Another tech giant that says it must import foreign workers because there aren’t enough skilled American workers in the industry is laying off thousands of workers.
Qualcomm – a major producer of smartphone chips – announced last week it’s eliminating 15 percent of its workforce or about 4,500 employees, just weeks after fellow tech giant Microsoft announced a massive round of layoffs.
Both companies are top beneficiaries of the H-1b visa program, which backers say allows companies to temporarily hire foreign workers for jobs they can’t find qualified Americans workers to fill. Critics contend the program is really used to cut costs.
Microsoft and Qualcomm were in the top 15 users of H-1b visas in Fiscal Year 2013, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data obtained by Computer World. They’re part of a major tech lobbying effort to increase the cap on these temporary workers, on the grounds there is a shortage of Americans with science, technology, engineering and math degrees.
“Qualcomm has been engaged within the technology industry in highlighting the ‘skills deficit’ in all areas of today’s workforce, especially engineering,” a spokeswoman for Qualcomm told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is an industry-wide problem, and we are committed to working to build the pipeline of students studying STEM fields.”
One in five of the new Qualcomm hires in Fiscal Year 2013 were foreign workers with H-1b visas, according to an analysis of SEC filings by Ron Hira, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology who is an expert in offshoring. Those 900 foreign workers hired in 2013 triple the total number of workers Qualcomm hired in 2014.
“Qualcomm and other tech firms have argued that they turn to H-1Bs because there is a significant shortage of American talent available,” Hira told TheDCNF. “Given the recent large layoff announcements by Qualcomm, Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco, how can the tech industry continue to argue there’s a shortage of American workers?”
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hira also analyzed the skills of H-1b workers Qualcomm hired from Fiscal Year 2010 through 2012, and found most of the workers weren’t the highly skilled, U.S.-trained workers lobbyists imply make up the majority of H-1b holders.
Thirty-five percent of the 1,265 workers Qualcomm hired at that time held only a bachelors degree, and just 32 percent held advanced U.S. degrees. Only 44 of them held Ph.Ds from U.S. universities.
“This is very different than the carefully constructed, and misleading, narrative constructed by the tech industry that the H-1b program is primarily a vehicle for keeping people from abroad that the U.S. trained, and paid for,” Hira told TheDCNF.