She recently testified before the House subcommittee on immigration and citizenship. A group of US lawmakers recently held a hearing titled – ‘Oh, Canada! How outdated US immigration policies push top talent to other countries.’ The objective was to understand how Canada’s immigration laws and procedures are helping it to attract top talent.
Grundy-Young is a chief executive officer at The Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), which comprises of 66 technology focussed associations in US and Canada. In turn, these associations represent more than 22,000 technology companies, mainly startups and small business entities.
She explained that based on her interactions – according to members of TECNA, the largest inhibitor to the success of their business is the inability to secure key highly-skilled talent, viz: an individual who possesses a four-year computer science or like degree from a top university.
“The role of the core software engineer is like the yeast in bread. The baker can have all of the other ingredients, the best bakers, and the best ovens to bake the bread, but without the yeast one will not successfully make a loaf of bread. Without the core software engineer, the company doesn’t have a product,” was the analogy drawn by her.
Grundy-Young pointed out that the demand far outpaces the pipeline of students available to take up such roles. Further, the unemployment in the technology sector is low and growth is stymied.
According to an analysis by CompTIA, a non-profit association for the IT industry, employer job postings for open IT positions surpassed 365,000 in May, the highest monthly total since September 2019. Software and application developers, IT support specialists, systems engineers and architects, IT project managers and systems analysts were among the positions in highest demand. The unemployment rate for IT occupations was 2.4% in May, about half the US labour market rate of 5.5%.
“Canada has taken a pragmatic and balanced approach to position their country to be a world contender in the fields of artificial intelligence, automation, and the creative industries. Make no mistake, the Canadians have come to compete. Across their nation, cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Winnipeg have become magnets for American companies looking to tackle complex issues with some of the brightest minds,” she said.
She pointed to the Global Talent Stream and Startup visa programs, both of which Canada expeditiously uses to attract and retain highly skilled talent. TOI has covered these in various articles.
In the US, the H-1B visa is meant for skilled workers, the annual quota is 85,000 (which includes the Masters’ cap of 20,000 reserved for those who have obtained advanced degrees from US universities). The annual demand for these visas far outstrips the reserved quota. Drawing reference to various studies, Grundy-Young pointed out that over 60% of applications are randomly denied each year to workers in STEM occupations. With more than 100,000 H-1B cap submissions denied annually, the US has turned away millions of qualified, highly-skilled, and often US educated individuals who are going to other countries to contribute to their economy.
This issue is not an immigration problem, this is a workforce problem and must be seen and dealt with as such, she summed up.