By John L. Anderson, President, Illinois Institute of Technology and ISTC Board Chairman &
Mark Harris, President & CEO, ISTC
If Illinois is to maintain its leadership position in today’s global economy, then we, as educators and business leaders, need to increase our talent pipeline, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). One of the most direct ways to achieve that goal is to reform our country’s immigration policy—and remove the barriers that are stifling innovation and limiting opportunity.
Consider the following:
- Over the course of the next five years, Illinois’ economy is projected to need nearly 320,000 STEM jobs, up from 266,000 in 2008.
- Each year in Illinois, more than 40 percent of students graduating with a Master’s or Doctoral degree in STEM subjects are temporary immigrant residents.
- In 2011, nearly 2,700 high-level specialists in areas such as computer programming, data analysis, engineering, and biomedicine – talented men and women who received their degrees from a college or university in Illinois – were unable to obtain work visas after graduating.
We cannot afford to lose this expertise—and we must do more to eliminate outdated policies that prevent our state from benefiting from the scientific and technological expertise they bring to our universities, businesses, and communities.
Immigrants have been, and continue to be, a major factor in keeping our nation, and our state, competitive. Between 2006 and 2012, about one of every four of the technology and engineering companies created in the U.S. had at least one immigrant founder. In Illinois, more than 30 percent of high-tech businesses were created by immigrants. Further, immigrants play a vital role in sustaining critical industry sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and hospitality, both as employees and small business owners.
Immigration reform is needed—not only to provide STEM-focused companies with the highly-skilled talent they need but also to encourage entrepreneurs, especially in tech start-ups, to create jobs here in our communities. That is why we have joined together with the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which represents a diverse group of businesses and educational institutions, to support the bi-partisan legislative efforts currently underway in the U.S. Congress. The proposed changes will go a long way toward strengthening our state’s economy, provide opportunities for talented men and women who want to work and live in Illinois, and remove unnecessary barriers to those who want to remain in the state to work after they graduate from our colleges and universities.
The time has come for immigration reform. And it is time to open the door of opportunity wider and to welcome those who want to help Illinois maintain its leadership position in STEM. Join us by adding your voice to the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition at this link: http://illinoisbic.biz/joinus.aspx
 Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce
 IPEDS/National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). ISTC analysis. For the purposes of this analysis, we define STEM through the Department of Education Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes, which includes: agricultural sciences, computer programming, engineering and engineering sciences, biomedical sciences, mathematical sciences, and physical sciences. This excludes social sciences such as economics and psychology.
 IPEDS/National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). ISTC analysis.
 Kauffman Foundation. Then and Now: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs.
Did You Know?
Temporary immigrants earn over 40 percent of all graduate-level STEM degrees* in Illinois. This amounts to almost 3000 high-level experts in science and engineering educated in Illinois, most of who are unable to stay in the state or the country after graduation. Working visas for PhD graduates in the US as a whole are capped at 20,000. These visas were exhausted in five days after the latest quota was issued. Immigrants educated in science and technology who remain in Illinois are creating companies and jobs. Over a third of science and engineering companies created in Illinois over the past six years were founded or co-founded by an immigrant. This is higher than in New York and the fourth highest rate in the country, suggesting Illinois has an especially strong interest in ensuring that these STEM graduates have opportunities to stay in the country. Immigrants are an essential component of Illinois’ technology–driven economic development.
*The fields that fall under science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees vary widely from one definition to the next. Some include health professions whereas others exclude them and include social sciences and psychology instead. For the purposes of this analysis, we have preferred a strict definition that includes only the following Department of Education Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes: agricultural sciences, computer programming, engineering and engineering sciences, biomedical sciences, mathematical sciences, and physical sciences.
Watch and Listen:
- Illinois CEOs visit D.C. to push for immigration reform
- Startups founded by immigrants are creating jobs all over America, including Illinois
- How many jobs have immigrant founded technology companies created?
- Then and Now: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs
- Growth in high-tech employment. New report
- Illinois outpaces national growth rate in tech jobs
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