thumbnail24.jpg
Technology titans from Dell to Qualcomm -- as well as non-tech brands like Goldman Sachs, Cummins and CVS Caremark -- say they need foreign workers if they’re going to keep their businesses on track. But at least some of them see guest-worker programs as a short-term fix. Ultimately, they’re more interested in increasing the number of STEM students graduating from American universities, says Bruce Mehlman, executive director of the Technology CEO Council, an IT industry public-policy group. TCC LogoMehlman recently spoke with us about the TCC’s view on H-1B visas and STEM green cards. Does the TCC believe there aren’t enough H-1B workers in the U.S.? The council’s first priority isn’t hiring H-1B workers, but increasing the number of students in STEM fields who are seeking their Ph.D. or master’s degree. Do you care if these STEM grads are U.S. citizens or foreign born? First choice is having more American kids interested in pursuing STEM degrees, but our economy and universities are strongest when they pull smart students from all around the world. The Special Report: When a foreign graduate from Stanford or MIT returns to their native country, a U.S. company may seek a way to bring them back to America. Wouldn’t the TCC care about expanding the H-1B program then? When a Stanford or MIT grad returns to their native country, they get hired and innovate over there. We’d prefer them to innovate and pay taxes over here, since it makes our home country stronger. But when companies can't hire those top-tier grads in the United States, they hire them wherever they return to live. Speaking of Stanford and MIT, will companies bypass graduates from state colleges in favor of foreign-born students from top-tier universities?  Companies will look for whoever they perceive is the most capable worker to do the job. Are you focusing on increasing STEM programs in the nation’s high schools and middle schools, or on policy reform such as increasing green cards for STEM grads? While lobbying efforts in Washington focus on the policy barriers, there are far more significant educational efforts undertaken by all of our companies, and others like ours, in local communities through foundations and non-profits. So do you support the H-1B program as it is right now, or would you like to see reforms there as well? The H-1B program could be improved, both in giving greater flexibility for spouses and for workers looking to change jobs. Plus, it could be improved with numbers that better reflect the state of the economy.