Thursday, May 19, 2005

Where'd everybody go?

The Herold Sun reported that IBM and university officials are predicting a critical shortage of IT workers in coming years. Owen Astrachan, a professor at Duke said there is an unbelievable decline in computer science majors and smart people are no longer even signing up to take their introductory courses.

What I don't understand is why this decline is so unbelievable. For the past few years IT companies have been laying off IT workers by the thousands, salaries for IT works have been dropping instead of going up, and thousands of IT jobs have been outsourced to countries like India. Instead of working with local institutions to develop the next generation of IT workers, companies are using H1B visas to bring in foreign workers who won't complain about unreasonable work conditions and cuts in pay. Why would students want to go into a field where there's nearly a 100% chance that they'll be laid off and their education will go to waste because someone on the other side of the world is willing to do the same job for only 10% of the pay for American companies more than willing to pay it.

If America is really serious about remaining a leader in the high tech industry, our policy makers should make some serious changes to encourage businesses to help encourage local talent. There should be incentives for American companies to hire American workers and penalties for mass outsourcing of IT departments. Tax breaks for companies that fire here and hire there only work to encourage students to choose a career in a more stable industry and encourage the current IT workforce to change careers to something other than IT. I know too many former IT workers who are now working in law, accounting, education, or something else because they finally said "enough is enough" after the 3rd or 4th time they got laid off.

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