Graduate Study In Sciences, Engineering Fell During Decade

from the not-good dept

Well, here’s a topic that people are extremely opinionated about. A new study has come out showing that, during the 90s, the number of Americans going into science and engineering continued to fall. At the end of the decade there was a slight bump, (due to the dot com boom, I’m sure), but otherwise it was pretty consistently bad news. This is the main reason I tend to support the H1-B program in the US to let foreign engineers get jobs with US companies. I also just finished reading this opinion piece saying that it’s time to scale back the H1-B program because of the economic decline. I think this is backwards thinking. We should want the absolute best employees working for American companies, no matter what their citizenship is (and many H1-Bs eventually become American citizens, improving our “native” technology knowledge). Certainly, if there’s evidence that the H1-B program is being abused, that should be fixed, but if the H1-B candidate is really much stronger than the American citizen candidate, then where’s the problem? The H1-B program makes sure that American companies get the best technology workers in the world at a time when our own ability to churn out homegrown technology talent is declining. Some of the assumptions I’ve seen people make about the H1-B program is just wrong. The biggest is that companies use H1-B’s as “cheaper” workers. If a company is doing this, then they’re violating the H1-B rules, which require H1-B wages to be at the market rate (and they take this pretty seriously). It also costs much more to hire H1-B’s because you have to do a search to make sure there isn’t a similarly qualified American candidate, and then you have to pay lawyers to handle all the H1-B paperwork.

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Comments on “Graduate Study In Sciences, Engineering Fell During Decade”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

I worked for a very large consulting company (20000+ consultants). Ninety percent of the programmers and tech workers where from India and they made less than half what I did. Most of them were getting around 42k a year. They were hired because they were cheap, period. Everyone on the project knew this and everyone was disgusted, except for management. I am sick of people bringing up this lie about H1b rules requiring comparable salaries because any company that wants can get around it and that makes the law meaningless.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

I agree that that specific situation is absolutely wrong – and the company should get in serious trouble for it.

The people I know with H1-B visas tend to work at companies that do pay them quite well, and they tend to be some of the smarter, hardest working techies that I know.

I’ve also been involved with the process of hiring someone on an H1-B and saw what you had to go through and it was very very clear that you had to pay them a prevailing market wage. In that case, in particular, the wage we were being told to pay was actually higher than we were paying other engineers.

EMC Guy says:

Is NorCal an isolated example???

I don’t know I still have friends looking for jobs and these are guys that have MSEEs… I mean a competent EMC engineer -10+ years of experience- I know is selling cars in San Jose to pay the mortgage.

I’m not into the tech field of MS and Cisco certs, or software jobs but the hard engineering opportunites are pretty weak in NorCal right now. I don’t see the argument of “not enough” skilled workers.

And I know everyone is going to freak out when I say this, but the reason that less US students are going into engineering/mathamatics is the piss poor public schools. The teachers unions are to blame, and the Universities for teaching entry level classes w/ grad students who have no teaching skills and english is their second or third language. Talk about discouraging US born students from the field, if you are treated so poorly on the boring entry level classes- it sure makes those social science/business classes w/ the good looking women more attractive.
I know the field requires a certain discipline, but it seems the programs I have been involved in were to worried about “weeding out” the less serious students. Maybe we need to address some of these problems first…

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Is NorCal an isolated example???

Again, your points are completely valid. Clearly, it’s difficult to find jobs right now. My argument had nothing to do with whether or not there were “enough” skilled workers. My argument was that American companies are best served by having the best possible workers working in the jobs – no matter where they’re from.

As for your points on education, I agree with you in many ways. We need to do a better job in both public school education and basic university education in order to make people realized that engineering is a worthwhile career.

At the same time, though, I don’t believe we should be “tricking” people into thinking engineering is right for them if it isn’t.

EMC Guy says:

Re: Re: Is NorCal an isolated example???

I agree, I was not trying to counter your argument. I believe allowing the best and brightest a home is the draw of America. Limiting our access to others will not help the job prospects of any of us nor benefit society in any way. The more ideas the more opportunities for us all.

My question has always been this underlying argument that somehow companies can’t function because of this “crisis” of qualified people. Even during the aberation we call the “boom” was there ever really a huge shortage of qualified people. Yes companies had to bid for some talent but generally people who excell in their professions cost more- the fact that capital was wasted and a huge excess of companies were created for a short period of time, does not create a true crisis.
When the tech economy first started to cool down I can remember a few engineering managers saying the same thing. We hired people we never would have in the first place because if we didn’t our competitors would have – they were happy to loose the underperformers. I mean the bubble we have gone through won’t be repeated for what 35+ years, so growth should be moderate and sustained. Currently we have an excess of true qualified people- figure a couple of years to work into a balance, then we can talk about a possible inbalance.
Also I don;t believe in tricking anyone to become an engineer as well, but at the same time I think too many bright people are turned off by the current system. Gee, even I went to law school, talk about a huge group of people w/ misdirected talent…

anonymous says:

H1B people are in the US for the money

Every single H1B person at my Silicon Valley dot-com company said they fully intend to return to their home country (usually it was India). Some of them even obtained US permanent resident status, despite this intention. The common comment was that they could go back to India and be rich. One even bought his future house in India during a visit.

Further, when the company crashed, the last two H1Bs were kept a few extra months but the other 8 employees laid off.

The H1Bs were indeed being paid less than US citizens.

Businesses are exploiting these people, these people are exploiting the US economy, and the only real victims are the US citizens who will not have jobs when all the ex-H1Bs start taking all the computer jobs back in their home country.

Perhaps the job loss is inevitable, but for now the best solution is for Congress to reduce the H1B program to a lottery of 1,000 per year to the most critical and highly skilled individuals.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: H1B people are in the US for the money

Again, nothing you said goes against my point, but your conclusions don’t follow logically from what you said.

I think that American companies should be able to hire the best people available. If they are foreign nationals, who will help build an American company, then wonderful.

If a company is really paying them less than market wages then someone should POINT THAT OUT, and get that company in trouble.

Whether or not the person stays in the US after a certain point is irrelevant to the discussion. Besides, your anecdotal experiences don’t mean that it’s true of everyone. Just as you knew H1-Bs who exploited the system, I’ve known plenty of H1-Bs who are incredibly hard workers and who have built a life in the US, where they plan to stay. But all of that is irrelevant. The company should be able to hire the best worker for the job.

GC holder says:

Re: Re: Re: H1B people are in the US for the money

As long as everyone pays the tax and gives back to the government to take care of the infrastucutre i think the better person should get the job. And about the low pay , I agree I myself have seen some companies exploiting in that area especially nowadyas.That should definately be addressed.

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