In an effort to reduce the alleged shortage of IT (computer) workers in the US., the federal government is allowing relaxed foreign temporary worker restrictions in order to recruit more IT workers from overseas.
Note that most of this was written before the full effect of the dot-com collapse and economic downturn was active. The impact of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs on working professional citizens has since grown even stronger, as the unemployment rate for technical workers is moving sky high, approaching that of non-college unemployment, and surpassing it in parts of California.The shortage is nothing but a manufactured attempt to take jobs away from educated Americans and give them to lower-wage "guest workers" instead.
Let us illustrate with an example:
Oracle database administrators are in high demand right now. Their yearly salaries are running into the six-digit range.
I have a friend I will call "Bob." Bob, who is a full citizen of the U.S.A., wants to be an Oracle database administrator. He therefore took some rather expensive courses in Oracle technology. The problem, however, is that nobody wants to hire somebody without paid experience in Oracle, despite the fact that Bob has experience with a wide variety of computer technologies. Bob is no dummy.
Rather than turn to those new to the narrow specialty of Oracle database administration, corporations would rather look overseas. This way they not only get an experienced employee, but they can also pay them less. This is because visa workers have less legal protection and less options if they lose their job, giving them less wage negotiating leverage. Bob loses both a job opportunity and experience.
(If the databases are deemed too important to be left directly in the hands of specialty-switcher, then a mentoring arrangement could be made with a contracting agency. It is always good to have a backup expert familiar with your business anyhow.)
Further, this is causing some nasty age discrimination. According to James R. Wolf (Microtimes, 4/24/98, pg. 148), the IT unemployment rate for people over the age of 50 is "a staggering 17%". Seventeen percent does not sound like a shortage too us. (The "full employment rate" is usually given as between zero and 4%.)
Corporations simply want disposable, cheap labor. To get it they are manufacturing this so called labor shortage. I would probably do the same thing in their shoes. (Finding more for less is a common assignment after all.)
But why just computer professionals? Why aren't other professions being targeted the same way? The answer is that there is no strong IT professional or political organization. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. have strong organizations that speak up for them via political connections and PACs. Because of the fast-changing nature of computer technology, organizing computer professionals is a tough job.
We computer professionals need a similar voice before the giant sucking sound sucks our jobs away to low-wage non-citizens.
Another reason for the apparent shortage has more to do with naiveté than with greed. The Human Resource (HR) departments of many companies are used to putting a search out for people with 5 to 10 years of experience. Many high demand computer technologies were still on the drawing board 5 years ago.
In 1997 we saw an ad for a "programmer with 3 years of ASP experience." ASP was only out for one year! Anybody claiming to have 3 years of ASP must own either a time-machine or a slippery tongue. The Human Resource "experts" simply don't understand the pace of computer technology, and thus inflate the rates of experienced IT professionals while filtering out those new to a particular specialty (actually ASP is a subspecialty).
Because the computer world changes so fast, the ability to learn is much more important than simply having a body of existing knowledge. Again, the HR department seems to be incorrectly applying the principles of the slow-changing professions to the computer world. Wake up HR, your familiar habits don't fit our profession.
It seems like it's the HR department that needs the training, not computer professionals!