Foreign-Born Grads: Heated Topic in STEM Debate

Did you know that one out of every five engineering graduates from U.S. universities are foreign born? It appears that the more advanced the education level, the higher probability that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates are foreign born.

What is your take on the heated debate surrounding the shortage of workers for STEM fields? We tend to focus on what educators and the businesses who hire STEM graduates are doing to better prepare students interested in pursuing a career in STEM, but I agree with the recent article "How Foreign-Born Graduates Impact the STEM Workforce Shortage Debate," from Forbes, who says this debate stretches far beyond the classroom and employers. This discussion must also require us to look at the proposed immigration reform that is being debated in Congress: should we allow U.S. companies to bring in workers on temporary visas to help reduce the shortage of technical workers?

In response to the debate, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) claims "the United States has more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations."

Ian Hathaway, an economic advisor for tech lobby group Engine Advocacy, countered that statement saying "publicly available government data and common sense reject the notion that there are 'too many' high-tech workers in the United States."

Anthony Carnevale, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, makes a case in this argument that the while the U.S. may be producing enough STEM graduates to fulfill available jobs, the demand for competent STEM workers exceeds beyond the number of jobs that exist.

According to an Examination Management Services, Inc. (EMSI) analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 25,000 students graduated with STEM Ph. Ds in 2011. Out of that 25,000, more than 40% of students were non-resident, foreign born. An estimated 30% of these foreign students stayed in the U.S. on temporary work visas.

I want to know what your thoughts are on this debate. What do you think the U.S. goverment should be doing to solve the skills gap problem? Send us your feeback below in the comments section!

Sarah Cechowski is the associate digital editor for Control Design and Industrial Networking. Email her at or check out her Google+ profile.