On Tuesday, May 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee began discussing Title IV of the immigration bill (S.744). By the end of the day, they had completed discussion and votes on amendments related to the H-1B high-skilled nonimmigrant visa sections of Title IV. The committee adopted the following amendments related to the bill’s H-1B provisions:

  • Whitehouse 6: To modify provisions related to complaints against H1-B employers.
  • Grassley 58: To require additional information in Internet job postings for nonimmigrant employment in connection with the issuance of H-1B visas.
  • Hatch 9: To increase the labor certification fee from $500 to $1,000 and to use these fees to fund science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and training in the United States.

The Hatch 9 amendment focuses on the bill’s provision to address the immediate (short-term) and future flow (long-term) of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills and talent within the nation’s workforce. While these provisions are for the H-1B temporary nonimmigrant components of the bill, Title II of the bill contains permanent immigration components, including increases in employment-based visas with points awarded for skills, and exemptions for certain individuals with advanced degrees in STEM fields.

In the short-term, due to geographic spatial and skills mismatches, innovation and STEM industry employers report difficulty recruiting individuals with the specific skills necessary for a position. Indeed, according to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle have 10,000 U.S. job openings. Moreover, demand for high-skilled workers is understandably greater in metropolitan areas where innovation industries agglomerate. In 2010, for example, despite the ongoing recession, San Francisco and San Jose, California, had 25 and 19 job openings for every computer graduate, respectively. Considering the strong multiplier effects and job-creation potential for innovation industry occupations, metropolitan areas understandably seek ways in which to attract more of these types of businesses.

Over the long-term, research shows that there will be significant growth of innovation and high-skilled occupations requiring STEM talent. Furthermore, most studies suggest the current level of STEM education and graduates in the U.S. are not enough to meet that anticipated growth, particularly when considering a competition for STEM competencies among STEM and non-STEM employers. Businesses in the innovation industry have made clear their long-term interest in strengthening STEM education and the knowledge economy’s future workforce in the U.S. Indeed, many businesses contribute resources to STEM education and training initiatives at the K-12 and post-secondary levels throughout the country.

Is there a shortage of STEM talent and skills in the U.S. relative to current demand and anticipated future growth of STEM and innovation occupations

What should be done in the immediate future and over the long-term to strengthen the STEM labor force in the U.S. to meet anticipated industry growth?

What role do the bill’s provisions and reforms play in the above process?

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