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Silicon Valley's H-1B immigration position has some holes

Matt Weinberger | Dec. 5, 2014
The key is that H-1B visa lets foreign skilled workers stay in the U.S. for up to six years.

"We don't dispute the fact at all that Facebook and Microsoft would like to have more, cheaper workers. But that doesn't constitute a shortage," the paper's co-author Daniel Kuehn told Businessweek

Of course, that's just one study, which isn't enough make this a "trend" by any means. But it's also more evidence than has been presented for the idea of an actual tech worker shortage, outside of the observable but non-scientific mad scramble for talent exhibited in San Francisco and its environs.

It's telling that Facebook's one-sentence response to that study doesn't address the question of a tech worker shortage at all: "We look forward to hearing more specifics about the President's plan and how it will impact the skills gap that threatens the competitiveness of the tech sector."

Silicon Valley is always recruiting: One startup made headlines when it offered poached egg sandwiches (get it?) to Googlers waiting for a bus to the Googleplex in a blatant attempt to get some top-tier talent. Google itself offers generous commissions for the referral of anybody who can make it through its legendarily difficult interview process and actually get hired. Talking to any startup founder in any bar in San Francisco inevitably ends with a sly "if you happen to know anybody...." And yet half of  STEM college graduates in the U.S. are out of work.

So where does this "talent shortage" actually come from? Confirmation bias, for one thing. Silicon Valley prides itself on its "meritocracy," where competency and vision as a programmer, a software engineer, a designer, a systems architect, or whatever else, is more important than how you dress, where you came from, or what you look like. And in this world, anybody can rise to the top if they work hard and contribute good ideas.

Yet Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and other heavyweights have released diversity reports indicating that in their product divisions, they're mostly white and mostly male. Kind of a weird coincidence that all of the most competent people all happen to look the same and come from similar backgrounds, right?

So maybe the issue isn't so much that there aren't enough workers. Maybe it's that there are so many who don't live in the Silicon Valley bubble, or fit the Silicon Valley mode, and so get passed over entirely as non-candidates. 

"An organization need not look very far for new workers that can take on technical roles. Many women and people of color are nudged into positions in customer support, quality assurance, and technical writing with promises, implied or explicit, of support to transition into a software development role," writes Model View Culture's Dimas Guardado in "Manufacturing the Talent Shortage." 


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