Need Tech Talent? Look South of the Border

In today’s competitive economic environment, businesses are defined in large part by their talent. This especially rings true in the fast-evolving technology field, where the race to the next big innovation is on. But finding and holding onto tech talent is proving to be a challenge for most organizations. According to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 there will be an estimated one million more open computing jobs than applicants who can fill them.

Companies are solving for this in a number of ways. They have poured time and money into improving their employer brand, offering an impressive package of perks and benefits. They’re developing on-the-job training to upskill workers. And they’re competing with hundreds of other businesses for access to a limited number of U.S. temporary workers and IT consultants. But all of these things do little more than act as a Band-Aid, as the talent pool continues to shrink.

TN, an alternative to H-1B

Enter foreign talent. For years, it seems that the biggest companies have had an advantage in accessing foreign talent who enter the U.S. on H-1B visas, which has kept many small and medium-sized businesses out of the game. The H-1B program can be an arduous, expensive, timely process, and while it has been a viable solution for large organizations, it may not be for long. The current U.S. administration is proposing changes to the program that will make it even more difficult to capitalize on foreign expertise through the popular H-1B visa.

A sourcing alternative that’s helping companies of all sizes gain more ground in the battle for talent is the TN visa program. These visas are available to those in Canada and Mexico across 63 professional occupations, many of which are in the technology field. The visas are good for three years, with indefinite renewals, and there is no cap. The process is less expensive, more efficient and shorter, making this a valuable option for smaller companies. TN visa talent is available immediately, and given its proximity, this talent is typically more easily acclimated to American culture.

In fact, Mexico is rapidly emerging as a major tech center. It has more than 120 universities hosting strong IT educational programs. The state of Jalisco has become a hi-tech center with 12 universities graduating 85,000 computer professionals annually. Plus, Mexico has about half the number of U.S. engineering graduates, with only one-third the population.

Mexico’s emerging Silicon Valley

Mexico commands a significant U.S. technology company presence, with multinational organizations such as IBM, Oracle, Intel, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Cisco, Facebook and Amazon operating satellite offices there. Plus, hundreds of tech startups are launched each year in Mexico, and venture capital funds have rapidly multiplied to capitalize on local opportunities.

Supporting Mexico’s evolution into a high-tech hotbed, and an ideal IT sourcing center, are:

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  1. Accessibility – The close proximity to the U.S., and Silicon Valley in particular, simplifies travel, minimizes time zone challenges and maximizes efficiency in doing business.
  2. Population – Home to 121 million people, Mexico abounds in young talent, with more than two-thirds (69%) of Mexico’s population age 41 or younger.
  3. Affinity for U.S. – Many Mexican nationals speak English proficiently and are eager to pursue professional positions in America.
  4. Ease of doing business — NAFTA simplifies doing business with Mexico, with legal and IP protection. Companies that establish offices there also can benefit from tax incentives and grants.

Prime recruiting opportunity

For U.S. employers in the competitive IT industry, Mexico offers a prime opportunity to benefit from a largely untapped, highly skilled talent pool. As growing demand for technical expertise continues to exceed the national supply, and even foreign supply participating in the H-1B visa program, smart organizations will leverage multiple sourcing options, including the TN visa, while keeping an eye on developing epicenters of tech talent, such as Mexico, and others that will emerge over time.

Of course, no one solution can satisfy the need for qualified technical talent. Ultimately, the best strategy will consider trends around the total workforce, such as worker preferences for full-time or contingent work, and the strengths and weaknesses of young talent and more experienced professionals – and how to use them together. As companies stay abreast of ongoing administration changes that make it more difficult to engage with either temp or foreign workers, they should continue rigorous, ongoing recruiting efforts that explore new ways to capture qualified IT talent.

Don Goldberg

Don Goldberg is a successful entrepreneur with over 37 years of experience in business management. Over his career, Don has launched several companies in the technology space including ConsultNet, one of the most respected IT staffing firms in the United States, where he serves as CEO. With TechBridge, Don has created a new venture, designed to bring together U.S.-based hiring managers and qualified IT talent from across North America.