- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit has been awarded nearly $5 million in federal funds to retrain long-term unemployed workers for high-tech jobs currently filled by temporary foreign workers in Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia.
The TechAmerica Foundation will design a program to educate, train and place U.S. workers in jobs with firms relying on H-1B visas, which provide foreign workers temporary employment in the United States in “specialty” occupations that typically require some form of higher education.
The foundation, which promotes the tech industry, hopes to use the four-year grant to help workers earn industry credentials or postgraduate degrees and reduce the number of visa requests by high-tech companies in the region.
“I want to congratulate TechAmerica Foundation for securing a grant which will help provide better futures for the people of Southern Maryland,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) said in a statement. “These grants will help American workers attain the skills and knowledge they need to earn more money and meet the needs of new and emerging high-growth industries.
“In this ever-changing economy, it is even more important that we are able to train and develop a more competitive and highly skilled workforce, which is why I have been working to advance the Make It In America plan to help put more Americans back to work and ensure more Maryland families and businesses can succeed.”
The funding is part of a $342 million grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor intended to employ U.S. workers in high-growth industries — such as information technology, advanced manufacturing and health care — and reduce employers’ dependency on H-1B visas. The grants are funded through fees paid by employers that hire foreign workers.
In an October report, the foundation found that concentrations of high-tech workers in Virginia, Maryland and the District rank first, fourth and eighth in the nation, respectively.
“A highly skilled workforce is critical to maintaining U.S. leadership in the tech sector but there is currently, and historically has been, a lack of workers with the right skills to fill the jobs U.S. companies need to grow,” foundation President Jennifer Kerber said in a statement. “This program will benefit all of us by putting Americans back to work in jobs that will help strengthen our economy. As a leader in the high-tech sector, the national capital region is the ideal location for this program.”
In Maryland, high-tech firms employ 87 of every 1,000 private-sector workers and pay an average wage of $90,300, ninth highest in the nation and 89 percent higher than the state’s average private-sector wage, according to the report.
“High-tech is critical to Maryland’s economy, as evidenced by the high concentration of its private sector workforce that is employed by tech companies,” foundation Regional Vice President Maryann Fiala said in a statement following the report’s release. “Software and defense are strong job creators for the state. The key to maintaining and growing these types of jobs is access to talent.
“We need to improve math and science education in our schools and encourage our youth to pursue careers in technology. And we need to make it easier for the best and brightest from around the world to stay in the United States after they graduate. That will help us out-innovate the rest of the world.”
The U.S. Department of Labor initially planned to dole out a total of $240 million in grants, but was able to award $102 million more thanks to higher-than-anticipated visa fees.