Immigration can cure skills shortage, says SAS chief

Summary:The IT industry needs talented overseas workers to foster innovation

Jim Goodnight, the outspoken chief executive officer of software giant SAS, has said the UK and US governments must open their borders to skilled overseas IT workers in order to remain competitive and foster a culture of innovation.

In an interview with silicon.com (ZDNet UK's sister site), Goodnight said that the IT industry is crying out for changes to immigration laws and added that SAS has slowed its hiring in the US in favour of growing its teams in India and China where he believes there is a rich pool of talent.

"The industry is screaming for help in this area," said Goodnight. "In the US we are not producing enough skills in science and maths and yet we're not allowed to bring in more than 65,000 people each year who have those skills."

"You want to talk about some of the stupid things Bush has done? Why restrict the best and the brightest people from coming into your country?"

Goodnight said the UK is suffering in the same way.

"It's absolutely foolhardiness at a time when we need these skills."

But increased immigration is only part of the solution, he said. In the long term Goodnight believes the UK and US must encourage more students to achieve skills in science and maths to address the growing skills shortage.

"The US is 16th in the world now in terms of how many kids graduate from high school, as a percentage," Goodnight told silicon.com. "Over a third of our kids in the US drop out of school before 12th grade. What value are they to society? They don't play, they don't fit in.

"Two-thirds of our prison population do not have a high school diploma. It seems pretty clear to me, do you want to educate your children or do you want to put them in jail?"

Topics: Networking

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