11 Apr H-1B jobs: Where is the shortage of skilled workers?
H-1B job quotas are being talked about again, but do we really need to look outside our borders for workers at this point? Are H-1B workers better educated, better workers, or are they just cheaper to pay?
“133,000 H-1B visa applications submitted in two days” was the cover story of this week’s Information Week. Funny how so many people lost jobs in the last couple of years and could never get anything close to what they were getting, yet many companies claimed they could not find anyone out there. Many in the Midwest were cut from good jobs and never had a chance to return.
From an AP article last week:
Seattle, Wash. (AP) – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it reached its limit for 2008 H-1B visa petitions in a single day and will not accept any more, to the dismay of technology companies that rely on the visas to hire skilled foreign workers.
The agency began accepting petitions Monday for the fiscal year starting October 1 and said it received about 150,000 applications by mid-afternoon.
The temporary visas are for foreign workers with high-tech skills or in specialty occupations. Congress has mandated that the immigration agency limit the visas granted to 65,000, although the cap does not apply to petitions made on behalf of current H-1B holders, and an additional 20,000 visas can be granted to applicants who hold advanced degrees from U.S. academic institutions.
The agency said it will use computers to randomly pick visa recipients from the applications received Monday and Tuesday. It will reject the rest of the applications and return the filing fees.
Employers seek H-1B visas on behalf of scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and other workers with theoretical or technical expertise. In Microsoft Corp.’s case, about one-third of its 46,000 U.S.-based employees have work visas or are legal permanent residents with green cards, said Ginny Terzano, a spokeswoman for the company.
“We are trying to work with Congress to get the cap increased,” Terzano said. “Our real preference here is that there not be a cap at all.”
Compete America, a coalition that includes Microsoft, chip maker Intel Corp., business software company Oracle Corp. and others, voiced its opposition to the visa cap in a statement Tuesday.
“Our broken visa policies for highly educated foreign professionals are not only counterproductive, they are anticompetitive and detrimental to America’s long-term economic competitiveness,” said Robert Hoffman, an Oracle vice president and co-chairman of Compete America.
There is finally a Senate bill that says an American worker can apply for these jobs. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Grassley of Iowa and Richard Durbin of Illinois.
Hmmm. Hopefully this bill will be a starting point for reforms in IT jobs, but I think it is too late. There were people out in the job market for several years but many companies did not want to pay the market rate and artificially created a new fractional rate by introducing many H-1B jobs. Salaries for data base administrators in some cases went from $80,000 to $90,000 a year to $40,000 by the introduction of H-1B workers eager to work here.
Where was the mainstream media spotlight on this issue? I wrote articles about this that went back to 2002.
Chicago executive says wake up!
Discussing this with others in the Chicago area, here is the view of a company president who disagrees with the perspective of Oracle’s Hoffman:
I think the real problem here in the U.S. is our lack of focus and attention on our grade school and high school children in terms of their lack of discipline in math and sciences. The U.S. will continue to get their heads handed to them due to our laziness in the education systems. Our main support structure, the parents of these children need to start demanding excellence from their kids. How competitive the U.S. is in the future is not a function of the threshold of H-1B visas. This is an absolute scapegoat of an excuse. Certainly increasing this threshold further exacerbates our laziness. We need to wake up.
I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Oracle’s Mr. Hoffman stating, “Our broken visa policies for highly educated foreign professionals are not only counterproductive, they are anticompetitive and detrimental to America’s long-term economic competitiveness.” This is utter lunacy and somewhat the root cause of our problem.
We have captains of industry running high tech companies like Oracle who are hinging our competitiveness on the number of H-1B visas we allow in this country. These companies should be fueling our educational systems with the right support structure in math and sciences, offering programs, scholarships, seminars within our schools, etc.
Our high-tech companies are looking to the H-1B programs as a quick fix to solve today’s problems. Similar to the desperation tactics of a junkie, grab H-1B employees when needing his next fix. This is not a band-aid covering a superficial wound. This is more like taking two aspirin for someone with blunt head trauma. Again, we need to wake up.
Our ability to compete in the future is a function of many things. How visionary we are, how innovative and entrepreneurial we are, etc. If we don’t set our children in the right direction today in terms of needing sound math/science skills, we are in for a rude awakening. I am coaching my grade school and high school kids to have a firm grip in these areas.
As a safety net, I also want them to learn Mandarin. Just in case.
The education programs in this country are way off kilter but that could fill a whole book. When you have administrators focused on politically correctness instead of global competitiveness, it’s time to make radical changes.
H-1B process is easy, but not for American workers
Everything in finding and streamlining the H-1B job process is out there. From general questions to streamlining the process.
Now if they only had something this good for U.S. citizens who have been spinning around in menial jobs for the last six years, maybe more would have found better jobs.
Don’t kid yourself. The overall economy has suffered because of this. The media and all the economic pundits don’t seem to see the correlation that many white-collar and technical jobs have evaporated and with that, the buying power from those jobs has also evaporated.
If you do not think so, you have to ask yourself this question: How many H-1Bs are buying new Fords, GMs and Chryslers. Are any of them buying houses? They send their money home, stimulate the economy back there, and do not buy into what used to be the American dream of buying a house and a new car.
Check out these graphs (both courtesy of Gene Nelson) showing more than 25 million jobs transferred to non-U.S. citizens. That’s a huge amount of purchasing power.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D to see the effects on our economy. Many IT people that used to buy new cars have changed their “consumer habits” drastically. The friend laid off from a $90,000 project manager job at Motorola in 2001 is looking at trying to keep his 2000 Japanese luxury car working as he tries to juggle his mortgage and other expenses in a job that pays significantly less. If he ever buys anything else, it will be a used Japanese car and he swears he will never buy a Motorola product again. Is he and thousands of others still bitter about Motorola’s slashing jobs strategy?
Funny how the backlash of not buying a former employer’s products or services after a bitter layoff is never factored in when looking at slumping sales. How many former Motorola employees go out of their way to buy Samsung. LG and Nokia cell phones today?
And more importantly, how many of their friends are also influenced by them? That would be an interesting study and also something for HR experts to look at when they caution individuals about “not burning their bridges” and giving a two-week notice when leaving a company, yet never cautioning CEOs of companies about bridges being a two-way street.
The same goes for the friend formerly with United who recently bought a used Lexus and has no intention of buying an American car anymore. The common concern that I have heard from many seems to be if money is not coming in as it used to, I cannot take a chance on buying an inferior product that won’t last me as long.
The longer the mainstream media does not put an objective spotlight on these issues and the real impact on the American economy, the more people will turn to other media outlets to get their news as they don’t trust someone saying the economy is great while they are trying to figure out how to keep their house.
CARLINI-ISM: When you replace people, you also replace their buying power – or in this case, greatly reduce it.
Copyright 2007 – James Carlini
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This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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