Theres a common thread linking Cerner Corp., the University of Kansas Medical Center, Sprint Nextel Corp., and Black & Veatch Corp.
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
Theyre rated in a Brookings Institution report, released today, as top users of H-1B immigrant worker visas in the Kansas City area.
Those locally based employers are listed along with UST Global Inc., which has about 10,000 employees globally and supplies information technology talent to several Kansas City area companies.
Nationally and in the Kansas City area, demand for high-skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent has grown over the last 10 years. Three-fourths of the Kansas City areas H-1B visa requests were for workers in those fields.
Locally, employers requested 1,527 H-1B visas in the 2010-11 period, the Brookings analysis said. That put Kansas City 38th among U.S. metropolitan areas in terms of H-1B visa use.
The number represents just 1.5 per 1,000 workers in the Kansas City areas workforce. Though small in percentage, H-1B visa workers generate a lot of public discourse at a time when U.S. workers are out of work in the same disciplines.
H-1B visa applications are designed for companies to use when they say they cant find U.S. workers to fill needed high-skill positions.
The top Kansas City area occupations in which H-1B workers were hired in the study period, according to the Brookings report:
• Computer science, 878 visas
• Health diagnostics and treatment, 135
• Engineering, 134
• Life science, 70
• Financial specialties, 42
Overall demand for H-1B workers exceeds the number of visas available, the study said, but the reports bottom line was that such visas are needed partly because of inadequately funded training for U.S. workers. That leaves a shortage of the skills sought in the specific metropolitan locations, the report said.
Currently, H-1B visa fees are designed to support workforce technical skills training, said Jill Wilson, co-author of the report. Our research shows that these funds, however, are not distributed proportionately to the areas that have the highest demand for H-1B workers.
Current funding formulas distribute skills-training funds at the rate of about $3 per worker in areas that have a high demand for H-1B workers but about $15 per worker in low-demand areas. The study calculated that the Kansas City areas per capita grant dollars received form H-1B visa programs amounted to $5.64.
Those H-1B fee and grant receipts totaled $8.9 million for 2010-11 in the Kansas City area.
Brookings suggests creation of an independent Standing Commission on Labor and Immigration to recommend changes to immigration policy to more nimbly respond to the demand for high-skilled workers in regional labor markets.
It also recommends targeting H-1B visa fees to areas with high H-1B worker demand to upgrade the skills in the existing workforce to meet local employer needs.
Federal law caps H-1B visas at 65,000 a year, and requests have exceeded that number every year except 2001-03, when the cap was temporarily raised to 195,000. Universities and research institutions are exempted from the cap.
To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to email@example.com.