According to many tech firms, highly skilled employees are very hard to find.
But a handful of academics have told BusinessWeek there’s no actual shortage in the number of people out there with the necessary hardware and software skills; rather, there’s a shortage of highly skilled people willing to work for cheap.
“[Tech companies] may not be able to find [employees] at the price they want,” Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University, told the magazine. “But I’m not sure that qualifies as a shortage, any more than my not being able to find a half-priced TV.”
Other industries have solved labor shortages by paying workers more, which in turn encourages more people to learn the skills necessary to participate in those industries, expanding the labor pool. While more people than ever seem interested in computer science and related fields, many tech companies continue to complain that they can’t find the help they need to build and maintain new apps, products, and systems.
In a November 20 speech, President Obama announced that he would issue an executive action to reform the nation’s immigration policies; his plan will also streamline the ability of foreign STEM workers and entrepreneurs to obtain visas. The tech industry hasn’t appeared all that impressed with the proposed reforms, with many representatives telling Bloomberg that actual legislation is needed to expand the number of foreign workers allowed into the country.
But others argue that introducing more visa workers into the country actually suppresses salaries within the technology industry, as those workers have little leverage to negotiate higher pay. “U.S. workers have to compete with that, which means they have to accept lower wages when they get a job,” Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, told Bloomberg.
Despite the angst over immigration policy, there are signs that the white-hot tech industry is translating into higher salaries for tech pros throughout the United States. Rising salaries could create a virtuous cycle for all workers, as tech firms find themselves paying top dollar in order to secure even decent talent.
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