This week, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) announced a newly formed immigration coalition that aims to improve STEM education and drive industry competitiveness in the U.S. Coalition members, who represent education groups, businesses and national associations, are leveraging the new group as a opportunity for immigrants to fill the high-skilled labor gap, a detriment to manufacturing growth.
The outlook for STEM employees is positive. As IMT Career Journal has reported, STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings than other graduates — regardless of what field they enter. Moreover, research organizations project that STEM occupations will grow by 17 percent through 2018.
But despite the optimistic industry forecast, American manufacturers are experiencing a talent shortage. NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons commented on the biggest issue: “Manufacturers are dealing with a skills gap that has left 600,000 jobs vacant across the nation.”
Part of the solution may be found in inSPIRE STEM USA (Supporting Productive Immigration Reform and Education), a coalition with two central goals: improving the U.S. STEM pipeline and urging reforms for permitting H1B visas and green cards so that immigrant workers can plug the labor gaps. The effort will include the hiring and training of STEM educators. Furthermore, firms seeking additional green card and H1B employees will fund the initiative, which is co-chaired by Senator John E. Sununu, (R-N.H.) and Maria Cardona, a former adviser on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and surrogate for both of President Barack Obama’s campaigns.
According to NAM, the reform of U.S. immigration law is vital for American competitiveness, and reforms would help improve the employment-based green card system to retain talent.
“By reforming the H1B visa system, manufacturers can fill existing jobs today while strengthening the U.S. STEM education system pipeline to ensure that U.S. college graduates are able to fill those jobs tomorrow,” according to Timmons in the NAM announcement.
Some may wonder whether such reform will cause American worker displacement. One report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, 2010 Immigration and Job Displacement, examined this issue. While it presented cases of job displacement, it also explained that this situation occurs primarily among low-skilled positions and for employees without college degrees.
For a full-list of companies in the new immigration coalition, see the NAM announcement here.
What’s your view of the new immigration coalition? Is it a solution to boosting the STEM base or a threat to American jobs?