Friday, June 02, 2006

U.S. Tech Talent Grows Scarce

The shortage of technical talent in the U.S. has driven companies to develop desperate measures. While firms have worked to shore up the positions they have already filled with attractive benefits, the search for more staff is taking these companies overseas to countries such as China and India as highlighted in The Wall Street Journal article, “U.S. Firms Search for Technical Talent”.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the U.S. needs to fill 135,000 new computer jobs each year, but American universities are only generating 49,000 computer science graduates annually. The bureau also predicts that there will be a 26% increase in the need for science and engineering graduates to 1.25 million by 2012. China, by comparison, produces significantly more science, engineering and computer technology students; in 2004, Chinese universities generated 351,000 graduates in these fields. India was second, though significantly behind, with 112,000 graduates.

One of the fields that will be among the hardest hit by a lack of interest is the mining industry. The lack of technical ability and the retirement of 2,600 of the 5,200 practicing mining engineers in the next 12 years hangs like an ominous storm cloud over the sector.

The oil sector also looks vulnerable. According to the Society of Petroleum Engineers 1,732 students were enrolled in petroleum-engineering university programs in the U.S. in 2004 compared with 11,014 in students in 1983.

The problem with sourcing staff from overseas is that the federal government restricts short-term visas for foreign workers in the U.S. – H-1B visas -- to 65,000 a year. However, there was a temporary suspension of that figure in 2001 to 2003 when H-1B visas were raised to 195,000. Another 20,000 visas are open to foreign-born workers who received a masters or doctorate from an American university.

If the course of staff shortages in the tech industry is to be reversed, young people need to be given more incentives to enter these fields. If you provide the right balance between offering a rewarding job and providing the right incentives for employees to stay, you’ll build a stronger business.

No comments: