General Motors CEO calls for more American STEM workers, coders

The city of Detroit, Michigan was once seen as a beacon of American industry for being the center of automotive production for the country. As our economy worsened, the “Motor City” felt the unfortunate effects of American outsourcing and downsizing. It has only recently begun showing the flicker of a recovery, as automotive companies like Ford and General Motors have turned to creating cars that can think, and sometimes even drive, on their own. To create these “smart” cars, these companies have needed to recruit skilled software developers to their cause, and for many companies this has been difficult.

Stories recently ran on several news outlets about General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra and her pledges towards technology and education. GM released statements Wednesday, June 28, that they would be partnering with four groups dedicated to coding and the STEM fields, giving the organizations a total of $850,000 to continue their work. The groups include, Black Girls Code, Institute of Play and Digital Promise.


via Wikimedia commons
Formerly an engineer for GM, Barra became CEO in 2014

GM is allegedly giving $200,000 to for training 1,400 computer science teachers who will teach more than 40,000 U.S. students during the 2017-18 school year. They also plan to give $200,000 to assist Black Girls Code in launching a Detroit-area chapter by fall 2017 with the aim of boosting the number of minority women in tech careers. The goal is to encourage underrepresented women to learn coding and computer sciences. The move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, as GM has a long history of helping train engineers. Before becoming CEO, Mary Barra received her degree in electrical engineering from the General Motors Institute in Flint Michigan. And in the age of smart cars, coding has becoming more desired than ever.

“A car today has hundreds of millions of lines of code,” Barra said in an interview with CNN. “We do see a shortage if we don’t address this and I mean fully fundamentally. Every child needs to have these skills.”

Lately the headlines have been full of quotes by Silicon Valley CEOs stating they can’t hire workers with the skills they need and there is a desperate shortage of Americans educated in tech.  Their solution, if you want to call it a solution has been to hire lots and lots of foreign workers and justify it by saying that “America needs to catch up!” Truth be told, it is not about catching up, it is about money, the bottom line, and the next Quarter’s results.

These companies need to think beyond their bottom lines. It has become a common practice for experienced IT professionals who have been working in their fields for years to be forced to educate their replacements from India and China and then be summarily fired. This is the racket in our H1-B visa program has become.

The H1-B was created to allow companies to bring in foreign talent that could not be found at home.  An H1-B used to be referred to as a “genius visa.” While there is a cap on how many applications can be made per year, how visas are distributed is done in a haphazard fashion; Visas are given in a lottery, which means that the most educated and necessary workers can be left behind, while an outsourcing IT firm brings in 200 entry-level foreign workers that have to be trained by Americans before they can even begin their job. These corporations take the hit in efficiency and productivity because they know that they can hire these visa workers for cheaper than an American, and the costs balance out after a period of time. It all comes down to gaming the system for short-term gain at the cost of long-term productivity.

Unfortunately, those “chickens are coming home to roost” as we see when we compare technological innovation of the US with other nations, For instance, 2014, for the first time, US patent applications filed by non-residents out paced that of applications filed by residents.  Say what you will about Chinese “junk patents”, multi-national companies are taking great interest in what is going on in China’s Pearl River Delta these days. According to financial writer, David Floyd, “drones and mobile payments are a couple of the areas in which China has pulled decisively ahead of the rest of the world.”  China is not achieving these technological goals by bringing in foreign workers.  Rather, they are making investments in education and working with industry to create employment opportunities for its skilled workers.

Using information gleaned from PFIR’s state-of-the-art H1-B Visa Database, we found that General Motors hires little to any H1-B employees (Only 61 at their largest tech center in Warren, Michigan.) Those that are hired, are of high skill level, and are paid competitively for their fields. What is usually seen is the exact opposite: large amounts of lower skill workers being paid below average to compensate for the efficiency gap. Looking at the gathered evidence, this call for more American coders and STEM workers and put resources into training them appears genuine. As such, we here at Progressives for Immigration Reform applaud Mary’s call to action. America needs more honest corporate officials that don’t say one thing and then do another. It’s why we would also ask Barra to support reform of the H1-B Visa, in order to stop its exploitation by self-interested corporations and the abuse of foreign and American workers.

If you want to take action, and know of a company in your area that hires H1-B visa applicants, ask them why they’d rather hire a foreign worker with less experience than a bright-minded American college student, or a single-mother who worked nights to afford how to learn coding. Ask them if they really care about this country, or if they just care about its money.

Leave a Reply