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Tech Czar Unimpressed With US IT Workforce 568

theodp writes, "'The IT work force is not skilled enough and almost never can be skilled enough,' said Robert Cresanti, Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology. So what does the Poli Sci grad and ex-General Counsel for the ITAA think is the answer? Open the gates to more foreign workers, urged Cresanti, including H-1B holders."
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Tech Czar Unimpressed With US IT Workforce

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  • Or alternatively (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:46PM (#16905510)

    So what does the Poli Sci grad and ex-General Counsel for the ITAA think is the answer? Open the gates to more foreign workers, urged Cresanti, including H-1B holders.

    But since he thinks the problem is that "there are not enough engineers with the appropriate skill sets", surely the long-term solution is to adjust your training and education regime so that there are enough such engineers? Hint to start with: degree courses in fields such as Computer Science and Software Engineering should not have teaching Visual Basic.Net and Java as the primary or only focus!

    • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:49PM (#16905540) Homepage Journal
      Yup. And it should start even earlier than college. When I was growing up, it was pretty much derigeur for boys to be trained in basic electronics. What kid didn't build a crystal radio set in the 50s? Today, I say both boys and girls should be taught more than how to use a mouse and point and click on the web. You really should know the why before you know the how. Anyone who disagrees with me on this is just a part of the problem. That is all.
      • by eln ( 21727 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:04PM (#16905664)
        Schooling in general has seemed to shift more toward "job skills" than theory lately, and that is a bad thing. In just about any field, if your education is geared toward a specific type of job, you're going to be doomed to failure because the job market changes too much for what you were taught to be relevant for long. If, however, you're taught theory (the why behind the how, as you noted), you are a much more flexible worker, and are in a position to quickly learn and adapt job skills in the changing market.
        • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:57PM (#16906052) Homepage
          One problem is that employers are ambivalent about this. They put a pressure on academia to act more as job-training centers, and the students misguidedly play along: they don't want to learn about algorithms, they want to learn C++. They, and their parents, want immediately useful job skills that will get them placed the day they graduate. And employers don't want to have to spend money on on-the-job training.

          The results are disposable generations of workers: the skills of each graduating class are relevant for as long as those specific techniques are used. If they are able to generalize their knowledge and become more flexible, they can continue to do well (but, of course, they are then competing for positions with the next generation of recent college grads.)

          While there are problems with Japan's higher education system, one thing that they do right is to make specialized skill training the responsibility of the employer. Of course, part of the problem is that employer costs are already strained by health care costs, so they are reluctant to invest more in their workers.
          • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:42PM (#16907038) Homepage
            Shortages and surpluses of labor are normal -- and powerful -- forces in a free market. A shortage corrects the underpricing of labor, and surpluses correct the overpricing of labor. If a company cannot find enough information-technology (IT) workers at a salary of $80,000, then that salary is below the equilibrium market price at which supply meets demand. So, the company is underpricing its labor and must increase the salary (and must improve working conditions) to get more labor. There is plenty of labor at the right price.

            There is no need for the government to "fix" shortages by importing desperate labor in the form of H-1B workers or illegal aliens. When the government "fixes" a shortage, the government is damaging the normal operation of the free market. The free market works fine without government intervention.

            Regrettably, most politicians (and some journals like the "Wall Street Journal") cater to certain segments of the population and outright lie about how economic laws work. For example, many Republicans favor big agri-businesses and claim that the American economy will be irreparably damaged unless Washington allows illegal aliens to pick fruits and vegetables. Many Democrats favor ethnic pressure groups like La Raza and make an identical claim.

            Journals like the "Wall Street Journal" use an even sneakier strategy. The Journal repeatedly claims that increasing the American population is wonderful because doing so increases the wealth of the nation via increasing human capital. To a point, this claim is true. Consider an economy of exactly one person. That economy is pathetically poor because one person, regardless of how smart she is, cannot be equally skilled in all areas of work. Here, when I refer to wealth, I am referring to wealth per capita (i.e., GDP per capita), also known as personal wealth. If the 1-person economy grew into a 2-person economy, we can easily imagine that the wealth doubles or triples: one person is tending the vegetable garden while the other person is protecting the grass hut from wild animals.

            However, consider an economy with 100 million people. If we doubled the size of this economy, then its wealth does not double. The wealth increases by substantially less than 1 percent. After a certain population size, each doubling of the population brings a rapidly decreasing percentage gain in the wealth.

            The game that the WSJ plays is to ignore this concept of diminishing returns. Further, the WSJ deceptively says that doubling the population doubles the total weath (i.e., the total GDP, not the GDP per capita). Though that statement is true, it does nothing for the actual wealth that you experience. What you experience is GDP per capita, not total GDP.

            Finally, there is a trade-off between (for example) a 0.1% increase in personal wealth (i.e., GDP per capita) and annoyances (e.g., pollution) created by a doubling of the American population.

            By the way, identical comments about diminishing returns apply to global trade. Onces a global free market reaches a certain size, it captures most of the advantages of a large amount of human capital. The USA loses almost nothing by restricting our free trade to only free markets, which includes (at the moment) only Western nations. We should slam our markets shut to non-free markets like India, China, and Mexico. The tiny percentage gain in personal wealth (i.e., the GDP per capita) that we get by including India, China, and Mexico is completely offset by their damaging impact on Americans in the unskilled-labor market. China indirectly erodes the quality of life for Americans in the unskilled-labor market.

            Then, along comes the WSJ to deceptively talk about total wealth (i.e., the total GDP) in absolute numbers, say, an increase in total GDP of $15 billion dollars. $15 billion is an eye-popping number. However, divide that number of the number of Americans to get the GDP per capita, and you see only an increase of $50. Is $50 worth destroying the quality of life for Americans in the unskilled-labor market?

      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:16PM (#16906196)
        While I full-heartedly agree with teaching theory and hands-on project I always find the "idealized past" argument to be, frankly, full of shit. Kids weren't smarter in the past. You just would like to believe they are. In the future people will be saying "Back in the 2000's kids were writing HTML and Javascript by hand, now they're just sitting around using telepathy helmets!!!!"

        Oh, you forgot to add that kids in the 50s walked to school everday, even on the weekends, uphill both ways, in the rain, while chased by radioactive gorillas.
      • Re:Or alternatively (Score:5, Interesting)

        by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:04PM (#16907774)
        Exactly. I grew up in Soviet Russia.

        By the time I graduated high school there and came to US for college I was ready to go into the Junior level science and math courses. I graduated Summa Cum Laude easily, from an average 4 year university, without that much effort (I wouldn't say I didn't sleep nights sweating, some quarters I would just coast by...).

        While kids in US where taking "typing" classes in High School we were taught about spanning trees, while the U.S. kids spent their time finding what sport club they wanted to join, we learned discrete math. Children in U.S. are babied and spoiled when it comes to science, parents never studied it much and never see a need to push their children to study it. (I am talking about the average here, of course there are schools like Harvard, Caltech, Yale and so on that does have exceptional students).

        But at the same time, I would have to say that playing sports and socializing has its benefits because it builds valuable interpersonal skills which will help when it comes time to work as part of a team. That is something that was never emphasized in my early education. The key is balance, teach both, perhaps U.S. education will come around some day, I hope so, because this is a great country and I love it for it freedom and values, and I don't want to see it fall behind -- I want my children to get a good science education.

        • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:09AM (#16910176)
          In a sense I think you've hit the nail on the head. Forget all this nonsense about steering kids into different fields by offering high school courses or whatever. People aren't stupid, they go into the careers that will give them the most payoff for the least investment. Currently in the US that's business, law, real estate, etc. Maybe these valuations are correct, and soft skills are really all that matters, and we should all be PHB's managing overseas contracts. But at least let the market decide instead of using trade and immigration policy to force salaries to fit preconceived notions about who should make the most money.
    • No no no ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:02PM (#16905644)
      The "solution" is to import cheap labour to further erode your citizens' desire to spend the time/money/effort getting those advanced technical degrees.

      After all, why rack up so much debt from school when there will be someone else willing to do the same job for less because his school loans (if they exist) are a fraction of your's?

      And isn't in the corporation's best interest to get the cheapest labour they can find?

      So, the question becomes ... why, in his opinion, are Americans so much dumber than citizens in other countries?

      I don't think we are. But I do believe that our government is too closely involved with business's desire to get the maximum benefit with the minimum investment. Fuck that. I want to see scholarships for advanced technical studies. Lots of them. Put your money where your mouth is. When 50% of the computer science majors can get out of school and pay off their debt within 5 years, THAT will be sufficient. Only then can he talk about how dumb Americans are.
      • There is actually 2 "solutions".

        1st is to wait for the real estate industry to tank to the bottom. Too many IT folks have gone that route and are permanently too afraid to come back.

        2nd is to avoid college CS/IT degrees altogether. Can you imagine going to a certification class and someone said it would cost you 4 years and $110,000. That is what college essentially is, except there is no corporate backing and the material is always outdated. Now if you were going to college for networking, fine.
        • Can you imagine going to a certification class and someone said it would cost you 4 years and $110,000. That is what college essentially is, except there is no corporate backing and the material is always outdated. Now if you were going to college for networking, fine.

          The certification classes don't give you anything you can't learn yourself either, TYVM. I've been freelancing in the NYC area for the past 2 years, and out of many prospective clients (and around 50 actual business clients) exactly one ha

          • I can't speak for the MCSE, but as far as MCDBA goes, i'm not impressed. I've met MCDBA's who can't write a simple join statement. These certifications prove nothing, and I find that most of the time, the people who get them are the ones who know so little that they couldn't get a real diploma/degree. And they don't actually know enough to get their foot in the door without a piece of paper. So, what, you can pass 4 exams. That really doesn't say much. If you pay for the course that teaches you how to
        • The solution is to make salaries in IT go up. When that happens, people will become interested in CS and flock to it, just like during the IT boom. Granted, that will attract people who otherwise wouldn't and probably shouldn't go into CS, but that will also attract the truly intelligent who would now rather become a doctor or a lawyer because they get paid so much more. The end result either way is more domestic IT workers.

          How do we make IT salaries increase? Simple. Decrease the supply of IT work
          • People don't make major choices about their broad vocations simply on money. Temperament and aptitude is more important. Now, within those broad vocational parameters, money matters. Someone may become an oncologist, a general practitioner, or a pediatrician based on various trade-offs between pay, workload, etc. But they aren't going to choose between software engineer and doctor - considering the vicissitudes of the labor market, it would be foolish for them to.
          • What does INCREASING the number of H1-B workers mean? That means companies have more people to pick and choose from.

            you should have stopped their, because that means their will be more of the jobs created in the US. if the better cheaper schools are overseas then fix that issue, but until that issue is fixed, keep the jobs in the US, by having as many of the skilled workers in the US.

            if you don't want those types of jobs in the us, then ya reduce the workforce in that area, so the entire business leaves th

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kfg ( 145172 )
        . . .our government is too closely involved with business's desire to get the maximum benefit with the minimum investment.

        You just don't understand. The Huns are a burden on society, but if we put them to good use guarding the gates of The City our native legions will be free to roam afield expanding the Empire.

      • Re:No no no ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jsebrech ( 525647 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:09PM (#16906152)
        When 50% of the computer science majors can get out of school and pay off their debt within 5 years, THAT will be sufficient.

        But why should they be in debt in the first place? A full-time student in my country doesn't pay more than 500 euro per year for pretty much anything they'd want to study. If they can't even afford that, they pay less (some pay pretty much nothing). Capability of learning a skill or trade has nothing to do with financial solvency, so it's pointless to have an education system that couples the two. Better to have everyone pay into an education system at their level of ability, and have everyone take out of it based on their need and inherent abilities.
    • People talk all day long about American IT workers "adapting to the market" and "creating more value" than their counterparts create overseas, but there's nothing in the universe that an American IT worker can do that someone else overseas can't do, for cheaper.

      There is no adaptation that a US IT worker can aspire to, that can't be matched or exceeded or even pre-emptively achieved by workers elsewhere. Not even one.

      That's exactly why Toyota, Nissan and Honda are eating the US auto industry alive: we offsho
      • There will always be some place in the world where people will work for less money than where you are right now.

        And knowledge is easily transfered.

        We have to focus on linking our technological imports with our school system. We cannot, as a nation, afford to reduce the number of home grown engineers while increasing the amount of tech we import (either through goods or visas).

        If our technology imports increase 20% one year, then a significant chunk of that increase should be put into our engineering degree
      • many tech companies find it difficult to succeed in doing research and development in other nations. My guess is that communication between engineering and marketing should be strong for most product oriented companies to succeed, and with timezone differences and possible language barriers that can make it more difficult to succeed.

        you can find many excellent software engineers in India, but it's been my experience that it is difficult to find good software managers there. (it's hard enough for find good s
      • People talk all day long about American IT workers "adapting to the market" and "creating more value" than their counterparts create overseas, but there's nothing in the universe that an American IT worker can do that someone else overseas can't do, for cheaper.

        If the only reason you think jobs are moving overseas is because it's cheaper your missing out on some of the other huge reasons. One big one is that people overseas work hard. They have been poor and now see an opportunity, whereas many americans
      • by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @09:17PM (#16908780)
        that's also why they build most of the cars they sell HERE with US workers.. as well as BMW... Americans actually do quality work CHEAPER than in Japan or Germany. Those companies realize that our government are suckers for sloppy management.. and they are eating the good employees up like hotcakes. Most German or Japanese companies can tell you EXACTLY what they want you to do... unfortunately, they leave little room for short term advancement and tend to be to "high-school" for my tastes. American companies can't give you a definite job description ever... they always expect employees to be able to pick up the slack for funding shortages, unexpected up sizing, or downsizing or management mis decisions. American companies are not productive because business owners and managers are always chasing the "big dream" and not running the business they have RIGHT NOW. Productivity at auto makers has gone up 7-9% every year for 10 years, but automakers still loose money? Hint, it's not the workers, even the lazy union ones costing money. Perhaps we need to import MANAGERS under H1B and not techs.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      While you're right, the answer is increased education, he clearly doesn't think that that's going to work:

      and almost never can be skilled enough.

      Now I don't accept that (although that's based on personal prejudice without reference to any facts), but taken in context, his solution (import the skills) makes sense.
    • by waveclaw ( 43274 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:27PM (#16905844) Homepage Journal
      Training? But that costs money.
      But since he thinks the problem is that "there are not enough engineers with the appropriate skill sets"

      Not hardly. The problem really is "there are no engineers cheap enough and with the appropriate skill sets." When was the last time [monster.com] you saw a job requiring Senior level engineering skills, but only offering fresh-out-of-college pay?

      "without H-1B visas, we would have economic dislocation," Cresanti said.

      Oh poo hoo, we have to pay top dollar for top quality says industry shrill. Instead, how about we import some cheap labor and dangle VISA restructions over their head to keep them working like slaves?

      You want the skill$ you hand over the bill$. What ever happened to paying a good days wages for a good days work? Henry Ford paid his workers enough to afford his new cars. The money he paid out came right back into his pocket because he through globally and invested locally. If you keep pouring money into $THIRD_WORLD_COUNTRY don't be surpised when their highly trained employees cost as much as local ones. (HINT: rising wages <--> rising standard of living.)

      Again, FTA:
      "Math and science are ingrained. We're a country of laws and men. They're a country of engineers."

      says the man with a Polical Science degree. You won't get any argument about that from me, though. The No. 1 concern of politicos when discussion H1-B's and international trade is pushing our lawyer-based society (e.g. claiming patents = invention and lawsuits = income) on China. The irony in that be hip deep.

      Management can either enable employees or get out of the way. If you look at your workforce and think 'they're undertrained, I wonder if I can replace them with equally undertrained but cheaper forgein imports.' Which one are you doing?

    • by eieken ( 635333 )
      Preach on brotha! I was so disgusted with the programming courses offered at the college I was attending, I decided to get a job instead of taking more classes that were taught using Visual Basic. VB is not an advanced language that challenges students to learn, instead it promotes laziness and bad programming techniques.
    • Let me present a conspiracy theory: IT is one of THE ONLY industries whose back hasn't been broken yet by cheap labor.

      Ask yourself, why has the US Government undermined the working middle class at every turn? Because doing so allows the ownership class to recapture the wealth held by those middle classes.

  • Long-term... (Score:3, Informative)

    by writermike ( 57327 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:46PM (#16905512)
    Well, I guess that's a good short-term answer, if you're not at all interested in bolstering the skills of the local fauna. Short-term answers are great for politicians, too.

    • TOtally. Some of us would like to go back to school for paper creds and get into the IT field, but school so damn expensive. I aleady have a BA, but coming up with the bucks for even just a cert or an AA would be hard.
      • Community Colleges are very affordable. I graduated from one in May. It was usually $150-$200 per class and about $200 for the books (at the bookstore, less than half using the internet). State colleges aren't much more, at least in my state (Florida).
  • Green Card (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boronx ( 228853 ) <evonreis@nOSpaM.mohr-engineering.com> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:49PM (#16905542) Homepage Journal
    How about instead of H1-Bs, we fast-track green cards for people with needed skills, or is that not enough like indentured servitude?
    • Re:Green Card (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:04PM (#16905662) Journal
      How about instead of H1-Bs, we fast-track green cards for people with needed skills, or is that not enough like indentured servitude?

      I've seen H-1B abuse with my own eyes at a very large telecom. They want people they can manipulate, not full-blown citizens with real choices. There is no "shortage", just lobbyists looking for an angle. See about this Rand study:

      http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB1505/in dex1.html [rand.org]
    • Several other major countries such as Australia let people into the country for job reasons while approximately 2/3 of immigrants come to the US under family reunification. In an era of cheap long distance, the Internet, and discount airfares, giving such a high priority to family reunification probably doesn't make sense (definition of "family" includes adult brothers and sisters of US citizens etc...).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rollingcalf ( 605357 )
      "How about instead of H1-Bs, we fast-track green cards for people with needed skills, or is that not enough like indentured servitude?"

      Business want indentured servitude. They don't want people who will be free to leave the company easily. So a fast-track green card to replace H1B, or a fully portable H1B visa program (i.e. work anywhere you want for the duration of the visa without requiring the new employer to sponsor anything) will not happen as long as politicians are in bed with big business.

  • "We don't want to pay local workers enough".

    • The problem is competition. They want the cost of labor to go down to compete with companies that are hiring those foreign workers where they live - in India, for example. You can't have it both ways: either you reduce the cost of labor here, or you lose jobs as companies are unable to compete on price.

      There is a third way, but it will not happen: protectionism, with tariffs to protect wages all around. But the local worker who wants to get paid more doesn't want to pay more, either, and is usually quite ha
  • by cmorriss ( 471077 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:51PM (#16905556)
    When faced with a workforce shortage, in no other field has the answer been to import skilled labor from other countries. The answer has always been to increase pay until the appropriate number of skilled candidates are attracted.

    Allowing companies to import all of the skilled labor at cheap prices sets the stage for a dangerous trend. Ultimately it will sink wages throughout the workforce as companies see they can start trying this in other fields.

    The government seems to think it has to use tarrifs to protect the iron industry but actively participates in the lowering of wages in the IT field.

    I sincerely hope this starts to become a bigger issue and the word gets out. Undoubtedly if other fields start getting hit, the politicians will start to feel the pressure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Did you even read the article? There simply ARE NOT ENOUGH SKILLED IT WORKERS IN THE US!

      Paying the existing too-small pool more money for their skills isn't going to help any when there aren't enough of them to fill all positions. If there were enough skilled workers in the US, companies would be hiring them, but there ARE NOT.

      We need to import workers to fill the gaps, not because we're not paying IT workers enough, but because there simply AREN'T enough IT workers available in the first place.
      • There never will be enough IT workers when that profession gets corporate welfare visas like H-1 and L-1 at low rates. Businesses in competive economies like Singapore pay competitive prices for their visas.

      • Do you know why?

        We don't pay enough for the skills.

        When a less-skilled, less-demanding job pays the same, what do people do?

        Yes, that's right.

      • by dircha ( 893383 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:02PM (#16907228)
        "Did you even read the article? There simply ARE NOT ENOUGH SKILLED IT WORKERS IN THE US!"

        If the demand for skilled IT workers were higher than the supply, we would expect wages to be up. But adjusted wages are basically flat over something like the last 5 years.

        The "problem" is that there is a shortage of supply of IT workers at the prices corporations want to pay.

        By bringing in additional H1Bs who will be underpaid (yes, they are and will be), we disrupt the market forces which would otherwise tend to force IT wages up.

        Claims that there are not enough skilled U.S. IT workers is just another case of the corporate propaganda and lobbying.

        And of *course* foreign governments want more of their workers to have access to U.S. jobs. Why? Because those workers will funnel a significant amont of that money back into the economies of their countries of origin.

        Just follow the money.
    • Open-source union? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:00PM (#16905628) Journal
      The government seems to think it has to use tarrifs to protect the iron industry but actively participates in the lowering of wages in the IT field.

      The reason for the difference?: UNIONS

      You may complain about unions all you want, but without them your political ass is not powerful enough to compete with deep corporate pockets and armies of full-time lobbyists.

      Perhaps we could form some kind of open-source union? Just a thought.

      By the way, the Rand Corporation looked into general claims of tech/sci shortages in the late 90's, and found none. It is a scam.
    • Is that both China and India are already suffering from staff shortages. They can barely get enough unskilled labour, never mind highly skilled IT staff.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/03/business/03labor .html?ex=1301716800&en=49c0d472886e1f39&ei=5088&pa rtner=rssnyt&emc=rss [nytimes.com]
      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15212647/ [msn.com]
  • GREED! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MilesNaismith ( 951682 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:51PM (#16905564)
    The motivation behind this is: GREED! Big American companies want cheap disposable labor. They have no concern with what long-term effect this has on the middle-class, or on the economy, as long as it keeps propping up those bottom lines and rolling in the bonus and back-dated options. If they really wanted the best that the world has to offer, to be brought here and integrated into the US economy on a permanent basis, these would not be H1-B visas. They would have a program for work-towards-citizenship. Everything else is lies and misdirection.
    • Re:GREED! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spiked_Three ( 626260 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:25PM (#16905826)
      Well give credit to the American consumer as well.

      We have no hesitation looking to find cheaper versions of products we want, ignoring quality. And at the same time we enjoy constantly griping about not being paid enough.

      The quality of products produced by US workers has also declined. The quality factor alone is no longer significantly different. So given a choice of poor quality work from both inside or outside, which are you going to pick? The lower cost of course. That is not greed on the part of businesses. It is common sense.
  • by bechthros ( 714240 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:52PM (#16905572) Homepage Journal
    ...i read this as "czech tsar"... and who asked him, anyway?
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:52PM (#16905576) Journal
    They were saying this during the bottom-of-the-barrel tech bust in the early 2000's. I personally met a representative from Microsoft who claimed this at a San Diego university, and he was saying this to unemployed techies in the same goddam room. He quickly left when the question-and-answer session came.
  • As more skilled workers come to America the less appealing outsourcing looks because all the good talent will all be here in the first place. At least in the US, they'll come to expect something resembling US standards for pay and not something 1/8th of it.
    • I agree. My only complaint is that instead of pushing for H1-Bs they should push to fast track green cards to highly skilled people. As a country we want these people working and studying here, and we want them to stay.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:53PM (#16905586) Homepage
    Is for technically skilled people to have more children. Companies must embrace women and pregnancy, with daycare and . Only Darwin can help us here. They are the only way to increase the force of people capable and willing to be the next generation.
    • by Shajenko42 ( 627901 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:00PM (#16905624)
      And, since technical people tend to have fewer social skills and have a harder time finding mates, there needs to be a lottery amongst the non-technical people. Draw the "lucky" number, and you are required to marry a tech person.

      The government will also be monitoring the bedrooms of these couples to ensure that the mandated sexual encounter per week is not avoided.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
        More specifically, there needs to be a lottery among incredibly beautiful women with exceptional breasts. Basically, if you win the lottery you don't have to get pregnant by a highly-intelligent but socially inept nerd. If you lose (and let's face it, very very few people ever win a lottery) well ... better check out these pictures of all the nerds in your area. Pick one.
    • Or we could just kill the others, preferably before they reach a fertile age.
  • A tech shortage eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @02:55PM (#16905592)
    The severe problem of supply of staff will lead to soaring salaries of course... Simple market economics, restricted supply and strong demand. What you say? Salaries are not soaring? Doesn't sound like much of a shortage to me then.

    • I think that the counter-argument is that salaries are as high as they will go... people will just run IT-heavy businesses in cheaper markets rather than pay the higher salary. Keeping the market "artificially" low by letting more skilled people into the country can theoretically keep the jobs in the US.
      • Except that there's huge wage inflation in IT sector (and others) in India, China etc, on the order of 20% per year because they already have a tech shortage. Economics coming back to bite the offshorers.

  • What Robert Cresanti refuses to face is that much of the shortage isnt from the dot com bust, most of us rode that out, it is more from people who were forced out during the "offshoring" boom and the waves of layoffs due to "restructuring". Many have abandonded the field in droves and have encouraged their friends and loved ones to do the same. Outsourcing which was once done as a cost saving measure is now being necessary due to lack of available domestic skills.

    I worked with a team of 12 engineers that
    • by scoove ( 71173 )
      Grapeape - excellent comments. In particular:

      it is more from people who were forced out during the "offshoring" boom and the waves of layoffs due to "restructuring".

      And to add to that, it's also due to the segmented, "pigeon-hole" strategy that most larger corporations use with their IT (which, incidentally, is even worse with off-shore IT workers).

      I was a telecom engineer and manager who experienced the dot-com bust, worked as an infosec consultant for banks for several years while I went back and got a fi
  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:01PM (#16905636)
    VISAs are essentially an import tariff on employees.

    Remember the steel import tariff Bush imposed a year or two back? the steel manufacturers were overjoyed - and rightly so; since imported steel now cost 45% more, they could raise their prices to match, and they made plenty of money out of it.

    Who suffered? well, *EVERYONE ELSE*. All the companies who use steel had to pay 45% more. All their products (cars, construction materials for houses, etc) went up in price to compensate for their costs. You and I subsidized the steel industry, by Bush's decree.

    Back to VISAs.

    If you have demand for a skill-set and a shortfall in supply, wages go up.

    Just like steel prices going up, when wages go up, final product prices go up.

    So if you restrict the supply of programmers, software prices go up to compensate.

    Who benefits? American programmers. They have fatter pay packets (which they notice), but most things they buy will be more expensive (which they won't notice). (Things are more expensive since the part of their cost which covers the price of the software used to make them has gone up).

    So who pays? you and I, by Bush's decree.

  • Hmmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by boner ( 27505 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:02PM (#16905648)
    Such broad statements don't help. I think it is a mixture of the IT industry needing more specific skills AND more people.... I don't believe that blanket H1 increases will solve the problem.

    The IT industry should look inward and admit that it has done a piss-poor job of training people (and the employees have been complacent in their training demands). While many companies have training courses, most of these courses cover only general topics. Highly specific and technical knowledge takes more than a two-week course can provide, it takes months, even years to develop. IT companies somehow expect Universities to deliver these people, ready made for work. As long as employee training is considered a cost more than a benefit, the industry will keep saying that they can't find the skilled people. What these companies are saying in reality is that it is not cost effective for them to train their own employees, it is much cheaper to get foreigners trained at much lower cost and then import them. This outlook denies the fact that many employees posses the practical experience to quickly learn new skills if given the opportunity.

    So what is the solution? I don't know, but the net effect of allowing more H1's will not be an overall improvement of American skills.

  • by poopie ( 35416 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:05PM (#16905670) Journal
    Summary: US Kids are dumb, lazy, and fat and only interested in video games and lighting their farts on fire. Jobs in the US are leaving the country. Employers are moving their hiring to China, India, Brazil, Eastern Europe. Skilled workers in the US are having a hard time gettings or keeping jobs and the US companies' salary increases aren't even tracking the cost of living increases in the US.

    Proposed solution: Bring in more foreign workers to compete for the few jobs that haven't been outsourced or moved overseas?!? Have them bring their extended families with them into the US. WTF! I'm not trying to be protectionist, but... we need to improve education in the US and we need to make sure that there will be good jobs for our kids when they grow up.

    I know a lot of US companies now that only hire about 1 person in the US for every 20 they hire. Do you really think it's because they're aren't any qualified workers in the US!?

    Could we see a day when our kids will be leaving the US to go to China and India to look for jobs and we'll be complaining about those countries limiting US foreign workers? I believe so...
  • A worrying trend! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:08PM (#16905686)
    Very worrying indeed. But we should not be surprised because the US education system has been in "free fall" since the mid-eighties. One day, I fear that the US, like all other "major empires" of the past, will be irrelevant. When this happens China Brazil and India will matter. This is scary!
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:09PM (#16905698) Homepage Journal
    You're getting as mixed a bag with H1Bs as you are with US IT workers. In IT you can make a salary well over the national average and it's a lot easier to get your foot in the door than it is with medicine or law. I've met some very talented H1Bs and I've had to clean up after some who were complete idiots. The trick isn't so much in the volume of smart people, the trick is in your HR Department's ability to filter out the folks who are only in it for the money.
  • by Channard ( 693317 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:17PM (#16905748) Journal
    Not some of the IT staff working for the telecommunications industry apparently. I was helping my mum get her broadband fixed and it was pretty damn clear that some of the staff she spoke to were just working from a flow chart style script. If it wasn't one of their proscribed answers then they didn't know what to do. It seems like some call centres undercut others by not bothering to train people, just given them scripts. Not all, mind you, after redialling a few times we got though to someone who was actually not only not working from a script but who knew what she was talking about.

    This is all the fault of outsourcing - I used to work in a callcentre for a now defunct computer company and while we did have some training, only two weeks mind, we had no incentive to fix problems. Even if we did have the skills, and it would take twenty minutes on the phone to fix, there was no reason to do that. I left when I got a better job, the last straw being my colleague being praised for fobbing people off because he took more calls than I did trying to fix things.

  • Real motivations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:21PM (#16905790)
    To gauge Robert Cresanti's comments, it is important to first grasp where he comes from. So who is Robert Cresanti? He is a former Vice President of Public Policy for the BSA. Yes, that BSA. [lwn.net] Before that, he was the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the ITAA. [wikipedia.org]

    Why is this important? Both of these are groups that are all about the interests of big corporations. The BSA, in particular, protects those interests without regard for anyone in its path. So when someone of this mindset says they need to import more workers, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where he's coming from. There are two basic ways that companies in the US could increase the number of qualified workers. One is to increase salaries significantly enough to entice capable students of pursuing a career in IT. The second is to import workers from other countries often willing to work for the same or less.

    For government, the two basic ways are to increase educational funding to lower the barrier for students to pursue higher education in IT and the second is to ease restrictions on workers from other countries to work in the US.

    The second option is the quickest and "cheapest" solution from both a private and government perspective. The fact that he is promoting this as a solution shows that he thinks short term and not long term. It also means he thinks from the perspective of what is best for big business and not the American worker. This isn't totally surprising considering where he comes from and who got him in his position.
  • Here we go AGAIN (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:23PM (#16905804) Homepage
    The outsourcing boom is not working so well.
    The number of CS grads is going down.
    The US salaries are going up.

    What to do, what to do, they've got us by the short hairs again... what did we do before? Ah yes.

    Convince Congress that we don't have enough people to do the job, and that those people who live here suck anyway.

    Let the H1B's start a-flowin'!

    Salaries go down, more American students won't take CS as a degree, then we can ask for more, cheaper slave slabor from abroad! Eternal power-down cycle! Win-win! $$ for us managers!
  • I'm all for more H1B workers, but at some point we have to confront the dramatic failings of large sections of the K-12 education system. We need more high quality K-12 schools that the broad population can attend. High stakes testing won't deliver that, and government/teachers union controlled schools haven't and won't deliver that either. (I'm not anti-teacher, but anyone with actual school experience will tell you that the state and national teachers unions are part of the problem, not the solution.)


  • The thing is Cresanti is pursuing a classic corporate welfare strategy. I discuss this in my articles here [vdare.com]. These visas have a market value of about $100,000 each. They cost companies a fraction of that amount. If the visas were prices appropriately, there would be no shortage--and US wages would adjust somewhat.
  • That's right, he's an idiot.

    Let's see... Just open up all of our American corporations so that all of their precious information, applications, systems, networks, etc are built, maintained, controlled by non citizens. Many of them have no drive to get things done correctly, safely, securely. Most of them do not have a stake in the companies that hire them. Couple this with language barriers, society barriers, background barriers, and we end up with ineffective employees. I've seen it time and time ag
  • Education Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kstumpf ( 218897 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:30PM (#16905864)
    I blame schools. Secondary education is big business. There's only a handful of schools with quality programs. Here in Louisiana, many schools still teach pascal and basic. Later courses are taught by underqualified professors who've been out of the loop for years. For my C++ course, I had to constantly argue with the teacher over every program I would write because he did not know the ANSI standards. The class barely covered the first three chapters of a "teach yourself C++ in 24 hours" type book. Classes tend to "gear down" to the accomodate the dumbest person in the class, which is just wrong. I got fed up, left school, got six years experience, then came back and got a business degree.
  • If you're a youngster interested in computers this should tell you: get interested in something else, something that will make you money so you can follow your interest. Working in IT will never provide you with the long term career to raise a family.

    Now doing H1B applications for X immigrant will, so study law.

    You will thank me for this advice one day, and those that mod me down, you sick SOAB condemming the next generation of intelligent kids to the hell that is being an engineer in the west ...
  • Despite getting the solution wrong, he does have some good observations.

    First, that it's too hard for international students to come to the US to study.

    Second, that our compitition populates it's governement with engineers, while we populate our government with lawyers (and Poli Sci grads).

    With those observations, he should realize that he is actually part of the problem. I wonder if he sees that... probably not.
  • Successful developing nations adapt their curricula to produce timely skills, and many are the targets of massive investment and job migration.

    Meanwhile, in the face of mass offshoring, we have an increasingly undereducated population whose skills are steadily declining in value.

    Visas and offhosring appear attractive short-term solutions because qualified candidates have TOO MUCH education and cost too much.

    If the average high school graduate had the needed skills, we'd already have the labor at a rea

  • by Frangible ( 881728 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:37PM (#16905918)

    "Before his confirmation, Cresanti served as Vice President of Public Policy at the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Prior to this, he was Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). Earlier in his career, he served as Staff Director for the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem. He was also Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Financial Services and Technology for the Senate Banking Committee. Mr. Cresanti received his B.A. degree from Austin College and his Juris Doctor degree from Baylor University."

    "The Under Secretary is focused on carrying forward President Bush's vision to grow the economy... the Under Secretary's priorities are to: foster an environment conducive to private sector investment in innovation, by identifying ways to facilitate knowledge exchange between scientists and investors, which will boost our country's economic performance"

    He's a republican from big business, charged with carrying forth a republican agenda "conductive to private sector investment". And what is a way in which this is accomplished? Lower labor costs. See, most people on Slashdot see America's IT performance as the number/quality of native workers. Cresanti sees it as how attractive each company's stocks are. And in this case, what's good for the goose is not so good for the gander.

    Of course, in all fairness, that is a valid perspective, and isolating our market's cost structure from the rest of the world is not sustainable long-term. Thus, this results in a more short term decrease in the American standard of living, and increase in the third world's standard of living-- which no one here likes. There is of course an alternative; 97% of the wealth in the US is controlled by 3% of the population, or something like that. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The earth has enough to satisfy every man's need, but not any man's greed."

    So the bigger picture here is that we are not an island, and our standard of living is also dependent upon the standard of living of the rest of the world. But the earth is very rich in resources, and there certainly exists enough for all to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. The question then becomes, how do you redistribute the ultra-concentrated wealth in such a manner it is to the benefit of all, without the detriments of communism and forced labor, without killing incentive, risk, and drive that led to its creation? I think the happy medium is displayed in many European countries, with a more reasonable redistribution of wealth that encompasses rewarding the people who create it and taking care of the rest of society. Hell, the wealthy should be wealthy. Just perhaps to not such a large degree. How many gold shark minibars does one truly need for their 4th vacation mansion?

    The core attitude that is an immediate reaction to stories like this though creates the problem. We immediately think of us, our lifestyle, etc. But we fail to acknowledge the connectedness to others; by hoarding ourselves, either individually or as a nation, we let our neighbors fall into poverty, which comes full circle when they labor for much cheaper wages and are no less human or capable. So I think the true solution is to raise the standard of living in countries we so fear for taking our jobs, for a reasonable redistribution of some of the wealth in the hands of so few, with the intent of providing a livable baseline for all and still room and reason for success and risk taking. And that is very much within our power-- our nation already has the wealth, as evidenced by massive spending in Iraq, and the concentrated wealth at the hands of so few in the population. We simply lack the will to use it to help ourselves and our neighbors. And every time the response is one of selfishness instead of compassion, at any level of society, even for us... the problem perpetuates itself. For if the vast majority of society is committed to any particular economic policy, chances

  • ... you can never have enough of them so to calculate what only a higher level of math can accomplish in the hands of the common man.

    Does anyone really think that in 50 -100 years anyone is going to need the skill set we now require for "Information Technology"?

    In other words, IT can be made a great deal simpler and will be as demand increases and requires more than can be educated at the current required level of roman numeral mathmatics.

  • K-12 education (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:47PM (#16905986) Homepage

    I teach the three-semester calculus-based freshman physics sequence to a lot of engineering majors to a community college. A lot of these people are intelligent enough to learn the material, but flunk out of physics because of their weak backgrounds. It's not uncommon to look at their transcripts and see them having started their community college careers by taking Math 20, which is basic arithmetic. It's extremely difficult to start from that level, and then work your way up to the level of competence required of an engineer. In addition, many of them have really weak language skills; sometimes this is because they're immigrants, but other times it's because they entered college with a sixth-grade reading level. Some of them also just don't seem to have put education very high on their list of priorities.

    The net result of all this is that at my school, the total number of students who start the calc-based physics sequence every year is something like 300, and the number who finish it is roughly 30. (Some of the loss is from students who transfer before finishing, and or students who fail calculus, etc.)

    There's a pretty simple solution to the problem, which is to set higher standards in math, English, and science in K-12; enforce those standards with standardized tests; and refuse to promote kids to the next grade if they can't demonstrate that they've mastered the material. Our present system is especially harmful to people who come from working-class backgrounds. They go to lousy public schools, and they and their parents get the impression that they're getting a good education. Then they arrive in college, and find out just how much they've been screwed over by our educational system.

    Of course, Slashdot's readership is disproportionately composed of tech workers who are U.S. citizens, so I'm sure there will be plenty of people howling about the damn immigrants coming in and taking away our jobs. I'm none of their ancestors were immigrants. But seriously, would you rather compete for jobs against a coder who immigrated from India, and is expecting U.S.-level pay, or a coder who is still in India, and is therefore available for 1/4 of what you'd cost? If there's a problem, it's that H-1B visas don't necessarily lead to any opportunity to remain permanently in the U.S.

  • What a terrible word, left over from the absolutist days of the Russian monarchy. I remember a time when presidents used to sneer at such stuff...
  • This entire topic is one of those that no one wants to tackle head-on and correct. Part of the reason is political correctness, part seems to come from an inflated self-opinion, and another comes from the current economic climate.

    First off, let's talk about political correctness. We just can't admit to ourselves that we do a very bad job of educating our workforce. Other countries are way ahead of us in terms of turning out skilled workers who excel in science, engineering and the computer field. I'm convin
  • "There are not enough engineers with the appropriate skill sets."

    That would be the skill set that includes an MS in Software Engineering and a willingness to work for $10/hour.

    "The IT work force is not skilled enough and almost never can be skilled enough," said Robert Cresanti, undersecretary of commerce for technology

    And just why would that be, Mr. Cresanti?

    Lack of education? I'm sure that college costs rising 6.3% from last year for public colleges, and 5.9% for the very expensive private colleges has n
  • Whore (Score:4, Informative)

    by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:19PM (#16906236) Journal
    Apparently, Robert Cresanti, Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology; is a bought and paid for whore giving blow jobs to Microsoft and other tech corps. You mean a politician is corrupt and using his position to make recommendations based upon the bribes of corporate interest rather than doing 'the right thing'(TM)? Oh my, I am so astonished that such a thing could happen in our great nation.

    Didn't anyone tell him we have the only shiny and clean political system and are the greatest most honest dudley do right nation in the world? Didn't he get the memo telling him that we don't brainwash our children with altered more patriotic versions of history to brainwash them? Or the part where in the land of the free our government doesn't perform thousands of warrant less wiretaps on the private domestic communication of citizens not even suspected of crimes. Certainly no corrupt politicians elected with rigged voting machines.

    I just hope that this nation hasn't gone so far that people actually are lulled into a false sense of security because of a few wins for the other corrupt party in the two rigged party system. Those who rig elections in this country pay the ones with (D) in the title just as surely as the ones with (R).
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @10:22PM (#16909352) Homepage

    Business wants cheap labor. It has nothing to do with "skill sets" - which these morons wouldn't understand if you paid them anyway, as anybody who has ever looked for a tech job knows.

    They stop supporting universities and trade schools. They also treat the tech grads they have miserly - as they have since the dot.bomb. They make sure the tech employment market slows down.

    Wallah! No more tech grads.

    Now they go to the government and say, "We don't have enough tech grads! Let us import cheap labor."


    Again, if you don't understand the underlying motives of humans, you'll never understand how things work in the real world.

    Go see the movie, "The Departed" which illustrates the point. Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello has a great line. Told somebody's mother is dying and "on her way out", he replies: "You all are. Act accordingly."

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.