Trump should focus on retention of jobs, and training of US workers.
By Vinson X. Palathingal
One of the key issues during the presidential elections was the topic of immigration. With New York businessman Donald Trump sailing to victory in an impressive fashion, many analysts and experts are already beginning to project what sort of immigration reforms can be expected from the next administration.
Trump burst on the scene with his staggering remarks about Mexicans. Initially billed as a fringe candidate, the Manhattan mogul defied all expectations on November 8. He will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on January 20th.
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If Trump’s campaign was any indication, immigration reform will be a top priority for the incoming administration. His position on “illegal immigration” resonated with a large section of Americans. He repeatedly stated that his administration will not have any room for illegal migrants, and will welcome inflow of migrants that wish to work here and contribute to the economy, legally.
So, what can foreign workers and visa-seekers expect under a Trump administration?
A large portion of his campaign rhetoric revolved around “bringing jobs back to the United States.”
In our current information technology economy, which has immense scope for job-creation, the number one resource the United States lacks at the moment is “personnel” – people that are skilled in modern technologies and their applications.
By understanding the fact that in today’s world people are our strongest resource, we can acknowledge that technologically-competent manpower serves as raw material for tech companies. There is a shortage of highly-skilled technologists and technocrats in the United States that will need to be addressed immediately.
In the past two decades, the country met some of these needs by allowing highly skilled tech professionals from other countries to work here through H-1B visas.
After a decrease in demand during the Great Recession, H1-B visa applications hit record-high in 2016 — 236,000 workers applied for the work visa which was up 3,000 from 2015 and a notable 63,500 more than 2014.
Each year only 85,000 applications are accepted, out of which 20,000 are reserved for graduate students from US universities.
As the number of applications indicates, clearly, the country needs more skilled professionals. Decreasing this quota is neither in the American interest nor is it practical.
It is no surprise that H1-B has been a popular mechanism for recruiting qualified, cheap labor to perform skilled jobs. It has also led to several job-creation outlets, as these skilled workers a) diversify the corporate landscape by expanding businesses, and b) continue to contribute to the economy. Many of them have gone on to start successful businesses. So the H-1B visa program is a key tool in the success of the United States. The Trump administration, which is focused on “Making America Great Again,” cannot afford to overlook the benefits of such a tool.
One of the key elements of President-elect Trump’s plan on the job front— that is besides creating jobs and bringing back jobs — should be job-retention. The short-term goals should be focused on attracting economic growth and a simultaneous training of Americans to take over high-skilled technological jobs in the long-run.
To that effect, new temporary visas could be introduced to leverage additional skilled workers to boost the economy. These temporary visas will not provide a path to citizenship but will play the role of catalyst by bolstering the economy. By bringing in more qualified labor, the economy will continue to benefit without levying unnecessary burdens on taxpayers. The trickle-down effects will make the training of the American working-classes possible and even enable the youth to prepare for high-level jobs by providing them access to practical skills, and not just a college degree.
A sound approach would be for the administration to work in tandem with universities, community colleges, and other educational institutes to tailor their programs so that prospective employees are ready to take on challenges that they were not prepared to before. By easing this learning curve, more local job-seekers will be equipped to adjust to this competitive environment. By involving academic institutions, who have a higher outreach at a lower cost, many such services and skills can be made available in rural parts of the country. A federally organized program that reaches even the remotest parts of the country will be highly expensive. By empowering community colleges and universities, their respective networks and expertise can be utilized in bringing technological know-how throughout the country.
Trump’s immigration reform will do well to address these issues. By strongly focusing on job-retention, the economy will avoid going into a slump. A short-term influx of foreign-workers will lead to economic growth and market vibrancy. This short-term plan should provide enough leverage and time to bring in additional, skilled workers into the job market by industry-guided technological training. With a locally-sourced employee market, the unemployment rate will automatically fall.
The writer is the Executive Director of the Indo-American Center in Washington, DC. He is a Trump supporter.
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