Boost visas for highly-skilled tech workers, says Microsoft

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Microsoft is calling on Congress to pump more into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education because of a looming shortage of tech workers.

The company's published a white paper detailing its proposals, which include a call for $5 billion of investment in education over the next ten years. This money could be covered through upping the numbers of highly-skilled immigrants and increasing their fees, it says.

More STEM teachers should be trained, access to computer science in high schools should be broadened, and more places created on STEM degree courses.

"Throughout the nation and in a wide range of industries, there is an urgent demand for workers trained in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — yet there are not enough people with the necessary skills to meet that demand," says the company's general counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs, Brad Smith.

"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."

The funding could be raised, says Microsoft, by increasing the number of H-1B visas for immigrants with good tech skills by 20,000, taking the total up to about 105,000 a year. And the cost shoud be raised, it says, from the current $2,800 to $10,000 a head.

Congress should also take advantage of 20,000 unused green card visas each year and reallocate them for workers with STEM skills, it says.

The company is frustrated by an inability to find enough highly-skilled staff within the US.

"Like other companies across the information technology sector, we are creating new jobs in the US faster than we can fill them," says Smith. "We now have more than 6,000 open jobs in the country, an increase of 15 percent over the last year."

Indeed, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be more than 120,000 computing job openings a year in the US between now and 2020 - while fewer than 60,000 computing students graduate per year.