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Immigration Reform and Analytics

July 22, 2013

Immigration reform has been on the lips of almost every political commentator in the past few weeks. The topic is heavily debated and cumbersome in detail, but as members of the analytic community we must understand it as it affects our job market directly. As we reported in The Burtch Works Study, 58.8% of entry-level analytics professionals are not U.S. citizens, meaning that companies are looking abroad for professionals with the necessary skills to tackle their data sets and analytics challenges.Companies want the best and the brightest in the quantitative sciences and the fact is that right now many of these workers come from outside the US. As pointed out by John Shinal in this article that I posted on Twitter, many companies are building offices overseas when the available visas run out since, “the 65,000 cap on H-1Bs for this year was reached on the very first day that the government began accepting visa applications”. The competition is quite clearly global, and this immigration reform could help boost our standing in the community by encouraging companies to keep their offices here in the US.Rosario Marin, former US Treasurer under President George W. Bush, points out in her recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, “The current skilled-labor shortage—particularly for workers in science, technology, engineering and math occupations—puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage. By 2020, an estimated 1.5 million jobs will go unfilled, according to McKinsey & Co. Until America can educate enough graduates in these fields to meet the demand, legal immigration is the only option to find the necessary talent.”Most of these 1.5 million jobs are in analytics, and that number will only continue to grow with further advancements in harnessing Big Data. Even most of the graduate students who excel in quantitative programs at the Master’s and PhD levels in the US come from outside of America. When these students graduate, we need to ensure companies are able to sponsor their visas and keep them in the country lest they find employment opportunities in Europe or Asia.My hope for any change in the current immigration system is that the United States can continue to provide the best technological and scientific advancements that benefit us every day. Relative to that, as the economy continues its recovery we will see a renewed urgency to hire and fill positions that support such advancements within analytics that didn’t exist ten years ago. This Gallup Poll shows Americans mostly in favor of some type of immigration reform, and though I would not claim that the current bill is the best option, it is certainly a starting point.

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