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Navigating Immigration Reform: Employer Solutions for Practicable, Effective Reforms

Why Reform Now

Immigration is an Important Part of America’s Future Workforce
To build the economy of the future, the United States must create the workforce of the future. American businesses, universities and research institutions are engaged in an intense international competition, and the quality of an organization’s human capital and the way it manages its talent pipeline can be the difference between success and failure.[1] Many factors play a role in America’s workforce competitiveness, and there is no magic solution for maximizing human capital. Instead, business leaders, educators and policymakers must come together to develop and implement multiple strategies to continue to position the United States, and all its citizens, to thrive in this new world.[2] This includes programs that encourage employers to invest in the development of a skilled workforce, the inclusion of veterans, the disabled and other underrepresented groups in the workforce, initiatives to encourage voluntary adoption of flexible workplaces and sensible immigration policies (see Figure 1).

  “As the corporate environment for many companies continues to become more globalized, immigration is becoming increasingly important. Companies need to be able to quickly, efficiently and effectively mobilize their international workforces to respond to growing demands for their products and services worldwide.”

-Austin T. Fragomen, Jr., Chair, Council for Global Immigration, Press Release, January 1, 2012

As we move away from the depths of the recession, employers continue to confront persistent gaps between the skills of unemployed workers and the skills sought by employers to fill specific positions. Part of this skill shortage is due to the changing demographics of the workplace and the aging population of skilled workers. There is also research that shows graduating high school and college students lack the necessary basic technological skills and are unprepared for work in a knowledge economy. Additionally, fewer students are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — skills that are necessary for the United States to be globally competitive. Finally, employers need workers with the cross-cultural communication skills and business acumen to navigate a global environment.

  "The skills gap in the United States [is] the barrier that is keeping our country from employing millions of workers right now. … Seventy-two percent of [our members] said they are having trouble finding workers with the right skills. … [T]hey have as many as 3.8 million jobs open, but they can't find the right people with the right skills."

-Henry G. (Hank) Jackson, President and CEO, SHRM, National Journal's "Compare the Candidates" Event, September 4, 2012

A growing skills gap challenges American employers. The United States needs to undertake a “reskilling” of labor to meet the demands of a highly digitized and interconnected world where higher skill sets will be required.[3] By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.5 million too few workers with college or graduate degrees in the United States.[4] Despite a high national unemployment rate, U.S. employers today have open jobs across many skill levels that they cannot fill because there are not available workers with the specific skill sets to hire.[5] The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports roughly 12 million unemployed persons and approximately 4 million unfilled positions.[6] Unfortunately, this skills gap is widening, with a recent national SHRM survey finding that two-thirds (66 percent) of organizations currently hiring full-time staff are having difficulty recruiting for specific job openings, up from 52 percent in 2011.[7]

  “I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that — openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work. It’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.”

-President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 24, 2012

This skills gap is driven by two major factors:

  • There is a skills mismatch in America. Gaps exist between unemployed workers’ skills and the skills sought by employers to fill specific occupations, especially in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where jobs are expected to grow by 17 percent between 2008 and 2018 — nearly double the growth rate for all other fields.[8] At the start of 2013, 1.9 job openings await each unemployed worker in these fields.[9] By 2018 there will be more than 230,000 advanced degree STEM jobs that will not be filled, even if every new U.S. STEM graduate finds a job.[10]
  • The U.S. workforce is aging. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of workers age 55 to 64 is projected to increase by 36.5 percent (see Figure 2).[11] As large numbers of skilled workers get older, they are not being replaced by younger workers who possess the skills employers need for the 21st century workplace.


“Keeping America and U.S. employers at the forefront of our global economy is a priority for everyone in Washington. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers and in the White House, fundamentally agree on many common sense, high-skilled immigration reforms that will help to achieve this goal. Our members are eager to work toward immigration reform in the 113th Congress that will bolster our country’s competitiveness.”

-Rebecca Peters, Director and Counsel for Legislative Affairs, Council for Global Immigration

Immigration must be part of the solution. Educating, training and ensuring that all Americans who want a job have one must be a top priority for U.S. employers. At the same time we must recognize that the United States does not have a monopoly on talent. We must ensure that American employers have access to the best and brightest professionals — regardless of where they were born. Intelligent modernization of the U.S. immigration system is not only critical to ensuring a competitive American workforce, but reform will help create U.S. jobs, spark innovations and ultimately strengthen the economy.


“… [W]e currently have more than 6,300 open positions in the U.S. Over 3,300 of these are for jobs in core research, engineering and development. This represents a 29 percent increase in the number of open research, engineering and development positions compared to the same time last year. Combined with IBM, Intel, Oracle and Qualcomm, these five companies alone have over 10,000 high tech job openings in the United States. In New York City, there are postings for over 20,000 open jobs among a group of just 25 employers that includes companies like JPMorgan Chase, AT&T, IBM, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, Bloomberg, Deloitte and Accenture. This problem isn’t improving—it’s getting worse.”

-Brad Smith, General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, Congressional Testimony, April 22, 2013

A generation has passed since the last overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in 1990. It was a model for the world, but is now plagued with an insufficient supply of visas, outdated technologies and inefficient regulations. America can do better. We need to fix the problems that exist today and build a framework that is flexible enough to meet the workforce challenges of the next generation.


“When I practiced immigration law I regularly worked with high tech companies in Idaho who had openings for workers with advanced degrees but, due to the small number of U.S. graduates in these fields, could not find the employees they needed.”

-Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID), Press Release, October 14, 2011

Click here to learn more about the solutions we propose to fix the broken U.S. immigration system.

Download this information as a PDF.


“Mike Brown, the Iselin, N.J.-based director of talent acquisition for the North America region of electronics and electrical equipment company Siemens … says he is currently searching for about 3,000 workers. Half of the openings will be filled internally … or from entry level hires, he says. ‘But about 1,500 positions are technical roles that require some kind of expertise and experience, such as industrial automation or a knowledge of manufacturing specific to an industry, such as mining or beverage and food manufacturing.’ Mr. Brown’s team fills most jobs in an average of 65 days while specialized engineering and technical positions can take three or four months. ‘Competition is fierce for qualified candidates,’ he says.”

-The Wall Street Journal, “Demand is High for Skilled Job Seekers,” November 7, 2011


[1] Chartered Global Management Accountant, “Talent Pipeline Draining Growth,” September 2012,

[2] McKinsey & Company, “Talent Tensions Ahead: A CEO Briefing,” November 2012,

[3] Oxford Economics, “Global Talent 2021,” July 2012,

[4] McKinsey & Company, “Talent Tensions Ahead: A CEO Briefing,” November 2012,

[5] Society for Human Resource Management, “SHRM LINE,” February 2013,

[6] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The Employment Situation – March 2013,” April 5, 2013,; Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Job Openings and Labor Turnover – February 2013,” April 9, 2013,

[7] Society for Human Resource Management, “The Ongoing Impact of the Recession—Recruiting and Skill Gaps,” March 12, 2013,

[8] U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,” July 2011,­les/reports/documents/stemfinalyjuly14_1.pdf.

[9] Change the Equation, “STEM Help Wanted,” May 2012,

[10] Partnership for a New American Economy and Partnership for New York City, “Not Coming to America,” May 2012,

[11] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Older Workers,” July 2008,

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As strategic affiliates, the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) help advance U.S. growth, innovation and job creation by supporting employers and their employees as they navigate the most pressing workforce and talent management issues, which includes reform of the U.S. immigration system. Learn more about ACIP at Learn more about SHRM at

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