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Shortages Revisited

Last month I wrote a column discussing the need to increase the pool of H1-B visas issued by the U.S. government to foreign professionals with specialized skills because of a growing shortage of skilled workers in this country.

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JOHN ROBERTS
Can be reached via e-mail at jorobert@cmp.com.

Little did I realize this position would engender a number of e-mails from often-angry CRN readers. The common theme to these responses was that there is no domestic shortage of skilled workers, rather that technology corporations simply aren&'t willing to pay for American talent.

A few examples of what some of you had to say:

•“You&'re telling me that Google couldn&'t find any American professionals with specialized skills? Bull! Google, and most other corporations, just want cheap imported labor.”

•“The idea that an American company cannot fill positions in the computer area is ridiculous. The only justification that any of these companies can use is that American workers just cost too much.”

•“One issue that you didn&'t mention is that … technology companies are most interested in cost. It is just plain cheaper to hire a H1-B than a U.S. citizen. I started my own [technology] company in 1982. I hired an H1-B in 1983 thinking I was getting a bargain at $10 an hour. It didn&'t work out too well.”

Unfortunately, things aren&'t likely to change. Moreover, the trend toward hiring less-expensive workers abroad is only going to accelerate in the future. Vendors such as Cisco, Intel and Microsoft have recently announced plans to sharply increase spending in India over the next few years. This includes the hiring of several thousand workers in India on their native soil. And an executive at a major U.S. vendor (not one of the three cited above) recently indicated that his company isn&'t able to hire good, quality engineers in Silicon Valley and intimated this was a major reason his company set up shop in India.

In an economic environment where companies have little product pricing power, they are under increasing pressure to improve the bottom line by cutting costs. The fact is, labor remains the single biggest item in this category. If companies can&'t solve the problem at home, they&'ll look elsewhere. The automotive industry offers the most recent example of the march offshore, and there is no reason to assume the technology industry will be immune.

What's your counter to the move offshore? E-mail CRN Director of Editorial Research, John Roberts at jorobert@cmp.com.

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