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One of the most pressing issues facing technology companies, and U.S. businesses in general, is the shortage of skilled IT professionals. Frequently, leaders in this sector point to immigration reform as a potential solution to this problem.
Speaking at a recent event in Silicon Valley, though, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that immigration reform may not be a reliable fix. As Channelnomics reported, Clinton recommended that tech firms focus more of their attention and efforts on the domestic workforce in order to fill their IT jobs.
Extreme IT needs
The news source pointed out that Clinton's speech came one day after the federal government revealed that applications for H1-B visas for skilled foreign workers, mainly in the tech sector, had surpassed the annual limit of 65,000 permits. This marked the second year in a row that applications for the specialty occupation visas ran out within a week of enrollment opening. This overwhelming flood demonstrates both how desperate companies are to find qualified tech workers and the limited capability of current immigration policy to meet this demand.
Clinton asserted that while she supports efforts to reform the immigration system to enable firms to hire more skilled foreigners, companies should not rely on the possibility of such legislation passing in the near future, the news source reported.
As Channelnomics pointed out, last year the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would have addressed the shortage of H1-B visas. This bill would have increased the number of skilled worker permits issued each year by almost 70 percent, and also extended to six years the length of time these immigrants could work in the United States. However, the U.S. House of Representatives did not take up this legislation, and appears unlikely to do so before the November elections.
Efforts at home
When speaking at the conference, Clinton suggested that tech companies may improve the chances of immigration legislation if they put forth a focused effort to improve the IT hiring situation at home. Specifically, she theorized that by spending more money to prepare U.S. personnel for IT jobs, the tech industry could potentially gain favor with "the skeptics on the Hill," the news source reported.
"There ought to be more of a partnership," Clinton said, according to Channelnomics. "There is a lot of cash sitting around in Silicon Valley."
The form these efforts should take is up for debate. Steven Zylstra, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Technology Council, emphasized the need for greater focus on STEM education, as well as tax and regulatory reform, the news source reported.
Another, less challenging approach may be to increase investment in IT training. By embracing IT training, firms in every industry can improve their existing employees' technical skills and knowledge, preparing them to take advantage of the companies' IT investments. Such efforts are particularly important thanks to the growing embrace of self-service IT services among businesses in every sector. Such tools are specifically designed to decrease dependence on the IT department when it comes to day-to-day operations. This structure increases efficiency and the timeliness of results, allowing workers to improve their performance.
By working with a high-quality IT training services provider, businesses may be able to reduce their need for new IT professionals, thereby alleviating the impact of an overall IT professional shortage. Training solutions cannot totally eliminate the need for more IT experts, but they can serve as a step in that direction.