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October 01, 2012

Shortage of Tech Workers Alarming Microsoft

By Frank Griffin, TMCnet Contributing Writer

The statement by Brad Smith, Microsoft's (News - Alert) general counsel and executive vice president about the lack of qualified candidates in the U.S is, "approaching the dimensions of a genuine crisis" only supports raw data. The country is not producing half the graduates needed with bachelor’s degrees in computer related fields.

 An average of 120,000 will be needed for the next 10 years and only half are being produced, so the other half will have to come from somewhere else. Smith and other tech companies like Microsoft are proposing a boost in H-1B visas to encourage more qualified candidates with technology and engineering experience from around the world to work in the U.S.

As the economies in Asia and the Middle East continue to grow, they are attracting the brightest candidates from other parts of the world. In the past and to some extent even today, the U.S is still the preferred destination, but candidates are pointing out to many different issues that make these nations a better alternative.

Smith added, "The skill gap is one of the biggest problems Microsoft faces. We fear jobs will start to migrate to other countries, other countries are putting a higher priority than the United States on preparing students for high-skill jobs.”

Microsoft is looking for an additional 3,400 employees for research, development and engineering, which a 34 percent increase over the previous year. In order to combat this shortage, Microsoft is trying to push congress to pass legislation to improve education in STEM courses. The courses are science, technology, engineering and mathematics, fields in which the U.S. is falling far behind compared to other countries around the world. The company proposes funding the legislation by making more H-1B visas available and charging the companies that use foreign labor fees of 10 to 15 thousand dollars per employee.

H-1b visa gives companies in the US the opportunity of employing foreign workers with special skills. Recently, the vast majority of these visas have been issued to tech workers from India to provide the shortage of this type of talent in the country.

Microsoft is urgently seeking the cooperation of legislators to wake up and see what is taking place around the world. If the current trends continue, we will be left even more behind in these critical fields that will shape the future. The company wants an initiative to increase STEM education from K-12 and beyond by encouraging the participation of states to:

  • Strengthen K-12 STEM education by providing additional resources to recruit and train STEM teachers and implement Common Core State Standards and Next-Generation Science Standards that will better prepare students for college and work in these disciplines;
  • Broaden access to computer science in high school to ensure that all students have the opportunity to gain this foundational knowledge and explore careers in computing
  • Expand higher-education capacity to produce more STEM degrees, including a particular focus on computer science degrees
  • Address our national crisis in college completion by helping students who start college to finish it faster

Smith continued, "Our nation faces the paradox of a crisis in unemployment at the same time that many companies cannot fill the jobs they have to offer. In addition to the short-term consequences for businesses and individuals, we risk these jobs migrating from the U.S., creating even bigger challenges for our long-term competitiveness and economic growth.”

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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