A Look at the STEM Job Market and How Immigration Plays a Role

Despite the immense innovation and education that exist within the United States, we are still facing a shortage of qualified candidates for specific specialty occupations–most notably those related to computer engineering and mathematics related positions. The STEM supply-and-demand dynamics involve many actors: students, current STEM workers, educational institutions, government, and the private sector. In 2020, for every unemployed computer or math worker in the country, there were more than seven job postings for computer-related occupations, bipartisan immigration research group New American Economy found in the study.


The report links a large number of labor issues to COVID-19, however these specialty roles are not subject to job cuts and closures, in fact, quite the opposite. The problem is that these industries were not able to evolve and grow with a proper staffed workforce, because the candidates living within the United States are not qualified to do the work. 


What are the current hiring trends?

Even in the midst of the pandemic, American companies remained driven to recruit foreign talent through the H1-B visa, and that motivation to do so even during the worst of the pandemic is evidenced by unemployment data showing that the labor market at the top end of the skill spectrum remains extremely scarce. This signals that there are not enough appropriately skilled workers in the US to meet the demand of employers, despite the education programs in place. In fact, the US relies heavily on foreign-born talent for computer-related jobs. Immigrants made up 25% of the computer workforce in 2019, according to New American Economy’s analysis of Census data.


Why do specialty occupations, such as STEM positions, matter?

Over the years, numerous reports detail the growing concern of policymakers and industry leaders regarding a shortage in the STEM workforce believed necessary to sustain the U.S. innovation enterprise, global competitiveness, and national security. 


So, American colleges aren’t teaching computer science?

Not quite. While American students are graduating with Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and similar majors, the fact is that foreign talent typically earns a Master’s degree in these areas, making them better trained and more desirable in the eyes of hiring companies. So while a job might only require a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s is desirable and makes a candidate more appealing–even if the company has to go through immigration paperwork and procedures to hire them. 


Why does it matter?

If businesses cannot find enough workers to fill technical and specialized roles that are often critical to their continued growth and innovation, US companies may be hamstrung in their capacity to expand and operate efficiently. 


The labor market is in an interesting place as we emerge from the pandemic, and there seem to be no signs of stopping the drive for foreign talent recruitment. If you’re a US company looking to hire a foreign national with an H1-B employment visa, contact us today to discuss your options.