BusinessWeek: "To Fix Immigration, Improve U.S. Education and Link Visas to Employer Needs"

by Joseph McKeown

Whatever the end results of comprehensive immigration reform, Harold L. Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, points out that this reform should also address the labor needs of US businesses:

The success of many U.S. businesses, as we have noted before, depends on the availability of talent. According to government statistics, the average high-skilled manufacturing worker in the U.S. is in his or her late 50s. If the baby boomers continue to retire at present rates, and manufacturing continues to grow as we project, America could face a significant shortage of skilled workers in the years ahead. Many companies already are having trouble filling certain job vacancies.

The solution, Sirkin says, is to 1) update the US education system so that US workers can fill these positions; and 2) also hire qualified foreign workers. Particularly, he argues that the H-1B cap should be tied to labor needs, not politics (Protima also discussed this in her post on the immigration reform bill). SIrkin states: "Failing to include labor force demand as part of a solution to the immigration problem means our companies will be at a competitive disadvantage in talent development." Sirkin's post is a reminder that immigration reform is not only about undocumented immigrants (however important this issue is) but also about the needs and vitality of US businesses.