Like other technology companies, Intel faces stiff competition for talent, especially when it comes to hiring computer, chemical, materials or mechanical engineers with advanced degrees. And while it would rather engage American workers, sometimes they just can’t be found. The issue, says Ardine Williams, vice president and director of the chipmaker’s Human Resource Enterprise Services, comes down to “supply and demand.”
“When you get to the Ph.D. level, the number of people who specialize in engineering gets smaller and the universities don’t produce enough people with master’s and Ph.D.s,” she says.
How Intel Hires
When it comes to finding engineers with advanced degrees, Intel’s proactive. It posts jobs on a number of websites, advertises through social networks, contacts universities and holds job fairs in the U.S. When it’s seeking to fill a position, it basically doesn’t care whether it’s a U.S. citizen or H-1B worker who fills it.
- How 800,000 H-1B Workers Came to the U.S.
- The Picture in Washington
- Current Laws and Policies
- Programmers Guild: The American Worker Needs Protection
- Industry Group: More STEM Grads, But H-1B Reform, Too
- The Corporate Perspective: Intel’s Approach to H-1Bs
- The Opponent: H-1Bs Pressure U.S. Wages
- The Economist: H-1Bs Are Important to the Economy
- A Guest Worker’s Perspective on H-1Bs
At college job fairs, however, the candidates with advanced degrees tend to be foreign students. In fact, most of the H-1B workers at Intel were hired through its college recruitment efforts. In some circumstances, the company isn’t able to find a suitable candidate on campus at all. In those cases, it resorts to other means.
First, it will exhaust its database of candidates compiled from conferences, career fairs, referrals, job postings and direct applications through its own website. “Generally, hires for our U.S. jobs come from candidates already in the U.S., even if they are experienced non-U.S. citizens,” says Lisa Malloy, an Intel spokeswoman. “Many of our experienced non-U.S. citizens are already working at other U.S. companies on an H-1B.”
Absent finding the people it needs in the U.S., Intel will seek to fill positions with candidates who currently reside outside of the country. “In those cases, we use similar means of attracting candidates, like posting on job boards targeted to this talent,” says Malloy. “Being a global company, our database is often filled with talented workers from all over the world. In essence our database is filled via local activities for local jobs and we capitalize on our database.”
H-1Bs represent approximately 6 percent of Intel’s workforce. Most of them are recent engineering graduates. During fiscal 2012, the company received approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services for 812 initial petitions and 645 renewals. How many of them were ultimately approved by the State Department is unclear.
While Intel isn’t one of those companies that’s leery of hiring experienced American professionals who’ve been out of work, it does want its candidates’ skills to be current. “With engineering, keeping current is one thing that’s critical,” Williams explains. “Where we’ve encountered engineers who’ve been laid off, many times their skills aren’t up to date.”
In addition, some qualified candidates pass on an offer because the job would require relocation, and many experienced professionals regard the need to move as a deal-breaker. Although Intel promotes its flexible work options, like telecommuting, which options are in place depends on each particular business unit’s needs.
Priming the STEM Pump
Intel is a strong supporter of STEM education in primary and secondary schools. For example, each year 1,700 U.S. high school seniors conduct innovative research projects in a quest for a $100,000 prize in the Intel Science Talent Search. The company also develops STEM units to supplement curricula for kindergarten through 12th grade.
The point of these efforts is to increase the number of U.S. citizens with STEM degrees. “For us as a company to innovate, we need those STEM graduates here,” Williams says. “Almost 75 percent of Intel’s research and development happens here in the U.S., and innovation creates jobs here in the U.S.” Efforts by both government and industry make Williams “very optimistic” that the U.S. will produce more STEM graduates between now and 2018 than it does currently.
Approaching Guest Workers
Intel’s guest workers receive the same compensation and benefits as its American professionals do. “The job, not where they were born, determines the wage,” says spokeswoman Malloy. In hiring H-1Bs, she says, the company’s intent is to help the worker secure permanent resident status. That way, both Intel and the employee have the freedom to relocate from the Intel facility specified in the H-1B application. Currently, relocating a guest worker to another city requires the company to petition for a visa all over again, with possibility that the petition will be rejected.
Intel would like to see the annual cap of H-1Bs expand when the economy is strong and demand for skilled labor is high, and contract when the economy softens and demand slips. Additionally, it favors immigration reform that would allow visas to be issued based on demand for a country’s workers rather than the current per-country limit. The company’s also asking policy makers to lift restrictions like those that prevent employee transfers, whether they’re for corporate reasons or the H-1B’s personal situation, such as when a spouse needs to move. Says Williams: “We want all our employees to be treated equally.”