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3/1/2013
03:24 PM
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H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says

Skilled foreign worker programs are causing a U.S. brain drain, an Economic Policy Institute report says.

2012 Salary Survey: 12 Career Insights
2012 Salary Survey: 12 Career Insights
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Managers of high-tech companies insist they need more H-1B visas for foreign IT workers to ensure access to the best and brightest workforce. But a study released on Thursday finds that imported IT talent is often less talented than U.S. workers.

The study, published by the Economic Policy Institute and conducted by Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California in Davis, compares U.S. and foreign IT workers' salaries, rates of PhD awards, doctorates earned and employment in research and development to determine whether those admitted to the U.S. under the H-1B visa program have skills beyond those of U.S. IT workers.

Based on Matloff's analysis, there's no evidence that those granted H-1B visas offer exceptional talents.

"We thus see that no best and brightest trend was found for the former foreign students in either computer science or electrical engineering," Matloff writes in his report. "On the contrary, in the CS case the former foreign students appear to be somewhat less talented on average, as indicated by their lower wages, than the Americans."

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The report concludes that the H-1B program and related work programs are not making the U.S. companies more innovative and are in some ways making them less so.

The technology industry sees things differently. It insists there's a shortage of IT talent in the U.S., based on the lack of students graduating from science, technology, engineering and math disciplines (STEM). Earlier this week, Code.org, a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage more students to learn programming, published statements from tech industry leaders that reflected the widespread assertion that there's a tech talent shortage.

As Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it in one such statement, "Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today."

Other tech industry leaders have been saying as much for years, which is why immigration programs like H-1B exist. And the tech industry's sustained complaints about lack of access to technical talent recently lead to the introduction of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, which aims to expand the number of visas available under the H-1B program.

Outside the U.S. there are similar claims of an IT worker shortage. Last month, European Commission VP Neelie Kroes bemoaned the growing digital skills gap that threatens European competitiveness.

Critics of the H-1B program see it as a way for companies to keep IT wages low, to discriminate against experienced U.S. workers and to avoid labor law obligations.

In his examination of the presumed correlation between talent and salary, Matloff observes that Microsoft has been exaggerating how much it pays foreign workers. Citing past claims by the company that it pays foreign workers "$100,000 a year to start," Matloff says the data shows that only 18% of workers with software engineering titles sponsored for green cards by Microsoft between 2006 and 2011 had salaries at or above $100,000.

"By contrast, 34% of Microsoft's green card sponsorees with financial analyst titles made over $100,000, as did 71% of its lawyers in the PERM data," he said. "It would seem that, counter to its rhetoric, engineers are not top priority for Microsoft..."

Marnie Dunsmore, an integrated circuit engineer who has worked for companies such as Intel, said in an email that she believes the H-1B program has had the effect of making it easier to send jobs offshore and has discouraged U.S. students from seeking computer science education. And she disputed the notion that there's a shortage of U.S. IT talent.

Dunsmore recounted her experience with a recent job interview as a mixed-signal integrated circuit tester. The interviewer, she said, said was unwilling to conduct on-the-job training. "In other words, he was not willing to let me sit down with the manuals, pick up what someone else has done, and allow me to spend a couple of weeks figuring out what test code he needs to have tweaked," she explained. "Ten years ago, a test lab would have jumped at the chance to get an experienced circuit designer to do test design and coding. Now, they're so flooded with hiring options that they can turn their nose up at having to train, even for a few weeks, very experienced programmers and engineers."

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m4gplus
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m4gplus,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/12/2013 | 3:31:35 AM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Hello,

Im among the "less talented". I think some of this information is prejudiced and partisan. The argument - appear to be somewhat less talented on average, as indicated by their lower wages, than the Americans

doesnt hold, I get paid less because I demand less. I demand less because I need less, my country pays me far lesser than the US, so to me, its great!

As far as less talented, im less trained, we dont have the resources. Im also a Mensa member, from a country where the smartest people in the world are born. If we arent rich, stupidity does not follow.

Im tired of what im increasingly seeing as racial digs - "code monkey" "you get what you pay for" and so forth. Am I wrong?

I dont have a solution for your fear for your job, this situation is complex. I do know that blaming people you do not know or care about is not a solution, just a bigger problem.
Mark
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Mark,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/5/2013 | 10:11:22 AM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Top quartile EE/CS graduate here, from a top 20 university. Have submitted my resume thousands of times to firms like Facebook, Google, etc., without even so much as the courtesy of a response or interview. Hard to believe that these firms are looking for talent if they're not even bothering to call me or my professional peers up for interviews. That H-1B is even allowed is a travesty.
EgorA503
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EgorA503,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2013 | 8:35:35 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
"In the CS case the former foreign students appear
to be somewhat less talented on average, as indicated by their lower
wages, than the Americans." No, what this fact is saying that H-1B workers are paid less by companies. It doesn't say anything about their intelligence.
virgoptrex
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virgoptrex,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 9:25:43 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
your problem is you are a whiner and refuse to accept the reality of the global business blaming h1bs rather than greed of corporations.
virgoptrex
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virgoptrex,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 9:20:51 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
you are a wackadoo liar!!!
SpaceVegetable
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SpaceVegetable,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 5:48:23 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Yes, but the companies are competing globally against others with lower costs, so they may not have the option of paying more. If an employee doesn't bring in more revenue than what it costs to employ him/her, then there's no point in hiring anyone. Stuff that increases employment costs, like unions or Obysmal-Care, isn't helping, either.
SpaceVegetable
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SpaceVegetable,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 5:45:23 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Don't forget, engineering and science are simply not considered "cool" in popular culture. Look at TV and movies. Most of those portrayed as being into those fields are stereotyped as geeks or "eccentric" weirdos. We have a culture of people wanting easy money, like on reality shows, yet fewer and fewer who take up the challenge of more difficult courses of study like engineering. Add in the pathetic state of primary education - especially in math and science - and you end up with a shortage of talent.
SpaceVegetable
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SpaceVegetable,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 5:40:15 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
There is a shortage of experienced software engineers, judging by the recruiter activity and the pay rates I'm seeing. I haven't seen demand like this since 1999. As for H1B's, they are not that skilled, IMHO. One place I worked purposely kept their code dumbed down and simplistic so they could hire cheap H1B's to maintain it. Don't forget that a lot of people left the software field after the dot-com bust and now there's a gap of people with that level of experience. Works great for me since I can fill that gap, but there's not enough of us to go around. That said, I oppose increasing H1B caps any more. I'd rather see newbies and others trained. Unfortunately, nowadays we are all commodities and need to see to training and maintaining skills on our own. That's the down side of global markets.
voster
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voster,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/14/2013 | 4:28:45 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
You talk of offshoring and outsourcing, but the 65,000 H1-B entrants are but a drop in the ocean of the labor force in the outsourced countries. It may not always hold true, but of the IT workers in the H1-B pool, they are probably significantly above the mean skill level of your average outsourced worker.

So it's quite an invalid comparison.
voster
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voster,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/14/2013 | 4:25:22 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Hi Not.Disgruntled,

Your anecdote piqued my interest, so I'll just pipe in for a bit.

I hope when you mention, "ic *tester* experience", you don't mean production IC tester systems like Teradyne's Catalyst etc.

If you do, then I'm afraid all the experience you mention above that you put into your CV is simply irrelevant, as IC tester experience in this case is a highly specialized skill, which if you would like to pick up, would require you to go for an entry-level job. This is true for anyone, foreign or local.

If you were gunning for a mid-level IC tester job without any experience with those massive testing machines, then I am not surprised that on-the-job training was not offered.
Page 1 / 8   >   >>
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2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
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