In the fierce battle for skilled talent, immigration reform would be a boost to U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, Caterpillar Inc. Chief Technology Officer Gwenne Henricks told Congress on Wednesday.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Henricks asserted that high-skilled immigration reform would enable more U.S. companies to recruit top graduates with educations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM fields – from the United States and beyond.
"Our education system in the United States is currently not producing a robust pipeline of graduates in STEM-related fields to meet our workforce needs," Henricks said.
"STEM job growth is expected to be higher than any other occupation over the next 10 years. Caterpillar is actively working to increase the supply of skilled STEM talent in the United States and around the world to fill the jobs we have and will need in the future."
The Importance of H-1B Visas
Henricks also outlined the benefits for companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations – such as engineering and science – through H-1B visas.
The current annual cap for H-1B visas given in the United States is set at 65,000 and was filled on April 1 - the first day that companies such as Caterpillar could file new H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2014.
Based on current law, Caterpillar and other companies will be unable to recruit and hire new H-1B employees again until Oct. 1, 2014.
Caterpillar supports granting green cards to foreign students who receive degrees in STEM fields from American universities and making them exempt from the annual cap.
The company also advocates for lifting the per-country limit on green cards.
Henricks noted that Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar employ more than 10,000 engineers, technologists and scientists worldwide.
In 2012, the company filed for nearly 1,100 patents and spent approximately $2.4 billion on R&D, according to Henricks.
"We need a solution that will address these issues and help us grow a sustainable pipeline of highly skilled workers to meet our growing needs while preserving the environment for future generations through innovation and collaboration," she said.