Companies Claim Not Enough Qualified Americans For IT Jobs

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Bill Gates testified before Congress in 2009 about a tech worker shortage.

These New York Times reporters are either dumb -- or lazy. Here's a story about how tech companies are training up a new generation of workers because of a shortage of technical talent. They never even bother to investigate whether there's a discrepancy between what companies tell them, and the qualifications of laid off workers:

There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 14,000 American students received undergraduate degrees in computer science last year, the Computing Research Association estimates. And the wider job market remains weak.

“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.

Big technology companies have complained for years about a dearth of technical talent, a problem they have tried to solve by lobbying for looser immigration rules to accommodate more foreign engineers and sponsoring tech competitions to encourage student interest in the industry. Google, for one, holds a programming summer camp for incoming ninth graders and underwrites an effort called CS4HS, in which high school teachers sharpen their computer science skills in workshops at local universities.

Anyone who's been around the IT industry knows what a bunch of horse hockey this is. From the Global Affairs blog:

The so called "shortage" is a self made shortage by the companies who want to hire the knowledge at cut rate prices. Individuals in their 40s and 50s find themselves increasingly locked out of jobs they can easily do because the company doesn't want to pay them for that experience. Even when individuals are desperate for that job, and are willing to take any pay just so they can work, it's a rare occurrence indeed to be even granted an interview. And the longer one is unemployed, the worse it gets as now the company will claim that you've been out of the field too long and aren't current on today's technology.

So the next time you see some CEO crying about how it's so damned difficult to fill their spots, stop and think about what they're really saying. What they really mean is they're unable to find some kid who can do the job for peanuts and don't want to hire anyone out of the existing glut of unemployed tech experts who would kill for just an interview.

Norman Matloff, a professor of computer science at UC Davis, puts it this way:

But won't those laid-off HP engineers be snapped up by the booming tech sector? Many will not.

The tech job market is excellent for younger workers, but many of those who are laid off and over 35 will find the market less welcoming. They're perceived as too expensive. The HP layoff will consist disproportionately of older workers. Indeed, jettisoning the veterans is often the hidden agenda in mass layoffs. It's no coincidence that many of the U.S. core engineering openings at HP have titles like Recent Graduate, Intern and Post Doc, all aimed at the younger crowd.

The difficulties of older techies have been investigated statistically in studies at American University and the National Research Council, but a very public human face was placed on this recently in an online town hall meeting with President Obama.

The wife of electrical engineer Darin Wedel explained to the president that her husband has never found a permanent job after being laid off by the electronics giant Texas Instruments. Granted, family issues restricted him to the Dallas area, but if the hype regarding a seller's market for engineers were true, Wedel should have been able to find something in that region, which sadly has not been the case.

We've seen it over and over. Tech companies insist Americans can't fill their positions (at slave wages), so they push for more H-1B visas for workers who are willing to work for much lower salaries. And so it goes in our brave new world.

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