The US Senate's move to increase the number of foreign workers allowed into the country is no solution to the worldwide shortage of IT staff, according to the US publisher of CIO magazine, Gary Beach.
Beach, who was in New Zealand last week, has suggested at a senate committee hearing that the US levy a 0.5% tax on IT spending to raise $US2 billion to pour into IT training. According to Beach, attempts by Germany, the UK and the US to lure IT workers from countries in Asia aren't the solution to the skills shortage. "I was in Singapore where they're very unhappy that their skilled people are being stolen," Beach says. Last week the Senate voted to increase the number of H-1B visas issued over the next three years by nearly 300,000. H-1B visas are temporary visas issued to foreign workers who come to the US to work for a six-year term. High-tech industries had pushed for the passage of the bill because they say they cannot find enough qualified Americans to fill their employment vacancies. The bill also increases the portability of the visas. Previously, holders of H-1B visas could not legally change jobs. The new act removes that restriction and also allows visa holders to remain in the US during visa hearings, instead of the workers being immediately deported to their home countries. Also included in the bill are a number of programmes designed to appease those who complain that jobs are being taken away from Americans. First, the bill directs the National Science Foundation to conduct a study of the "Digital Divide" — the term given to the growing disparity, based on economic status, in access to technology in America.