The iSeries Blog

May 1 2008   10:20AM GMT

AS/400 Careers: Too few jobs or too few workers?



Posted by: Leah Rosin
Tags:
Education/training
System i careers

I received a few emails last week in the editor@search400.com inbox concerning jobs. One was an inquiry looking to post a job to a “job board” or similar feature on our web site (we do not have such a feature, and instead partner with Monster and Dice). Another was from an iSeries worker who was currently between jobs in Atlanta, GA., looking for a new position. At the end of the week, I received an email from another 400 head-hunter passing along a press release regarding the H1-B visa program.

I am sure we have all seen headlines regarding the H-1B visas, with lobbyists testifying at Congressional hearings about the need to expand the number of H-1B visas and thus the number of qualified workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. One of the leading proponents of expanding the program is Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, who testified to Congress about the need for more “innovation” in the United States.

“While America’s innovation heritage is unparalleled, the evidence is mounting that we are failing to make the investments in our young people, our workers, our scientific research infrastructure, and our economy that will enable us to retain our global innovation leadership,” said Gates. “If the United States truly wants to secure its global leadership in technology innovation, we must, as a nation, commit to a strategy for innovation excellence – a set of initiatives and policies that will provide the foundation for American competitive strength in the years ahead.”

Top on his list was strengthening educational opportunities for US school children. But next was “Revamping immigration rules for highly skilled workers, so that U.S. companies can attract and retain the world’s best scientific talent.”

The press release that was forwarded from the head-hunter regarded a study by Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at University of California – Davis, who disagrees with the notion that foreign workers provide “innovation” to the United States. His recent study, H-1Bs: Still Not the Best and the Brightest, argues that foreign workers are “are people of just ordinary talent, doing ordinary work. They are not the innovators the industry lobbyists portray them to be.”

Other controversies surrounding the H-1B issue include fraud assessment of the H1-B visa program, which has been spearheaded by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In 2007, Grassley partnered with Senator Dick Durbin (R-Ill.) on a bill to overhaul the HB-1 visa program.

This controversy has been in the news for the past year, but what does this mean to you? Are you like the reader I heard from: an IT professional who is having a hard time finding a good paying job? Or are you a recruiter having difficulty filling positions? Do you think this is just anti-immigrant hype? Please share your thoughts.

11  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Leah Rosin
    My take on the H1B visa is that companies want to hire these workers because they can get them for less money. And you are right about the talent, most of these are just mediocre at best. While they have a lot of education the practical application is very lacking. I would say that the opportunities in this field has been reduced by the H1B visa. Its a revolving door. They come here and work for 3 to 6 months then go back and live like a king in their country for a couple of years then do it again.
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  • Leah Rosin
    There are a lot of intances in which H1bs have replaced American workers. Whole programming departments have been replaced both on and offshore simply as a cost savings vehicle (there is not other advantage - its well proven they are not the best and brightest). There is no doubt that many US students are not choosing this path simply due to the fact that writing and maintaining code is a tough job to begin with and as salaries are dumbed down by foreign imported workers, who wants to spend the money and time to train for a job that has become a commodity. Ive been a programmer for 20+ years and noticed over the past 5-6 years a complete dry up in head hunter calls which used to come in frequently. Unless the US government makes it financially preferable for companies to train and hire US workers instead of the current tax advantages to outsourcing and visa hires, jobs in the US like engineering, programming, systems analysis, and eventually project managment, will go the way of the textile mill. Isn't it a coincidence that the layoffs and replacements continue like a tidal wave while the economy struggles - and they blame it on mortgage issues. There are all kinds of abuses out there and little monitoring - the Programmers Guild has it right - check them and other labor issues out at http://www.madnamerica.com . Remember in November.
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  • Leah Rosin
    I am one of the many mature AS/400 workers looking for work. I believe the hype about worker shortage is hype for companies to bring in cheaper labor. As a result, wages have been driven down. The people that are coming in from India are for the most part average workers, many of them inexperienced. From talking with some of these India contractors, it seems that their situation with the visas is that they are like captive slaves. They can't be too public about this, obviously. The companies that bring them in can control what they do, and if they don't like it, they can go home. I believe the driving force behind this phenomena is bottom line cost, not lack of workers. If our companies and government supported high tech education and re-education (like they do in India), we wouldn't need most of those outside workers.
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  • Leah Rosin
    I don't believe H1-B's are as much the problem as outsourcing to overseas developers. In the positions I've held, a good 70% of the corporate software app's were being developed in foreign countries with little maintenance being done in-house. It isn't only software development that is hurting. More and more companies are moving outside the USA.
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  • Leah Rosin
    I think that the H-1B program is not needed at all. I do not think that there is a shortage of skilled American workers. But I do believe that there is a shortage of skilled American workers willing to work for the wages that are being paid to H-1B workers! I do not believe that a race for the cheapest skilled labor, gets the United States the best skilled labor, just the cheapest available. And it also puts skilled American workers out of a job or making a lot less than they would be making if not competing with the low wages being paid to H-1B workers!
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  • Leah Rosin
    i am also a as400 still doing it now and lucky to have a job but i do see that cannot easily move from one company to another...have to stick for what i have coz difficult to find a good employer... it's pretty obvious that cost drives h1b and outsourcing...coz american companies are feeling that they are overpaying...a $40 an hour american trained programmer who sometimes work even less and is spoiled and lacks that dedication attitude but even just very average is way too expensive from a $20 asian, or indian guy....i believe the as400 workforce is clattered with hi paying less experienced individuals that were just going with the ride when the tech boom days...and paying the price now of being unemployed coz there is too many already and many are very capable too which do get the difficult to get jobs...
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  • Leah Rosin
    Hi, sorry i forgot to login, so this may be 2nd of same post (if moderator put the first one up even tho i wasn't logged in): H1B visas and the price of oil: —————————————————————– for gerard’s consideration (and any others that may be interested) - regarding this “cluttering” of spoiled american as400 programmers, it is apparent you are a late-comer to the current American business scene - particularly regards IT. Although true that a known upcoming-shortage of programmers in the late 70’s to early 80’s prompted many colleges to offer programming courses (at the behest of American companies looking ahead) and some of the resulting graduates of that training were not really suited to programming as a profession, by the early 90’s those persons had left the industry (for the most part) and went onto other careers. Those left working in the profession were highly trained and became more skilled each day as they worked in these American companies and absorbed the technology changes that have characterized this profession (and continues to characterize it today). In other words, these people were not “lazy”. They worked hard. They work hard now. —————————————————————- I agree with the other posters on this blog - the H1B visa program is driven simply by immediate profit considerations. These decisions made by American companies have led to a lack of investment for future growth in the young people in this country; which led to the shortage of skilled workers; which led to the H1B program. Americans are not stupid or lazy (or overpaid). As I said, the skills American IT workers were / are acquiring in learning the businesses they are in and implementing (and thereby making available for profitable use by their employer) these technological changes has VALUE. Unfortunately, accountants haven’t figured out yet how to “quantify as a number” that value for the bottom-line. So, when looking at pure-dollars-only without a factor for valuing this type of skill, misguided & short-sighted decisions were made every day. Fortunately, SMART employers who took the time to understand this VALUE, didn’t take the short-sighted view and continue to make good decisions about investing in their employees - so they know they will have the skills and experience available that the business will need. —————————————————————- For the near-term future, due to lack of investment in American young people, American companies will have to continue to use resources from other parts of the world (much as Saudi Arabia used American programmers in the 70’s while building up their pool of skilled IT people from within their own country). But as we are seeing in this global economy the world is evolving - people all over the planet are smart, willing to train, and willing to work. That includes Americans. The H1B program might make sense for a short-time coverage in skilled programmers within the US, but as a long-term POLICY, it is counter-productive and will eventually cause huge losses to American companies who will no longer be able to compete in this global marketplace being created. As markets mature and people from other nations are able to make a living wage in their home country - what would be their incentive to leave and come to the US ? More - you guessed it - money. And even that incentive might not be enough to lure them here. —————————————————————– This dynamic (its called the law of supply and demand- doh!) is happening right now in a much more volatile market. Look at what the price of oil is doing in a world that has increasing demand from emerging markets (ie: China, India) — higher prices now and, eventually, shortages will come (along with even higher prices). Sound familiar ?
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  • Jay
    Having read the previous comments I emphatically agree with all who say the H1-B is an excuse to get cheap labor. The fact is, 2 income families are struggling to stay afloat-especially here on Long Island. Also 20+ years programming, Over past 7 years, a definite dry up of recruiter calls. Networking with about 10 other programmers in the area, all agree that it's hard to find work, online search has slim pickings, etc. There is definitely not a shortage of workers, just a shortage of companies willing to pay for quality work. Sounds like Bill gates only sees the facts he wants to see. Like his bottom line.
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  • Carter
    Any looming shortage of technically-educated folks coming into the workforce is due to the companies like Mr. Gates' himself, with their long history of offshoring every last bit of work they could to cheaper countries. Having sent a clear message to American youth that IT as a career is a thankless, low-paying deadend with little but frequent layoffs to look forward to, Gates is now just being self-righteous and pompous with his assertion that this is the fault of the young folks themselves. Acknowledge, for a change, what you have helped create.
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  • Leah Rosin
    Although I am an Indian, I would agree with some of the comments here. Not all H1B workers are technically excellent, it is true. Most of them are young and lack the SDLC experience required for good programming. However I would put in my observations also about the US opportunities. I came to USA in the Y2K tide. I was surprised to find that colleges in US taught only IBM technology thus although US software companies were floating GUI development products (eg PowerBuilder Sun Java), there was no teaching program to young US students. In India, there were private institutes giving good training on these products and the development companies were building systems using them - hence the Indian workers got an upper hand during Y2K tide. The US companies at that time did not invest money in training the US software techies on new skill sets. An AS/400 programmer with 20 yrs experience can do far better than an inexperienced college grad but the training was not provided by the companies or the experienced people did not upgarde their skill sets at their own cost. Even today, every worker in top Indian software company spends 2 - 3 months of his work months on learning new skill sets. If company does not provide it, people spend their own money to acquire the skill set. The non IBM technology platforms are ever changing and in 2-3 years time yr skill set is out of demand - so it is imperative that people upgrade their skill sets at their own cost if reqd. There is a huge confusion about H1B workers because of the way Bill Gates argued. When I was in US, I read a news item which said the following in nut shell. Bill Clinton, the then President, had written to the universities asking why they cannot produce young graduates with the reqd skill set so that H1B program can be replaced. The universities answered - we do not have that much enrollment and oevr and above that the drop out rates are high - so we cannot meet the required numbers. So the message is clear - neither the US govt nor the universities nor the US people took care of reqd skill sets. Bill Gates arguments may hold good for the special quota of 20000 H1Bs for students holding US masters degree in engg as these students move to high tech job areas and there are not enough US citizens in that categories but not the quota of 65000 wherein ordinary software workers are hired. Moreover even in the 20000 quota, actual high tech jobs cannot begiven to the masters degree holders as these jobs are in high security area and only US citizens can compete. So it is a eat and have me policy Wish you sincerely Good luck to all of you so that as economy improves your good days will be back with you again.
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  • Tom
    Having been in IT for close to 30 yrs, I've seen the erosion of American I.T. workers in favor of H-1B Visa workers. In very few cases have the H1B'ers been more proficient than American counterparts. Not only is there a culture divide but also an understanding of the spoken English word or phrases. Cheap labor ends up costing in customer good will in the long run.
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