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CNN Today

High-Tech Labor Shortage Leads Some Managers to Overseas Workers

Aired March 8, 2000 - 2:41 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The high-tech industry can't find enough workers in today's tight-as-a-drum labor market, so managers are turning overseas. But unless Congress acts soon, even that labor pool will soon dry up.

Here is CNN's Bob Beard in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB BEARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Internet producer Raksha Sriram of India earned a masters degree from Syracuse University, then stayed in the United States on what's called an H-1B visa.

RAKSHA SRIRAM, INTERNET PRODUCER: I can go back and say I've been part of this raging economy out there and I know how it is.

BEARD: Raksha's boss, Julie Holdren, employs five H-1B workers at her small Web software firm and wants more. She calls them vital to growth.

JULIE HOLDREN, CEO, OLYMPUS GROUP: We need approximately 30 people in the next several months to be able to fulfill all the work that we have in house.

But she says there have been few takers, even with competitive salaries and benefits. Last year, the quota of 115,000 H-1B visas was filled by June. This year, it'll likely be filled by April. Under pressure from high-tech firms, Congress is poised to raise the quota to 160,000 in a House bill and 195,000 in the Senate version. Both call for visa fees to be used to fund scholarships and training for U.S. students.

Alan Greenspan calls the program a good deal.

ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The benefits of bringing in those people to do the work here rather than doing the work elsewhere, to me, should be pretty much self-evident.

BEARD: But labor unions oppose the current law, which doesn't require companies to first look for qualified U.S. workers.

PEGGY TAYLOR, AFL-CIO: Our concern about the H-1B program is that employers are looking overseas before they are looking at our own workforce.

BEARD: Julie Holdren says she would hire U.S. workers if they were available.

(on camera): One independent study projects 600,000 unfilled high-tech jobs in the U.S. by year's end, it also projects only about 30,000 college graduates in math and science. So more pressure from Congress to act on H-1Bs.

Bob Beard, CNN Financial News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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