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Microsoft: Shortage of tech workers in the US becoming 'genuine crisis' (thehill.com)
40 points by booz on Sept 28, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

From the Huffington Post:

"The Bureau Of Labor Statistics has released its annual Occupational Employment and Wages report, and the top-paying industries are dominated by health care professionals. In fact, nine of the 10 highest-paid jobs in America are in the health care industry. The only other group that made the top 10 is corporate executives."


Here's a link to the full report:


Like a lot of other people here, I'd support a stronger emphasis on skilled immigration to the US, but I don't see compelling evidence of an acute shortage of engineers relative to other fields. In fact, I think the low level of interest in these fields is a rational response to market signals, especially at the elite levels.

I've encountered this sort of response citing the high pay in healthcare before. So I wanted to throw a thought out there for feedback.

A relevant point is the "carrying capacity" for healthcare professionals. The USA can probably double the number of people employed in healthcare (using a handwavy argument that that 40 million [edit: I earlier wrote 40%] of the population is uninsured).

Note the number of people with the high-paying healthcare job titles: all of them were below 100k people and many were less than 20k people.

Given that so few people work in healthcare relative to STEM, I'm not really sure that pointing out high salaries in healthcare is relevant.

Whereas I can easily see STEM doubling employment in the USA, from the already high (10's of millions?) employment base.

There are all kinds of problems with comparing one field to another, I'll agree. That's why I find this question so difficult to answer. It puts me in a position of "command central", trying to figure out what various professions "should" be paid, rather than letting the market do this.

I'm also comparing a small field tightly controlled by what I believe is a cartel with a large, generally open market. A PhD in CS is great to have, but there isn't an association of CS PhD's that can bar people with lower degrees (or no degree) from writing code.

Still, I think the comparison is more relevant than you do, because it's a reflection of what people who are academically talented can earn in other fields. If we're going to start talking about how there "should" be more supply of engineers at a current salary level, it does make sense to see what people can earn with degrees that have higher completion rates and often take considerably less time, with lighter undergraduate requirements to boot.

Wait are you saying that there are fewer people working in health care in the US compared to STEM? I don't think that's true at all.

Yep, that's what I'm saying.

I'm too lazy to look into this, but intuitively it makes sense to me. Healthcare is basically an "exception handler" (default state of humans is to be health), whereas STEM is the "real code".

I would expect more "real code" than "exception handlers".

Also sq. ft. of physical space devoted to healthcare (e.g., hospitals) seems to be far less than sq. ft. of space devoted to STEM (e.g., office parks).

If dig up info to disprove me, I would be very grateful to get a correction to my worldview.

If by healthcare do you mean all employees who work in hospitals (including many low paying positions), or more prestigious, higher paying positions like RNs, MDs, etc? And what about dentists and other allied health fields?

I would definitely exclude administrators, janitors etc (because these jobs exist in companies that are "in STEM" such as a Microsoft).

I would include medical staff like nurses, doctors, pharmacists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists (not fitness trainers), licensed nutritionists, dentists, dentists' assistants etc.

If it were a genuine crisis, rather than a 'genuine crisis', wages would be genuinely rising more than they are, for anyone with anything close to the skills sought. Instead, this strikes me as a push to get cheaper workers, rather than actually paying for a scarce resource.

But maybe I'm just cynical.

According to this:


Developer-related positions(both research and development), are some of the highest paid STEM-related positions available.

If you want to hire good physicists, you'll need to pay whatever the market rate is for physicists. But if you want to hire good software developers, you'll need to pay whatever the market rate is for software developers, and the fact that they cost four times more than physicists isn't really relevant.

Hmmm... bad example, since according to the provided link physicists make more than developers, both in mean and median.

It's not just wages, but the time it takes to find and employ a candidate, especially when the H1B quota is exhausted, and a foreign candidate cannot start work until late 2013.

There doesn't seem to be a shortage at all. We've gotten plenty of good candidates in our doors that turn us down because our pay is barely competitive and our health insurance is terrible. Pay more money and you can attract more tech workers.

Or lower your standards and make a plan to promote in company education, make the specialized work force you need yourself!

"lower your standards"

If I understand your intent, I would prefer to read this as "widen your standards." You're not deciding to intake less capable people. Rather, you're deciding to intake people of more varied specific experience.

the phrase that I use is "favoring aptitude over experience"

That's all well and good for companies like Microsoft. In fact Microsoft can always hire staff into a foreign office, and transfer them to the USA after 1 year with an L1 visa (no quota), and train them as they go, if they so choose. But this is not an option for small startups that have to move fast, and can't hire a larger B-team just because that's all they can find.

Or just finally fix immigration.

The technology cycle generally goes:

1. A few big wins causes a huge bubble.

2. Tons of sub standard tech workers jump on the bandwagon for the money. In some cases these are outright con artists.

3. Average skill plummets as the market is flooded with cheap beginners and pretenders.

4. Market implodes. Everyone jumps off the sinking ship. Only people who stay are dedicated to the field regardless of market dynamics.

5. With all the pretenders and con-artists out of the way a few passionate geniuses build a few big wins. GOTO:1

Throughout this cycle the same people who support massive layoffs during downturns will wonder why there aren't thousands of engineers with 10 years experience during upswings.

I call this the tech "circle of life". You can trace the occurence of stage 2 pretty closely by spikes in the number of people majoring in CS. You can make a ton of money by investing in tech companies at stage 4/5 and selling at stage 2/3.

Everyone is a beginner at some point.

Everyone is a beginner at some point.

True enough. On the other hand, some people stay beginners much longer than others.

Shortage of tech workers willing to run on carrotless treadmills reaches epic proportions. Carrotless treadmills thrown away.

I am absolutely confident there is no shortage of good software engineers willing to drop everything and move to another part of the country for $500k/year. Absolutely no shortage. If you raise your wages, you will find someone to do the work. If you can't afford to raise the wages, your business plan is not viable. I mean, I could use a houseworker to clean my house for $1 per day, does it mean I should get my wish as well? Nope.

Skilled immigration is valuable for another reason though - the more talent in the leading industry the better it is for the country, and draining other countries of their talent is also a valuable competition tactics.

There are many people leaving Microsoft right now. Mostly good people. There are four types of people who stay at Microsoft:

1) Top performers who are on a fast-track (<1% of workforce)

2) People who can't get jobs elsewhere (30%)

3) People who have families and are tied to Redmond area (40%)

4) People who can get jobs elsewhere but have visa restrictions and are afraid to upset their status (30%)

Everyone else leaves or has already left within 2 years. I joked with a colleague yesterday, "Hey, have you talked to anyone from the old team?" "Yeah, I've been forwarding their resumes..."

Microsoft is working to reduce people in #2 and #3 through its performance review system. They then want to increase people in #4 so they have more people who can't leave them as they start cost cutting when Win8 isn't a roaring success.

I personally find it heart-wrenching to watch friends who would leave their abusive situations and work for a start-up but cannot due to silly visa paperwork. I just don't trust that Microsoft would want more people to come without restrictions to work for a specific company. It does't benefit them at all.

I just wish skilled computer science people could work for whomever they want. Our industry would be so much better off. So long as you pay taxes and are a lawful person, I support anyone living in this country.

  I just wish skilled computer science people could work 
  for whomever they want. Our industry would be so much 
  better off. So long as you pay taxes and are a lawful 
  person, I support anyone living in this country.
Amen to that. I wish more people though this way. Citizenship based on birthright is a really antiquated notion in my view and I'm surprised more countries, at least smaller ones, haven't experimented with this idea more.

>I personally find it heart-wrenching to watch friends who would leave their abusive situations and work for a start-up but cannot due to silly visa paperwork.

H1B holders can switch from company to company without problems, there is a small amount of paperwork and a fee. Greencard applications are also transferable.

Being on a visa allows you to switch jobs. The new company has to pay a small fee to do it, but any medium-to-large company will do it.

As a Canadian, one thing that I don't understand is why companies don't move to Canada. I feel like working in the states, I've priced myself out of the Canadian market (since salaries in Canada for engineers seem to be about 60-70% of what they are in the US), but I can't imagine that Vancouver or Toronto would be that hard to build an office out of. Yet for the most part, companies don't. From my understanding, there would be a lot of benefits to having Canadian offices - easy to travel to the home base when needed, good health care, better immigration laws, and a lot of local talent. When recruiting, we recruit very heavily from Canadian schools. But then we take everyone back to the US with us.

Not just Canada, but really anywhere else. In any city with strong public universities there are strong pools of skilled tech workers. But tech companies are bizarrely centralized. Microsoft, etc, expects everyone to head over to their neck of the woods, and a lot of people just aren't going to do that.

Build substantially sized outputs in any of: Atlanta (Duke, GT, UNC), Philadelphia (Penn, Penn State), Boston (MIT/Harvard), Chicago (U of C, NU, U of I), Minneapolis (U of Minn.), Austin (U of T), etc, and you'd have access to a large pool of well-educated tech workers. These folks aren't going to leave their families behind and go to the left coast for jobs, but they'd love to work for a big well-known tech company.

I totally agree with you on this, but I think that is a separate issue at least in that it doesn't address immigration, but I do think that it touches at the heart of the problem.

Companies like Microsoft are willing to give kids out of school $100k/year to move to Seattle, San Francisco or New York, but why not Vancouver or Toronto? The Toronto-NY connection especially feels like it should be much stronger, with Porter you can fly between the two cities from downtown for well under $200.

I lived in Canada for two years on a "working holiday" visa, which eventually ran out. There are two reasons why I moved to the US:

- No-one really seemed to be doing startups. More importantly, there didn't seem to be many investors, either. I understand that is changing these days, but it's not surprising that companies don't move to Canada when the support infrastructure isn't there.

- No companies wanted to sponsor me. Most had never done it before and were very nervous about the idea. American companies approached me and offered to sort out a visa for me. The difference was like night and day.

How about these companies told to start offering training programs?

The US has no shortage of eager workers, some quite creative (which is good for such jobs). The crux of this is companies are devaluing people in general, and don't really give much care about it.

As someone who has been involved in the hiring of engineers at a large multinational corporation you might recognize, there is some truth to this sentiment.

Two of the main issues are that employers have been increasingly unwilling to train new employees, even if they're clearly eager, bright and have the proper basic credentials. Everyone wants to hire seasoned veterans, because logically those people reach a higher level of productivity much faster and require less development talent/skill set wise. While there is a specious logic to this, it's extremely short-sided. Everyone starts at the bottom and needs an opportunity to grow and get their initial experience from somewhere.

Even with experienced individuals, companies often don't want to pay the premium that substantial experience in a field will confer. There were some interesting news stories (don't remember the actual links, but they're easily google-able) about the large numbers of former NASA engineers laid off in the last year having tremendous difficultly finding new employment. The interesting part is that it wasn't that they weren't getting job offers, on the contrary many employers seemed to be eager to hire highly qualified individuals with 20+ years of high quality experience, they just didn't want to pay for it. These people were getting offers that were literally a fraction of the salaries they were commanding previously.

You can't have it both ways. If you want experience, pay for it. Or else invest in less experienced, but otherwise qualified talent.

I agree totally with everything you said, I'd just add that I think companies are outsourcing the training of new employees, often, to college internships. Which is great if you are at Stanford and have lots of connections that implies, not so great if you are a community college student or at bumfuck state u

Aren't there still a lot of devs in flyover country who complain about finding few positions? Or is the fact they chose not to relocate being weighed against them?

They can hardly be blamed for not wanting to go live in rainy Seattle, work under someone as uninspiring as Steve Ballmer, and put up with awful stack ranking BS.

Seattle seems like a great place to live to me. I would jump at the chance to move there!

But MS might be a tougher sell. ;)

Have Microsoft relocate you, wait a year for your relo payback contract to expire, quit.

Or you could find a position at the many Seattle-area employers willing to relocate you: Google, Adobe, Boeing, Valve, a whole grip of game companies. The world, as it were, is your oyster.

A few of my friends here in Seattle call Amazon the "travel agent for developers" because so many people relocate to Seattle to work for Amazon and leave immediately after they no longer have to pay back their moving expenses.

The stack ranking BS is (allegedly) a thing of the past, and the rain in Seattle is overblown. There are plenty of US cities that get more rain than Seattle.

I won't challenge your opinion about Steve Ballmer, though.

You made me curious, so here's a list of US cities with more average rainy/snowy days per year than Seattle[1]:

  223: Juneau, Alaska
  209: Mt. Washington, N.H.
  169: Buffalo, N.Y.
  163: Olympia, Wash.
  161: Caribou, Maine
  155 (tied, interestingly): Cleveland, Ohio
  155: Seattle-Tacoma, Wash.
At 37 inches of rain per year, it's not a particularly high volume of rain; it's just spread out over a lot of days. San Francisco is down at 63 rainy days and 20 inches per year, for comparison.

[1] http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0762183.html

155 (tied, interestingly): Cleveland, Ohio

Lake effect snow

Anyway, compare this to where I'm from (South Florida)[1]: Average rainy days - 135 Average rainfall - 62" - 64"

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami,_fl#Climate

Well, Microsoft would have to pay me a LOT to move to South Florida as well. : P

I don't consider that a fair assessment, as a snowy day is a very different thing from a rainy day. Seattle gets maybe a handful of snowy days a year, and never gets punishingly hot/humid like some cities do.

They don't have the money to move 2000 miles to a coast where they know no one and everything is 100% more expensive. Either that or they are not willing to live in a 500 sq ft apartment with no parking.

Maybe Microsoft should open some offices in the Midwest.

I moved out of the Midwest because, while there was work, it was sparse, and frankly, not interesting. There are decent paying jobs but I found the ceiling was low compared to other places. I would have preferred to stay. I saw many excellent friends that have languished there because it's culturally unpleasant for many Midwesterners to move away from their families.

I'm for skilled immigration, but can we please, please rethink the H1B program? At the very least, don't make it so the individual goes out of status the day they leave their job. Give them time to shop around. And get rid of the fee/paperwork every time they switch jobs. Raise the fee to $50k and apply it to the first employer that sponsors them only. More of the risk of holding an H1B needs to go to the first employer that hires them, and less of it to future employers and the H1B holder themselves.

EDIT: I appreciate the responses. Raising the fee is probably the wrong idea.

Raising the fee will only serve to benefit bigger companies (e.g. Microsoft) and hurt smaller companies, particularly startups, from hiring.

Maybe the fee should be higher for low salary jobs, to prevent the visa from being used for bringing in low-wage employees for outsourcing firms.

I agreed with you until... "Raise the fee to $50k [...] More of the risk of holding an H1B needs to go to the first employer". What?

Up until recently, I've worked for small companies and startups on my H1B. They would never be prepared to spend $50k just to hire me, especially when I can leave a month later if I want to. If the fee was that high, companies would demand security that their employee isn't going to leave- understandably so, but that basically results in the employee being a wage slave for x years.

As someone going through the visa transfer process as we speak, it isn't quite so bad once you're in the country. Not easily being able to bootstrap something on the side of my main job is an annoyance, and the transfer process itself is irritatingly time consuming, but it does at least let me transfer.

Raise the fee to $50k and apply it to the first employer that sponsors them only.

I think thats pretty unrealistic and I'm hoping that $50k was a typo ... my first h1b was by a small firm who would most definitely have turned me down at that price point.

An important change that I think could be made with the h1b would be to allow people to get into Green card status after 2 years of being in continuous h1b status ... irrespective of company. That way h1-b hires aren't used as pawns in lowering wages and abused because they can be forced to do things that an American hire would never do.

> An important change that I think could be made with the h1b would be to allow people to get into Green card status after 2 years of being in continuous h1b status ... irrespective of company. That way h1-b hires aren't used as pawns in lowering wages and abused because they can be forced to do things that an American hire would never do.

This is a good idea. My wife has been on H1B for four years and is no closer to a green card via the H1B path than when she started. It's a joke. She has a Ph.D. in CS, she's been in the USA for 11 years, and her only realistic path to a green card turned out to be marriage. Meanwhile, she's been used and abused by employers and seeing her mentally and emotionally break down due to H1B abuse is difficult to watch.

"At the very least, don't make it so the individual goes out of status the day they leave their job."

This would do a lot to level the playing field between U.S. and H1B workers: if employees can't easily switch jobs, their employers can pay them low salaries for long hours. From the employers' point of view, however, captive workers are a feature, not a bug. If they had to pay H1B workers salaries that were competitive with domestic workers, they'd stop lobbying for more H1B visas and start hiring and/or training domestic workers.

I consider myself a competent, intelligent, relatively professional 'tech worker.'

I just don't really want to move across the country for a job, especially one that I probably wont have for the next 20 years.

Especially one you wouldn't have for the next 5 years, given how long average employement terms are.

Yes, I could move across the country for a job (let's say in SF), but then someone wants me to move to Austin or North Dakota or Seattle... Rinse and repeat. Kind of turns me off.

"Shortage of tech workers" or "Shortage of people who want to work at Microsoft"?

I'd say both. Silicon Valley has no shortage of jobs. But Microsoft has the money for lobbying.

Industry: "the government isn't training enough workers for us on the public dime."

I support loosening immigration requirements... but another complimentary option would be for tech companies to raise wages. Why not do that?

What would that achieve? Are Microsoft's wages low, in your opinion? How much higher should they go?

This is a tough question, because I would generally prefer to allow the market to set employment and wage levels. The problem here is that employers in high tech are asking for special consideration - granting green cards specifically to STEM degrees. Unfortunately, this puts us in the position of playing favorites through government - we're deciding that there "should" be more engineers than we're getting at current wage levels.

It feels a little strange to me, since I don't really think "should" is a useful question. But I can see why/how the government would want to get involved - markets aren't perfect, and engineers are particularly valuable, as they tend to create wealth rather than just shuffle it around.

I'm probably not the greatest guy to ask, because I have an MS in engineering and I've seen how brutal the PhD programs are. I see that the nine of the top ten professions ranked by pay are medical specialties, with CEO as the only non-health related one there. I understand that law isn't as great at the middle and low level, but at the elite level, I do think it pays very well with more career stability than engineering - and with a degree program that has a vastly higher completion rate than almost any form of graduate study in STEM fields (and much easier undergraduate preparation as well).

So how high should wages be? I guess I'd say that wages should go high enough that getting a grad degree in engineering is a good way to get on that top ten list.

But of course I'd say that, that's my degree. You shouldn't be asking me, but you shouldn't be asking the people who want to hire engineers either. Ideally, we'd butt out and try to let the market handle this.

I'm not fundamentalist about it - truth is, I would support a general skilled emphasis in our immigration system. But specifically targeting a narrow band of the workforce, under the notion that there is a "shortage"? That smells. And after digging into the evidence, I think the "shortage" is really just a rational response to market signals.

I understand your point, but if you prefer to allow the market to set employment and wage level, you should be for much looser immigration. The government regulating immigration is anything but free market. If the government were to loosen requirement for STEM immigrants, that is having freer market, not less.

This is a huge disagreement between us. If you loosen immigration in general, then you may have freer markets. But if you loosen them only in a narrow segment of the economy and while restricting mobility in others, you may end up creating severe market distortions that don't resemble a free market in any way.

If almost every country and profession had equally liberal immigration policies, then yes, I'd agree. But we're not doing this evenly, and I think this is why so many people who hold a favorable general view of immigration nonetheless object to these targeted visa/green card programs. As it stands, I think that adding a green card to every STEM degree (but not every JD, MD, MBA, DDS, etc) will end up creating market distortions that will probably just further deter US citizens from entering this field, amplifying the cycle of "shortages" and perhaps eventually creating exactly the "crisis" that the policy is intended to address.

I am not making judgment on whether or not if freer immigration is good for economy or not. I am not making any qualitative judgment on the issue. And you may be right that it may create severe market distortions. I don't know and that's not what I am disputing.

I am only stating that freer immigration is having freer market, even if freer immigration were to be applied to small group of STEM people.

Consider what I am saying with taxation. If the federal government were to exempt income tax for a portion of population making less than $50,000/year, then this is having a freer market, not less. Yes, it will lead to reduction in government revenue. Yes, it may lead to deteriorating public infrastructure. But it is still free market policy.

There is an externality to letting in more people though. The hiring companies get all the upside in form of more workers, but the public as a whole takes on the downside risk of supporting them if they're unemployed, retraining them if they're unemployed, integrating them culturally, etc. The public commits to educating those peoples' kids for free for 12-13 years and at subsidized prices for college, supporting them if they ever use welfare services, etc. It's not a clear cut: "more free, less free" situation, but a "who pays for it?" situation.

I actually agree with you on that point. If having a freer immigration policy leads to populating a country with people who aren't for free market, is the freer immigration policy actually a free market policy? It's a difficult question for sure.

Well, if supply is tight at a given price, one might think a rise in price might spur greater supply – basic economics and all.

They aren't high enough to make up for working at an unpopular, stagnant, and fumbling company.

the issue msft is trying to address is the scarcity of tech people in general. They could certainly pay more and fill their positions, but paying more wouldn't create 10k new engineers (or however many positions they need filled).

Yes it would.

Someone Goldman, JP Morgan, etc, manage to fill their entering classes just fine each year. You think those companies have a stellar public reputation? No. They just pay enough to attract the kind of people they want.

If MSFT paid more, they would attract people away from other companies, they would attract people away from the banks and from the consulting firms, and they would encourage people to go into engineering instead of business or law or any of the other fields with more upside potential.

Engineering companies have this bizarre aversion to competing on salaries and competing for workers, as evidenced by all the no-poaching agreements and non-competes that go on. In banking, consulting, law, medicine, etc, salaries get bid up to deal with constrained supply. Blackstone isn't paying fresh grads $300k out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they think it's "fair" but because that's what it takes to get the kind of employees they want.

It likely would, just not immediately. But salary certainly influences career paths for those still in a position to choose a new career.

Some of my friends moved from Microsoft to Google for both better pay and less bullshit.

It's a market. The wages are too low if they can't get the number of workers they want, and they should go higher until they can get the number of workers they want.

But that's exactly what's already happening. What's missing from the equation is the "skilled" aspect. You can't just hire anybody. A tech firm needs to hire tech people who can do the job.

The current problem in the United States is that the supply of people is high but the supply of skilled tech people is low. So the problem you're facing is high-wages for skilled tech workers (even for immigrant tech workers) but no jobs for the high number of non-skilled people. What the US then wants is for lower (not poverty, but lower) paying jobs that pull from the high supply of unemployed, non-skilled people to allow them to gain momentum and skills through training. Throwing money at the skilled people doesn't solve the problem because it's already here.

MSFT doesn't have to hire just anybody. If they pay more than Google, etc, they'll draw people away from those companies. If they pay more than JP Morgan and Goldman, they'll draw people away from those companies. If they pay more than the law firms that significant numbers of CS people leave engineering for, they'll draw people away from those companies. If the whole industry raises salaries to compete, that will convince more people to go into engineering.

Here is MSFT's basic problem. The kind of people they want to hire often have better options. I left software engineering because I didn't like the constant layoff/hire cycle, the compressed salary scales at the top end, the need to get an MBA to go into management tracks, the lack of benefits, etc. In law I'm making more money even after student loans, and have far more headroom. I have an office with a door that closes and a secretary. I don't work exclusively with men. I work in a downtown high-rise, not some god-foresaken suburban office park. Based on my experience, I told my brother to stay out of STEM, and he took his physics degree to an investment bank. If some bright kid asked me to help him choose between CS and banking/consulting/law/medicine, I'd absolutely push him to the latter.

Tech companies need to get over their aversion to competing with each other for talent. They need to get over this "no poaching" "non compete" bullshit and stop trying to get the government to train their employees on the taxpayer dime. If they want to hire top-notch people away from other industries, they need to start paying competitive salaries and offering competitive benefits and amenities.

But it's not simply a question of money and having skilled people move to the highest bidder. The difference here is that we have high unemployment rates across the country, high unemployment for new grads, and a relatively small STEM workforce.

Throwing money at this issue only moves the same group of smart, educated, and skilled people from the same level of jobs. That's not the problem. The problem is that the supply of these talented people is small because the lower education is weak.

Finally, I think it's interesting you advised someone stay out of STEM but out of the "banking/consulting/law/medicine" you mentioned, only law is not explicitly STEM. Banking and consulting still have elements of Mathematics and Medicine is still very much in the realm of Science.

> Throwing money at this issue only moves the same group of smart, educated, and skilled people from the same level of jobs. That's not the problem. The problem is that the supply of these talented people is small because the lower education is weak.

You think the problem is that the math/science education isn't there? Please. There are a ton of universities across the country with great CS departments who would be happy to have a bunch of new students. The students just choose not to enroll in those degrees. If you want more students to enroll in those degrees, make the field more attractive for people.

> Finally, I think it's interesting you advised someone stay out of STEM but out of the "banking/consulting/law/medicine" you mentioned, only law is not explicitly STEM. Banking and consulting still have elements of Mathematics and Medicine is still very much in the realm of Science.

I didn't mean I'd encourage them to avoid STEM degrees. I think those degrees are very valuable. I meant I'd encourage them to take their STEm degrees to professions where they'd get better pay, better benefits, etc.

Could you please describe your transition from software engineering into another field? What you've said rings very true.

As a Canadian working in the US, I think provide a very different of the tech industry than most Americans. The fact of the matter is that there are skilled people with technical degrees and proficiency around the world and the best way to hire those people is to not restrict yourself to hiring from your own town, city, country, etc.

The US generally has higher salaries for tech positions and, as someone else pointed out, salaries in Canada are 60-70% of the salaries in the US. Yet, a competent new grad from a top-tier US school or a competent new grad from a top-tier Canadian school can still effectively make 90-100k working for Microsoft or other big companies in Seattle or Silicon Valley. 90-100k for a new CS grad at Google? Seriously?

To me that definitely seems like market forces are driving up the prices of new hires. And let's not forget, we're talking about hiring someone with technical programming chops and not just your run-of-the-mill computer technician here. The fact of the matter is that truly skilled Software Engineers are in short supply and an infusion in STEM education to move people towards being competent Computer Scientist and Software Engineers is what Microsoft is saying with this.

They aren't giving pay cuts to foreign workers (or even people like me). We're getting paid the same salary because we have the skills. If the unemployment rate in the US is so high, it's simply because the unemployed simply do not have the skills necessary to do the job.

"Shortage of (cheap) tech workers in the US..."


"Shortage of tech workers who don't have kids or a mortgage in the US..."

Yeah, I'll get downvoted for this, but it's true.

What I think would be interesting would be to add 20,000 H1Bs like tech companies are lobbying for and an additional 10,000 H1Bs that brings in foreign computer science and engineering teachers to teach at the high school level. That or some similar scheme that increases the number of competent high school CS teachers would be very valuable.

In high school I wanted to be a CS major in college, but a shitty CompSci teacher completely killed my interest in the subject and I ended up taking a 10 year detour before returning to software engineering as a career. Plus, as a kid there were like no adult role models around to help me out and Win3.1 wasn't exactly the ideal system to get involved with programming. The 80s was a much better time to grow up if you were a kid interested in programming and had access to a computer.

> Employers would have to pay $10,000 for each employee that receives one of the visas.

How convenient for Microsoft, they're trying to kill off competition for foreign engineers from Startups in SF, NY and Boston that are starting to realize that they can get some really good H1-b hires to work for them

I will care about companies complaining about too few H1B visas when they start paying equivalent H1B visa holders and citizens the same.

Since H1B workers are handed a pretty bad deal - they can't change jobs without a huge hassle - I suppose there is little incentive in paying them well...

Maybe lowering the O1 visa requirements...

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