Plan Now to Hire for STEM Jobs
By: Melanie Berkowitz, Esq.
The following scenario may sound familiar, particularly if you’re looking to fill STEM jobs.
Entrepreneur Aron Susman, co-founder of online real estate leasing database TheSquareFoot, often wakes up at 3 am to communicate in real time with his top user interface expert.
After working for six months in the company’s New York office, the employee, a Turkish national who had come to the United States for school, was forced to return home when she could not secure a visa.
“We are a young company that would benefit by having our product expert here to help grow our team, interact with co-workers and clients on a personal level and contribute to the work environment.”
But Susman was reluctant to lose her expertise completely, adding that he “resorted to the second-best solution” of employing her remotely.
A Growing Need for STEM Talent
SquareFoot’s hiring problem is not unique, especially for companies looking for specialized technical and computer expertise.
No doubt, the staffing landscape for STEM jobs is challenging. Degrees in the science and technology fields are much less popular than those in finance, business or the law for native-born American students.
The result makes finding qualified employees in the so-called STEM occupations more difficult every year, especially for small companies looking to recruit a STEM workforce.
The Promise of Immigration Reform
In the current hiring climate, when Susman does find a qualified candidate, he often loses him or her to the “Googles of the business” -- large companies that can offer bigger salaries, benefits, and the promise of an immigration lawyer to help with visa issues.
A change in the country’s immigration rules could make it easier to hire qualified workers in IT, engineering and other STEM fields to work for companies both large and small.
Prepare Now for Hiring Foreign Workers
While immigration reform would likely open up the recruiting landscape for IT talent, unfortunately it will not happen as quickly as employers might hope.
“Even with an easing of visa rules, employers are still going to have some work to do to get these workers on the payroll,” warns immigration lawyer Justin Burton, partner at Kriezelman Burton & Associates. “There may be enough visas to go around, but it will take time to complete necessary forms and get potential employees entered into the system, whether it is E-Verify or something else.”
Burton suggests that employers that intend to hire foreign employees if immigration reform passes start now to prepare:
- Know what skills and degrees you need to hire and positions you need to fill.
- Investigate channels for hiring foreign workers, both those currently abroad and those who remained in the United States after previous visas expired.
- Make sure you and any employee responsible for hiring or onboarding knows how to accurately complete an I-9 form.
- Learn how to use E-Verify and train other employees to use the system.
- Prepare for a period of uncertainty and delays surrounding the hiring and verification of new workers.
- Acquaint yourself with an immigration attorney who can answer questions about the new process.
The expense of an immigration lawyer may have been one that many smaller businesses chose not to undertake. But Burton advises that “If reform becomes reality, businesses that are prepared to jump in right away are the most likely to find the best workers in the shortest amount of time.”
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