Report: Expansion of high-skilled immigration could address Wisconsin’s tech labor shortage

Last updated on February 27th, 2022 at 08:40 pm

A new report released Friday by the organization TechNet provides data that shows what many in the tech industry already know: Wisconsin has an increasing number of tech jobs becoming available, but not enough people to fill these positions. However, looking to the state’s population of immigrant workers could provide a possible solution.

According to data supplied by TechNet (a national, bipartisan network made up of innovation economy CEOs and executives), Wisconsin ranked 46th in net tech employment jobs added in 2020. The state is also expected to experience a 10% increase in tech job postings between 2020 and 2030.

“Hirings must grow by at least 16.7% in order to maintain current tech employment levels,” according to the report.

The report provides a possible solution to the state’s tech labor shortage by considering an expansion of high-skilled immigration. Despite making up only 5% of Wisconsin’s population, 11.1% of the state’s STEM workers and over 20% of software developers are immigrants. According to the report, immigrants also contribute $2.6 billion in taxes and hold a combined spending power of $7.2 billion, making them an integral part of the state economy.

“Furthermore, immigrant entrepreneurs help create numerous opportunities for U.S. workers through startups and new businesses,” according to the report.

Wisconsin has 12,409 immigrant entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs generated $295.9 million in revenue in 2018, according to data from the American Immigration Council. International students also help support 5,027 jobs in the state and they often pursue jobs in the U.S. after graduation.

“High-skilled and temporary worker visas make this possible, but existing limitations and visa caps have prevented Wisconsin and the U.S. at large from leveraging the skills of recent international graduates,” reads the report. “Expanding high-skilled immigration would rectify this problem.”

An expansion of high-skilled immigration coupled with a revamped STEM curriculum could increase the supply of qualified tech workers and begin to address Wisconsin’s growing skills gap, according to the report. The skills gap in Wisconsin is not unique, as the entire U.S. is also facing a shortage of qualified workers

“It is estimated that, in the next decade, the nation could face a shortage of about 765,000 needed workers with the skills that come from an associate’s degree or higher,” according to the report. “Combined, about 5.6% of the estimated 2029 labor force will require a post-secondary degree. These vacancies are characterized by misalignment between the skills supplied by the workforce and those demanded by employers, especially STEM firms.”

There are several local programs also seeking to teach Wisconsinites the tech skills they need to fill jobs. Announced this week, the Technology Gap for Returning Citizens program will educate those returning home from incarceration tech skills. TEKsystems announced at the start of the year that they’ve joined Wisconsin’s Registered Apprenticeship program to train more workers for entry-level

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Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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