trump immigration tech industry
Trump sits with PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and other tech leaders. Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

US President Donald Trump is following through on his promise to pressure businesses into investing more into local talent and resources. 

In his latest move, the right-wing, Republican fringe fan has introduced a catchy new slogan, “Buy American, Hire American”, and has modified his policies so they look more like formats for TV shows.

Specifically, Trump is targeting what’s known as H-1B visas, which is the document that indicates a foreigner is at work in a US company.

Companies in the tech sector are said to be the highest-paying and most frequent users of H-1B visas because – the companies claim – they can’t find people with the necessary skills locally.

But Trump dismissed this argument in a speech in Wisconsin the other day. “Right now, H-1B visas are being awarded in a totally random lottery,” said Trump. That’s wrong.

The H-1B visa program does have its critics because it is often used to hire foreign workers to replace American workers, who then have to train the foreigners who go over there and take their jobs.

Bloomberg.com apparently is one of the companies which agrees with Trump to the extent that it claims that companies such as Tata, Infosys and others use the H-1B visa to hire workers with skills that are not highly specialised, and can be found locally.

According to data collated by MyVisaJobs.com, the highest-paying H-1B visa sponsors are:

  • LinkedIn
  • Bloomberg
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo!
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Capgemini
  • IBM
  • Infosys
  • TCS
  • Tech Mahindra
  • Cognizant
  • Wipro

Average annual salaries range from almost $160,000 at the top, where LinkedIn is, and almost $80,000 for workers at Wipro.

And given that Trump previously hosted a hit TV show called The Apprentice, it’s no surprise that one of the likely results of his “Buy American, Hire American” presidential order is that more apprentices will be hired.

Trump has in the past acknowledged the value of H1-B visas in hiring workers with highly specialised skills, but has since been speaking against such provisions. “It’s very bad for our workers and it’s unfair for our workers. And we should end it.”

Top tech companies tend to hire workers who already have jobs, and have proved themselves in some way, rather than untrained staff.

But whatever recruitment channels they use, they don’t seem to be enough. For example, by the year 2020, around 1 million programming jobs could be unfilled, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And the prospect of more young people being given a start in the tech industry is being welcomed by people such as Jeff Mazur, vice president of partnerships at LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization which runs an apprenticeship program.

“Changes do suggest that companies are going to have to be more innovative in the ways that they go about finding talent for junior-level and entry-level programming positions,” Mazur tells Inc.com.

“The tech industry relies heavily on candidates with four-year college degrees, and if we continue to rely entirely on those candidates, we’re never going to close the gap.”

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