While the focus of the conference was on the "competition" for skilled immigrants, Escobar said that "when we think about a race for talent I think we're also thinking about our investments in people here, too, to increase the pipeline here" of skilled U.S. workers.
In talking about the difficulty Microsoft faces in getting an H-1B visas and high rejection rates as a result of the visa lottery, Kamela said it's a bigger problem for a startup that submits only a few lottery applications.
"How do we make sure that those companies (startups) get a bite of the apple," said Kamela, "and they're competing against us and Google and we can pay more." Microsoft may well be the leading corporate critic of the H-1B program, and its officials have frequently appeared at forums and hearings on the topic.
Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate at the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard, raised warnings about increases in foreign workers.
Teitelbaum said there are "contradictions" with policies that encourage more students to pursue degrees in engineering, science and mathematics, while at the same saying "we want to import more scientists and engineers particularly on a temporary basis."
"The message they (students) are getting is this is not an attractive long-term career path," said Teitelbaum, who said the U.S. policies have produced a boom and bust cycle in STEM employment.
"If we have mass layoffs at the same time that the employers are claiming they can't hire enough people, which is what's happening, seems to be happening right now," said Teitelbaum, "they are going to get the message that maybe I should do something else."
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