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How to Create an American Technical Talent Shortage

Back in the 19th century, American employers regularly posted signs warning that “No Irish need apply.” Now, according to a report issued by a group called Bright Future Jobs, similarly blatant discrimination is rampant among certain tech employers in the United States. This time, however, the message is “No Americans Need Apply,” which also happens to be the title of the report. 

Bright Future Jobs describes itself as “Techies working on the real American Dream.” The report analyzes 100 listings posted on the jobs Web site Dice.com, which claims to be “the leading career site for technology and engineering professionals.” The ads noted in the report all appear to be aimed at hiring foreigners rather than Americans for jobs in the United States. Some of these jobs appear related to offshoring of work. Although the study only covers IT jobs, it’s unclear whether similar practices are also occuring in science fields, especially as companies in the pharmaceutical industry and elsewhere are moving increasing numbers of science jobs abroad.

The ads cited in the report use abbreviations that refer to particular short-term visas and are generally unfamiliar to Americans. They also often promise sponsorship for permanent residency. They therefore “may involve multiple legal violations of discrimination law for a U.S. citizen job applicant who is bypassed based on his or her national origin,” says the Bright Future Jobs Web site. The group urges Dice.com to remove such discriminatory ads, which apparently form only a portion of the site’s listings.

Writing about the report, Grant Gross noted in an article at PCWorld, “A search on Dice.com Thursday [July 5] found more than 300 job listings for OPT jobs.” The Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa is aimed at people who recently received degrees from U.S. institutions. Gross goes on to report an additional 200 listings aimed at foreigners still studying at U.S. colleges and therefore eligible for the Current Practical Training (CPT) visa, and 160 ads seeking holders of the H-1B temporary worker visa. “Exclusively for OPT/CPT students,” announces one ad highlighted by Gross.

Discrimination by citizenship or national origin is generally prohibited by U.S. law. The report, however, discusses less upfront methods that some employers use to discourage or disqualify American citizens from applying for jobs. Dice.com’s terms of service, for example, forbid “any job requirement or criterion…that discriminates on the basis of citizenship or national origin.” Interestingly, with its home office in Urbandale, Iowa, Dice.com is located within the state represented by Senator Chuck Grassley (R), an ardent advocate for stricter regulation of high-skilled immigration.

“It doesn’t make sense for U.S. IT companies to complain about a U.S. worker shortage when they aren’t looking for U.S. employees,” Gross writes, paraphrasing the report’s author, Jan Conroy, who is also executive director of Bright Future Jobs. Actually it does, if doing so helps to persuade politicians of a need to admit more foreign workers to meet the purported shortage, depressing wages and providing a cheap, compliant workforce.