SAP Watch

Apr 16 2008   10:20AM GMT

H-1b overload: What’s the cause?

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

163,000 applications for U.S. H-1b visas were filed this year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Most of these applicants will be disappointed, as the regular H-1b cap is 65,000. Those whose H-1b applications are approved can expect to begin hearing from from USCIS in June.

For the SAP market in particular, the high number of H-1b applicants suggests that the pool of consultants, developers, and other members of the SAP ecosystem is growing outside the U.S., and badly wants entry into this market. While the U.S. economy suffers from the mortgage fallout, high energy prices, and eroding consumer confidence, the rise in H-1b applications indicate that foreigners continue to prize economic opportunity in this country. Last year, by contrast, there were only 133,000 H-1b applications.

A serious question that has to be asked about the 30,000 new applicants is–where did they come from in only a year? H-1b holders typically apply to technical jobs that can require at least 5 to 7 years of operational experience. It’s a long curve. Thus, in a single year, one wouldn’t expect this many qualified new workers to have come online. A possible answer is that certification mills in India, and even less scrupulous companies who help their clients manufacture false experience in technologies such as SAP, have turned out tens of thousands of new H-1b aspirants who lack substantive experience or competence.

What’s the hard evidence for this possibility? Admittedly, it’s anecdotal. If you subscribe to any of the large SAP email groups, you’ll notice the high volume of messages from people whose ability in SAP (or Oracle, or PeopleSoft, for that matter) is quite limited, and who are actively looking for ways to fudge their credentials and experience. Some of these people have no idea of what to expect in actual SAP interviews, and ask more experienced workers on the message boards to help them bluff their way through.

Based on our talk with SAP Labs India, it seems likely that the most talented and experienced IT workers in India have already been snapped up by multinationals based in India, or absorbed into the U.S. and/or Europe during the IT workforce crisis that began before Y2K and ended a few years later. Therefore, the people who are not working in the field now — i.e., the H-1b applicants — are likely to be new graduates, employed in fields tangential to enterprise applications, or, frankly, less skilled than their employed counterparts. This population is a far cry from the highly skilled tech workforce that Bill Gates says is supposed to rescue America’s position in the global economy. It’s more likely to be represented by the person who wrote to an SAP email group this morning that he would like to “brush up” on SAP FI…despite being a Flash designer with no experience in either accounting or SAP.

SAP customers should find this kind of situation frightening, just as patients who learn that their prospective doctors are house painters who “brushed up” on surgery last week would be frightened. Unfortunately, in the wild world of tech, there is no strict system of governance to ensure that people have the skills they say they have. In an ideal world, the 163,000 2008 H-1b applicants would all conform to a minimum standard and truly add value to the global economy, but one wonders how many of them are in fact viable workers.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

7  Comments on this Post

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  • Sapperperson
    Great post. Too many people are being suckered into the SAP bandwagon without realizing what is required. The so-called 'training centers' give unrealistic views of the SAP market without giving the realities of what is required.
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  • Mohan
    Please dont forget how you have entered into SAP. Did you learn SAP along with your graduation?
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  • James
    SAP consultants will not born from Sky. People will learn and they become experts. We should concentrate on how to face the market demands.
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  • Demir Barlas
    Dear Mohan and James, I believe an alternative path into SAP would be to try to find a company that is actually deploying SAP, and get in on the project somehow. According to what our resident SAP consultants have said, that kind of experience can't be simulated in, or replaced by, a certification program. If this sounds hard, it is. IT or consulting jobs are not easy career paths, which is why they pay so well. Best, Demir Barlas, Site Editor
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  • krishna
    If all the people thinks that only experinced has to come to US. It is a rediculous desition. How the people will get experince in the perticular field. only when they get job and do some work. I believe that in SAP world no one will help each other they think if he comes to US he bill be competitor in the job market. But it is not true. Everybody is having his own destination so don't worry.Try to help new comers in SAP. Wish u all the best Krishna
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  • Adeyl Khan
    I would agree that faking experience need to be dealt with but your post heading makes it feel like SAP consultants are the main reason. Also, other major reasons are not mentioned (let alone an elaboration). I would prefer you not write such a column without sufficient knowledge and research. I should objectively give an example of what is lacking in the article. "H-1b holders typically apply to technical jobs that can require at least 5 to 7 years of operational experience." Which is not quite true- lot of these are undergraduate student coming out of their OPT. You might notice- even the graduate quota was exceeded. This means that government is not so keen to accommodate (even graduate) students who graduated from (expensive) US colleges working experience in the US. I hope you understand the value of work experience after graduation. Does this suggest that the H1B system needs to be reformed according to the needs? At the same time I would request you to interview some of those SAP consultants. I would expect better next time.
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    I totally disagree with the author of this article because this is another of the many on India and Indian bashing. Another thing that is offending is that if consultants in India are intelligent enough to pass sap certification exams without experience or proper training, than dont blame the Indians for it. I also disagree that only the inexperienced Indians fake thier resumes as this is a minority fraction of the fresh graduates passing out of colleges in India and this minority is a huge number as per world standards. Resume cooking up is a global phenomenon and if the interviewer is intelligent enough to ask questions related to work experience than such applicants can be weeded out.Just like every other IT consultant be it Java or HTML etc, you are bound to have consultants ranging from 0 to 5 plus years of experience in sap too, and they would definitely have none to excellent skills in this spectrum. Another question i would like to ask this author is that he must have also analysed the recruitment of sap consultants in the other countries and why is that companies still keep coming to India irrespective of the so called problems highlighted here is a question to ask. I am very sorry to state that this is a very unprofessional article and very baised in its approach. Another thing is if you feel i am a fly by night sap consultant who has posted this comment than let me assure you that i have more than 15 yrs of professional experience and 6 plus years in sap and have worked on umpteen projects like many of my Indian collegues in sap and are major contributers to sap projects/products. Sriinivas
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