Majority of Americans support immigration reform to attract STEM talent

The technology boom has created a massive need among employers for STEM-educated talent – "STEM" stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Finding STEM workers who specialize in these disciplines has increasingly become the object of talent searches launched by businesses and technical recruiters. In an effort to boost the availability of STEM talent in the United States, lawmakers have drafted legislation on immigration reform that would open up more avenues for foreign STEM talent. Despite the slow progress made on said initiatives, a large majority of Americans see immigration reform as the optimal means to attract highly skilled STEM workers.

Talent gap drives advocacy for reform
In a survey produced by Zogby Analytics and TechNet, a bipartisan collective of tech industry CEOs, 64 percent of likely U.S. voters agreed the country faces a shortage of skilled workers. Another 63 percent said immigration reform policy should include provisions that encourage skilled workers to stay in the country to remedy the current situation.

The creeping fear of the United States losing its grip on global innovation also factored into many voters' decision to support STEM-focused immigration reform. Forty-three percent believe the next revolutionary technology product will come from China, while just 30 percent expect it to originate domestically.

"Americans know that technology and innovation is central to our economic growth and job creation," said Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of TechNet. "Americans strongly support smart policies to reform our high-skilled immigration system and address the shortage of workers with STEM skills. Most importantly, our citizens are eager for reform and urge Congress to act now."

Current legislation gets large support
The Immigration Innovation Act, proposed by a group of bipartisan senators, is the most recent attempt at improving STEM talent via immigration reform. Fifty-six percent of responding likely voters expressed support for the bill sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware).

The bill would incentivize STEM talent to stay and work in the country by eliminating the current cap on STEM visas that are extended to immigrants with a college degree.

However, political gridlock is a constant hindrance to any STEM legislation, and firms may want to get a jump on the competition by partnering with engineering recruiters to kickstart talent searches.