Conspiracy Theorists Unite! Intel Is out to Get You!

Don Tennant

There was an interesting piece on TheHill.com yesterday about Peter Cleveland, a lobbyist for Intel who's working hard to get Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that would make it easier for Intel and other companies to hire workers from India and China. I'm not a huge fan of lobbyists -- or Intel, for that matter. But there's more to this story than the conspiracy theorists would have us believe.


Here's an excerpt from that TheHill.com piece to give you an idea of where Cleveland's coming from and what he's trying to accomplish:

Intel says a shortage of qualified American engineers has forced the company, and others like it, to import qualified workers from India and China.


"We try to hire Americans first, but we can't find enough qualified Americans for high-level projects," Cleveland said. He noted that half the master's or Ph.D.-level engineering students enrolled at American universities are from other countries.


Intel wants Congress to make it easier for students to stay in the United States after graduating.


"We want to hire every Sriram Viswanathan [vice president of Intel's architecture group]. They create ideas and job base" in this country, Cleveland said.

I've been covering this topic long enough to know that there's a very vocal band of IT workers in this country who would argue that this story is just one more piece of evidence of a massive conspiracy being carried out by IT companies, the government, and the media. Their devilish aim: to promote cheap foreign labor at the expense of U.S. IT workers (not that people with advanced degrees from any country come all that cheaply, but let's not quibble).


What the conspiracy nuts would choose to ignore in condemning Intel in particular for its role in the evil scheme is that Intel is one of many technology companies that are working feverishly to promote education in the STEM disciplines in this country so that we don't have to rely so heavily on foreign talent.


Just last week, President Obama announced the formation of Change the Equation, a network of over 100 CEOs that, according to the organization's website, "pledges to create widespread literacy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as an investment in our nation that empowers us all." This is how the organization explains its goals:


  • Great Teaching. Improve STEM teaching at all grade levels, with a larger and more diverse cadre of highly capable and inspirational STEM teachers.
  • Inspired Learners. Inspire student appreciation and excitement for STEM programs and careers to increase success and achievement in school and opportunities for a collegiate education, especially among females and students of color.
  • A Committed Nation. Achieve a sustained commitment to improving STEM education from business leaders, government officials, STEM educators and other stakeholders through innovation, communication, collaboration and data-based decision making.


Now, before we condemn Intel for its lobbying efforts to make it easier to hire foreign workers, let's consider what it's doing to change things so that it doesn't have to lobby for that particular cause. Let's open our eyes to the fact that Intel is a founding member of Change the Equation, and that Craig Barrett, the retired chairman and CEO of Intel, is chairman of the Change the Equation board.


So hey, wait a minute. Maybe it is a conspiracy: a conspiracy to overcome the obstacle of disenchanted parents dissuading their children from pursuing STEM careers. Those dirty dogs.

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