VC firm study: High-skilled STEM talent shortage in U.S. is real

VC firm study: High-skilled STEM talent shortage in U.S. is real

Summary: According to a new study from a venerable VC firm, the U.S. still has serious shortage of high-skilled STEM employees.


There is a highly contested debate in the technology industry as to whether or not the United States is actually experiencing a significant shortage of highly-skilled employees, from software developers to engineers.

A new study from the Silicon Valley venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers suggests that is still the case.

Specifically, the 2013 Internet Trends report from the venerable firm argues that the U.S. does lack enough talent with "STEM" degrees, or backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The study goes further to say that immigrants to the United States are often the ones filling the gaps, making them "especially important to the vibrancy of tech companies."


However, as immigration moves more into the spotlight of the U.S. political agenda this year, analysts at the firm appear to be worried that this talent pool is going to be shut out.

Researchers behind the report take issue with "government policy," which the authors argue "send qualified foreign high-skilled workers home."


Furthermore, the report calls out opponents by citing the 2010 U.S. Census, highlighting that 99 percent of Americans are "immigrants or descendants of immigrants."

Additionally, high-skilled immigrant workers accounted for one percent of the total population as of three years ago. That translates to four million out of a total 310 million citizens nationwide.

The recent emergence of, a technology-focused lobbying group with support from the likes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, lends credit to this side fo the debate. The group has issued some specific demands to make it easier for foreign workers with specialized skill sets to be hired in the United States.

Looking forward, researchers projected that by 2020, the average annual number of job openings requiring a bachelor's degree in computer science, for example, will grow to approximately 122,300.

Yet the forecast also predicts that there will only be roughly 51,474 graduates in the U.S. to meet those demands.

To see the complete 2013 Internet Trends report, flip through the slideshow below.

Topics: Tech Industry, Government US, Software Development, IT Employment, Web development

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  • Press release journalism

    But the "study" still fails to answer the question of why U.S. technologists aren't particularly well paid.
    John L. Ries
    • What are you talking about?

      US Techies are very well paid. You just have to sell yourself. You don't get a high salary for showing up. You have to make yourself invaluable to a company, then you can demand a lot more than they are "willing" to pay the average employee. This is the same for every field. However, in the tech field, there are a lot more high paying jobs than say Marketing. So you have a lot more potential if you just work for it.
      A Gray
      • Which of course explains why marketing people get the flash money

        And the tech staff find themselves as widgets, easily replaceable by cheaper widgets from somewhere in Asia.

        Mind you, rant aside, if you think you're invaluable etc, then you're delusional.
  • I wonder what the truth is.

    I've read research findings like this before, yet nobody seems to believe them. I can only guess they are financed by large corporations because KPCB doesn't seem to be a benevolent charity.

    Regarding IT workers, I see lots of opening. This correlates with their findings. Yet the specific job descriptions I read are extremely precise, listing exact specializations required and the minimum years of experience in each. Plus, I hear anecdotal reports that average IT graduates aren't immediately walking into jobs.

    These aren't the symptoms of a real talent shortage, yet corporations have huge, obvious incentives to hire top performers from other countries. These top tier imports can be screened to provide higher than average skill for low pay.

    These two questions aren't identical:
    1. Does USA need IT workers from other countries?
    2. Do USA corporations want high skill, low pay workers from other countries?
    • The more precise the ad...

      ...the easier it is to screen people out. Remember that in order to hire on an H1B, employers have to advertise here first; thus many of these ads are pro-forma attempts to find a U.S. worker the employer doesn't really want.
      John L. Ries
  • What is the point?

    If there is a shortage of US tech worker then (I know this will sound simple) the US should invest in program to promote tech among it's own citizens. Why would filling these positions with foreign works seems like a solution. It is almost as bad as Netflix using Amazon (one of their largest competitors) to host their servers. If the US doesn't train more Tech workers they will eventually have fewer and fewer (Wow this is amazingly simple). If the building is on fire you don't lease the building next door, put the fire out.
    • where are the graduates?

      There are way too few CS graduates. Every try hiring a decent iOS or Android developer? Rails, Python, Hadoop, etc? Be prepared to pay up. Way up.

      Training on the job? Get real. I don't have time to learn all the technologies my teams use, and when I hire devs they are going to have to show the skills in question or prove they can learn anything quickly.

      I like some of the above link, but think the real problem is we've become a nation of wusses. CS is hard. Part of becoming a good developer is learning how to live with constant struggle. Too bad we are raising a generation of pansies.
      • A CS degree isn't trade training and nor should it be

        If industry wants trained monkeys, then it's got to do it.

        This sort of idiocy of expecting people to have a clue about the business the moment they walk in the door is why there is so much unmitigated rubbish in terms of product and staff out there.
  • Why would you listen to a venture captial org?!?!?

    I cant believe that people are republishing KPCB slide decks. These guys intentionally play up the companies they invest in and make claims that they are innovators for the purpose of increasing their valuation. It's shameful and pathetic that ZDNet reprints their content.
  • Corporate LIES

    US professionals should make NO MISTAKE – your career is on the line. If you have not already written strongly to your Congressmen this week, then put a gun to your head – it’s over.

    There are currently 700,000 foreigners in the US on temporary work visas (per CBO) with current annual visa cap of 65,000. If expanded to 325,000 (as advocated by corporations), the number of temporary work visas will quickly grow to 3,500,000 (3.5 million). However, relevant US STEM employment is only 2.5M.

    Did anyone actually read this work of fiction? And yet here we go again -- one more another corporate study proving NOTHING. And the BIG LIE continues -- even though the “skilled labor shortage” is now PROVEN to be a LIE. And indeed, even slide #95 shows CEO concerns on “people skills” have fallen significantly.

    The author’s logic is as follows;

    1. The internet is cool
    2. The internet is growing
    3. We have an unpublished Microsoft studies that says CEOs “want more".
    4. We have err, "help wanted" ads

    Isn’t everyone is well aware of the proven FRAUD behind #4, the corporate “help wanted” ads? If not, search on “Cohen & Grigsby video” to witness the truth of this corporate fraud.

    And no one argues #3 -- but who cares? CEO pay is heading to Venus while corporate profits are at six-decade highs. Meanwhile wages are hitting record lows, layoffs and unemployment continue, corporation quickly fire and refuse to hire beyond the forties and the majority of our STEM graduates cannot find STEM work.

    BTW, this study’s author is Mary "Queen of the Net" Meeker, who was investigated for fraud after pumping internet stocks for Wall Street. To get the real FACTS, read EPI’s study “Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market: An analysis of supply, employment, and wage trends”.

    These visa programs are ill-conceived, corrupt and highly damaging. They must be ABOLISHED – not expanded.

    Write your Congressman – NOW.
  • IT shortage is BS.. ECON 101

    If there is such a shortage of American IT folks. Why have wages NOT risen since the dot com bust? ECON 101 (Supply & Demand). Oh, in the eyes of these Vulture Capitalist there is. But it's because American IT won't work for a 1/2 cup of rice a day and a cardboard box for diggs by a polluted river as there Indian and Chinese counterparts do. These folks love Free-Markets until they have to abide by the rules. They would sell there Momma out to boot!
    Jeff Younce