Most people probably aren’t familiar with what “management analysts” do, but it’s a hot job for companies that use visa workers in Charlotte.
Last year, it was the No. 1 position employers sought to place H-1B visa workers in across Charlotte, according to an Observer analysis of federal data. Employers filed applications to obtain approvals for about 1,000 of the analysts, whose duties include finding ways for companies to operate more efficiently.
All around the Charlotte region, the H-1B program is popular among companies in search of a variety of highly skilled roles, from professors to doctors – though demand typically comes from large technology-outsourcing firms.
The program is controversial, with critics arguing some employers use it to hire cheap foreign labor over U.S. workers. Uncertainty about the program’s future was sparked last month, after a draft of a Trump administration executive order was released calling for review of how such visas are allocated.
Last year, Charlotte employers’ demand for visas for management analysts was more than triple that for the next biggest jobs category: accountants and auditors.
Responsibilities for management analysts include advising companies on how to become more profitable through reduced costs and increased revenues, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In Charlotte, those jobs range from consultants at companies like Deloitte and IBM, to analyst positions at information technology outsourcers Capgemini and Cognizant, to “tax staff” at accounting firm Ernst & Young, visa application data show.
Caroline Robertson, Charlotte-based branch manager for Robert Half Management Resources, said the metro area is “definitely seeing an uptick” in demand for business analysts, one of many job types included under the sweeping management analyst category. Among drivers she cited is “big data” – a term sometimes used for large sets of information companies amass on their customers.
“One reason demand for business analysts is so high is that more organizations want to make their big data actionable for decision making,” Robertson said.
Critics of H-1B visa abuse by companies, though, say it’s hard to believe Charlotte employers must tap into foreign labor to fill certain management analyst jobs. Last year, roles Charlotte employers sought federal approval for include a quality assurance analyst position paying at least $37,086 a year, and a management analyst job for at least $39,354 a year.
“They sound like simple (computer) testing positions that really anyone could do,” said John Miano, co-author of a 2015 book, “Sold Out,” on visa abuse by companies and who often cites low wages paid to visa workers.
“The vast majority of these people, according to their employers, are not sufficiently skilled to command the average wage,” Miano said. “If we were bringing top people in this program, I’d be all for it.”
Nationwide, employment for management analysts is projected to surge 14 percent by 2024, double the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations, according to the Department of Labor. Over that period, employers are expected to add 103,400 jobs for management analysts.
In Charlotte, annual wages set to be paid to such workers topped six figures in some cases, reaching as high as $194,982, according to companies’ 2016 visa applications. Nationwide, the median annual wage for management analysts was $81,320 in 2015, and most analysts have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the DOL.
Supporters of the H-1B program say the visas help companies fill jobs for which American workers lack skills, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Critics say the program is abused, pointing to stories of businesses laying off Americans who then had to train foreign replacements willing to work for less money.
Paul Joyce, executive director of the McColl Executive Leadership Institute at Queens University of Charlotte, said business analysts, particularly those working for consulting firms, need the ability to quickly step into unfamiliar environments, gather information and draw conclusions on that data. Critical-thinking skills are also required, he said.
“I don’t think it’s super-unique-Ph.D-level skills,” Joyce said. “It’s a very high utility job that has a common skill set that can repeat itself on various types of projects.”
He said demand for management analysts is strong in many urban areas, like Charlotte, “where you have any gathering of businesses that are facing changes,” such as in regulation, competition and innovation.
“It doesn’t surprise me that it would be one of the highest-demand jobs in the Charlotte area,” Joyce said. “There’s hardly a business out there that’s not facing changes in order to survive and thrive.”