacing – American workers.
“Two unfilled STEM jobs exist for every STEM worker in the U.S. looking for work, and the trend is expected to get worse,” said Chairman Hanna. “Our nation’s STEM workforce shortage is affecting the viability of small businesses in the marketplace, and Congress’ discussion on immigration reform must take this trend into account. If small businesses in technology-dependent industries cannot find qualified applicants for these critical positions, then they cannot grow or adequately compete in the marketplace. Today’s hearing provided a productive discussion on the extent of the workforce shortage, its effect on small firms, and how immigrants and guest worker visas can help the American economy, workers and our competitive position in the world.”
This Committee held a hearing, during the last Congress, on innovative approaches to meeting the workforce needs of small businesses. The hearing focused on small businesses’ need for highly skilled workers and how private, industry-led portable skills certification programs are helping meet these needs while improving career and educational prospects for students and workers.
Materials for the hearing are posted on the House Small Business Committee’s website HERE.
John Tyler, General Counsel and Secretary of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, MO said, “…it is imperative that U.S. policy support opportunities for small businesses and especially that entrepreneurial subset whose businesses are positioned for the transformative growth that keeps our nation’s economy vibrant.
“Among current policies that do not provide enough support for those opportunities is a U.S. immigration system that does not give enough consideration or support to economic priorities and opportunities that immigrants provide. The STEM workforce is particularly at risk of being neglected.”
Nagappa Ravindra, President of Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. in Rochester, NY said, “With so many engineers graduating from American universities and working in other fields, it does not make any sense to send trained foreign engineers home to work for our competitors in the global marketplace. If I had not been given the opportunity to stay and work in the United States, 90 American workers would not have the job opportunities provided by my firm.”
Ryan Costella, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Click Bond in Carson, City, NV said, “Our company wants access to the world's best and brightest, period. Thousands of small and medium sized businesses are in the same boat. If existing regulations can be adjusted to make it easier for hard-working and talented people to come here legally to stay and build lives and families, pay taxes, and help make our businesses even more dynamic and viable – not to mention make our economy stronger and our future more secure – then we stand in support of those ideas. Rather than educate the world’s best in our universities and then send them home to eventually sit across from us at the negotiating table, let’s make it easier for them to stay here in our great country and sit on our side of the table.”
Morgan Reed, Executive Director of Association for Competitive Technology in Washington, DC said, “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, America is expected to create 120,000 new jobs in computer science annually throughout the decade, but our universities only produce 40,000 graduates a year qualified for these positions.
“There is no way to fix that skills gap overnight; it will take eight to ten years to see any STEM program produce the kind of impact we know is needed. So where does the needed math and science talent lay today? Right here in America’s colleges and universities. It is estimated that in colleges and universities, foreign-born doctorate degree holders account for approximately 33% of the full-time faculty in computer sciences, 26% in engineering, 33% in mathematics, and 22% in the physical sciences. At the postdoctoral level, the participation of foreign doctorate holders is 56% in engineering, 50% in mathematics, and 42% in physical sciences. Data show that since 1990, approximately 50% of the U.S. Nobel laureates in the scientific and technical disciplines were foreign-born.”