Testimony of Dr. Daniel L. Sullivan Senior Vice President, Human Resources, QUALCOMM, Incorporated
Before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
April 21, 1998
Good morning. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am Daniel L. Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Human Resources for QUALCOMM, Incorporated. On behalf of QUALCOMM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I thank you for the opportunity to testify on the future of the H-1B skilled worker visa program.
Founded and headquartered in San Diego, California, QUALCOMM is recognized around the world as a leader in digital wireless telecommunications, with over $2.1 billion in annual sales, 500 patents (issued or pending) and 10,400 employees worldwide. The company develops, manufactures, markets, licenses, and operates advanced communications systems based on its wireless technologies.
We are the developers of Code Divisional Multiple Access (CDMA) technology, an international standard, serving as the basis for a new generation of digital wireless services, including cellular systems, personal communications services (PCS), and wireless local loop systems. Today, one of the main factors driving our need for highly skilled engineers is the rapid acceptance of current cdmaOne (IS-95 Code Division Multiple Access) systems, and the determination to stay ahead of the competition.
Much of QUALCOMM's success can be credited to the contributions of employees who came to the company as foreign nationals. Engineers such as Roberto Padovani (Italy), Ph.D. University of Mass - Amherst, Peter Rauber (Switzerland), M.S. Rutgers, Sanjay Jah (India), Ph.D., Strathlyde University, and Yu-Chen Jou (China), Ph.D., University of Southern California, have helped transform QUALCOMM into a global leader in wireless communications.
They and others like them came to this country for opportunity--both in education, and in the workplace. America has long housed the world's preeminent technology companies and research universities, which are natural magnets for top international students. These engineers stayed because America gave them H-1B Visas that allowed them to contribute to our economy before they became U.S. citizens.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, the annual cap of 65,000 visas, set in 1990, has not been adjusted to meet the increased employment demand within the technology industry. It failed to consider increasing demand for skilled workers, as evidenced by the lowest U.S. unemployment rates in 24 years, and virtually non-existent unemployment in the technology sector.
We understand from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that the cap could be reached in a matter of weeks. Unless Congress acts quickly to raise the cap, the U.S. technology industry will lose four months of hiring opportunities this year, and thousands of qualified candidates will seek employment abroad--providing our international competitors with their essential skills, and depriving the United States of the economic benefits that flow from their intellectual capabilities.
To remain competitive, American companies are asking Congress to pass legislation similar to Senator Abraham's American Competitiveness Act (S. 1723), which would increase the H-1B cap and introduce important reforms to the program for the benefit of companies and workers alike.
While legal immigrants make up only 5.5% of QUALCOMM's workforce, they are vital contributors to our success. Over past several years, immigrants have become the bedrock of industry's technical workforce. Today the facts are unmistakable--American technology companies cannot compete globally without access to the top engineering and scientific talent, and that includes engineers and scientists drawn from an international pool of talent.
For QUALCOMM, and thousands of other U.S. businesses, access to the best and brightest is a key component of our ability to compete in global markets. QUALCOMM's main competitors in the field of wireless communications include much larger companies like Ericsson of Sweden, Nokia of Finland, Samsung of Korea and many other multinationals with operations in multiple countries.
To stay ahead of the curve, QUALCOMM must do more with less. With only a fraction of the technical workforce of our global competitors, we cannot afford to lose access to a single talented engineer. We need access to an international talent pool to create American jobs and American exports.
QUALCOMM currently employs 476 H-1B workers, and a total of 572 workers on visas of all types. These workers, rather than taking jobs from American labor pools, are creating more jobs for U.S. workers through the application of their specialized skills.
The global talent pool starts at America's research universities, which have for decades welcomed top international students. QUALCOMM conducts its formal college recruiting in the United States, visiting 108 campuses last year. QUALCOMM has hired 343 workers requiring visas directly from these college campuses, representing 60% of our total visa holders.
During the past year alone, QUALCOMM hired 174 engineers from U.S. university campuses. 67 percent of those hires were foreign nationals who have come to work at QUALCOMM on extensions of their F-1 student visas. These 117 highly skilled students all need to roll over to an H-1B visa prior to May or June of this year, when their F-1 extension expires.
National trends reflect our experience. According to a 1994 report of the American Association of Engineering Societies, 33 percent of all Master of Science and 52 percent of all Ph.D. degrees conferred by U.S. institutions in the 1993/94 school year went to foreign nationals. Specific to the engineering field, this same report found that 824 of 1,597 or 52 percent of Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering went to foreign nationals.
To solve this problem over the long term, we must recognize that our educational system needs to fundamentally change in order to be globally competitive. To that end, QUALCOMM is actively involved in providing enhanced educational opportunities in math and science at all levels, to create highly skilled future U.S. engineers.
The troubling statistics about America's substandard student performance are predictors of the skill level of our graduates. U.S.-educated children don't learn math or science as quickly or as well as their counterparts around the globe. The last round of standardized tests for 8th graders places the U.S. 17th among all countries in science and 28th in mathematics proficiency--far behind countries like Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Test scores of the very best U.S. students are competitive with "average" students in Asia and parts of Europe.
QUALCOMM is concerned with these trends - that's why our corporate philanthropy program is focused on K-12 education and why we regularly consult with our County's school districts on the future of educational policy and the needs of local industry. It's also why we helped found the Center for Wireless Communications at the University of California San Diego, which prepares university students for the future with specific coursework in wireless communications technology. This is why our Chairman and CEO, Irwin Jacobs, recently donated $15 million to build a new engineering facility at UCSD. We've partnered with San Diego State University to develop relevant curriculum, and created both an internship and a mentor program for UCSD engineering students.
While the government, along with corporations like QUALCOMM, is working at all levels to reverse the troubling educational trends, we alone can't change the situation nor can we do so overnight. It's important to remember that the improvements we make today in our educational systems won't be felt in the labor market for another decade.
In addition to focusing on students, QUALCOMM is active in providing retraining for many of the engineers who were displaced when the defense industry fled San Diego. Forty percent of our total workforce is comprised of employees who previously worked in the military or aerospace industrial sector, and through the Defense Conversion Center at San Diego State University, we have been developing applicable coursework for these federally funded training programs. We actively recruit Defense Conversion graduates with the necessary skills to succeed.
All of these efforts, however, do not mitigate our need to hire a relatively small, but critically important group of foreign nationals with advanced skills and education. Limiting the number of H-1B visas granted each year will only force U.S. companies to hire these students and settle them in their countries of origin, or in another country that doesn't have the same restrictions on incorporating highly skilled workers in its labor force.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to touch briefly upon industry's views of pending proposals and some of the reasons we do not support changes suggested in recent weeks by the Department of Labor and other parties.
Current regulations require QUALCOMM and every other business to pay H-1B employees at the same rate we pay non-immigrant personnel in the same job categories. We support the increased enforcement provisions in Senator Abraham's S. 1723, including increased fines for willful offenders of the prevailing wage regulations of up to five times the current level. While we see no evidence that employers are attempting to evade the prevailing wage regulation, increased penalties will protect the integrity of the program and the businesses that use it.
Other proposals, which would give the Department of Labor new enforcement authority, require new regulations of businesses using the H-1B program, and shorten the length of an H-1B visa, are solutions in search of a problem. There is no evidence to suggest that the current safeguards are inadequate. It is clear that the Department of Labor's proposals would burden the technology sector with unnecessary new regulations, and render the H-1B program unusable by QUALCOMM and other technology companies.
Specifically, the new attestations proposed on recruitment would require businesses to wait for DOL approval before hiring each H-1B worker. The delays associated with such regulatory oversight are unacceptable and would cause businesses to miss important production and R&D deadlines. The layoff attestation is similarly unworkable because the DOL would prevent companies from laying off even one entry-level test or mechanical engineer if it had availed itself of a high-end software or electrical engineer through the H-1B program. And limiting the length of stay on an H-1B visa prevents businesses from realizing the full potential of an employee's talents.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I'd be pleased to answer any questions you might have.