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Education Programming

Code.org: Give Us More H-1B Visas Or the Kids Get Hurt 271

theodp writes "Fresh off their wildly-hyped Hour of Code, Code.org headed to Washington last Thursday where H-1B visas were prescribed as the cure for U.S. kids' STEM ills. 'The availability of computer science to all kids is an issue that warrants immediate and aggressive action,' Code.org told Congress. "Comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund,' suggested Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi, is 'among the policies that we feel can be changed to support the teaching and learning of more computer science in K-12 schools. We hope you can be allies in our endeavors on Capitol Hill.' Also testifying with Partovi was inventor and US FIRST founder Dean Kamen, who also pitched the benefits of H-1B visas (PDF). 'We strongly encourage Congress to pass legislation that directs H-1B visa fees to enable underserved inner-city and rural schools to participate in FIRST,' Kamen testified. 'Specifically, these fees should support efforts to enable underserved inner-city and rural schools to participate in FIRST.'"
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Code.org: Give Us More H-1B Visas Or the Kids Get Hurt

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  • by njnnja ( 2833511 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:52AM (#45964311)

    This makes sense once you realize that it isn't about what they are claiming it is about. Tech businessmen want cheap labor - everyone here on slashdot gets that. But the other half is more about transferring wealth from the middle and upper middle class (in this case, through the lowered wages of developers, a moderately well paying profession in America) to the poor by providing funding for inner city schools.

    We can't tax the rich since they have the ability to control their income, and the poor can't provide funding for their own schools or else they wouldn't be poor. So the funding for programs for the poor has to come from the middle class and those with high incomes in high cost of living areas who have relatively little wealth and therefore can be easily taxed either explicitly or implicitly.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:59AM (#45964389)

    TFS is not very clear, but if you read it closely (twice, in my case) it appears these guys are suggesting diverting the money collected from H1-B visa applications into "STEM" (how I hate that acronym) education for poor American kids. That makes a little bit more sense insofar as, if you stand on your head and squint, it looks like a token effort to tax immigration to pay for education in the US.

    It's funny how everyone who makes his living on research or advocacy for a particular problem says the solution to that problem is to provide more funding for his organization. That is what TFS appears to be really saying - a bunch of people working on STEM education want more government funding for STEM education. Film at 11. ;-)

    I don't know how much an H1-B visa fee is, but it must be less than the salary difference between an H1-B guest worker and the actual labor rate set by the domestic market. Otherwise no one would make money off H1-B workers and there would not be this constant clamor for more of them. This small amount of money, collected from a relatively small population of H1-B workers, will never be more than crumbs from the table anyway. It might be enough to fund a dog and pony show like FIRST, but not nearly enough to effect systemic change in the educational system.

    In September 2013, the IEEE magazine ran a special series [ieee.org] on the STEM "crisis," and based on that, I am now convinced that crisis is nothing more nor less than wishful thinking that high-tech industries can someday, somehow get skilled workers for less than the fair market rate.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @10:56AM (#45965023) Homepage

    Also because they don't want to train people to work in technology. There is legitimately a shortage of tech people in the US, and one potential response would be to increase wages until the right candidates are motivated to apply, but another potential response would be to take not-quite-ideal candidates and provide the necessary on-the-job training that would make them suitable employees.

    And I'm not even talking about being willing to hire Java guys to write C#, although that's in play too. For example, a guy who spent 15 years keeping an assembly-line humming and has been unemployed for 5 years now might well be somebody who could help keep a network cruising along. You'd have your senior-level network admin start him off as a cabling monkey, then teach him what he's plugging things into, and as he gained experience he'd eventually get familiar with the monitoring tools and be able to recognize and respond to common problems. This kind of hire might never reach the top-notch skillset of your senior network admin, but he could be an effective and inexpensive junior-level employee. You could pretty easily dream up similarly effective training programs for desktop support technicians.

    These kind of programs were exactly what the major corporations were doing in the 1950's, because there was such a shortage of available workers after WWII that they would basically hire anybody with a high school diploma and no demonstrable idiocy, and then train them for whatever the corporation needed to them to do. They provided good wages, benefits, and a career track for people who did their jobs well. This was an investment, but it worked well, and you ended up with people who were fiercely loyal to the company and proud to be a part of it.

    H1Bs are basically stopping those kind of market corrections from happening - they both prevent the IT guys from getting paid what they're worth, and prevent non-IT people who want to get into IT from making the move.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @11:48AM (#45965591)

    et me shed some light on this as a former H-1B visa holder.

    Technically speaking, H-1B visa holders also have those pesky rights. In reality, it is like, some nice pesky rights you have there, it would be a shame if you have to walk through the immigration maze another time.

    H-1B visa has no restriction on changing jobs. But you have to restart the process if you are in the applying the green card through the employment based channel. Another rub is that there is a quote system. (I am always wondering if this is considered as special treatment based on country of origin). The numbers of green cards granted each year for some countries such as China and India is very limited. Just by coincidence, those countries have the most H1-B visa holders.

    If a H1-B visa holder does not want to endure the insanity a few more (normally 5-10) years, you stay at you current job till you got your green card. The system is designed nicely so that different processes collaborate together to persuade the H1-B visa holder to waive those pesky rights. There was a push to adopt the simpler immigration system like Canada's point system. but the immigration lawyers argue against it because it would reduce the quality of the immigrants. How considerate of them.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp