The controversy over H-1B visas is far from black and white, she says. Many industry partisans want a yes or no to the question of issuing more H-1Bs. However, The answer might be yes, as long at its one way to potentially offset a shortage of skill sets. In reality, there may be multiple answers to this question.
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Adding to the complexity of the issue, technology constantly reinvents itself, she notes. .NET wasnt in existence five years ago. Web 2.0 has kind of been the hot buzz within the last 12 months. In the constantly churning IT marketplace, full of unknowns (whats next on the horizon, how quickly will it be adopted?) the workforce is necessarily left scrambling to fill holes.
Which means workers American or foreign must run to keep up. Its very much the responsibility of those in information technology to keep their skill sets current, Lee says. Attorneys and accountants are required by law to take continuing education classes. Tech pros are left to their own initiative.
Thats what I see people get the most turned around about, she says. Theyll say, Why would we bring in people from other countries? Maybe because they have a skill set that we dont have here or enough of here.
The Global Fuel
Zeus Kerravala, a Yankee Group analyst who covers IT employment trends, notes that in the highly competitive tech market, companies seek the best talent regardless of nationality.
Is there a shortage of [American] tech workers? Not really, but I think what U.S. companies are always striving for is the best employee, he says.
Its hard to fault a company that finds a qualified candidate thats not an American and needs an H-1B visa to hire them, he says. And at any rate, companies that want to select from overseas candidates will always find a way to do so, regardless of the number of H-1B visas.
Going a step further, some experts say its in Americas best interest to import as much tech talent as possible. The U.S. needs to be the place in the world where the most skilled workers want to come, says John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
Its crucial to our long-term success as an economy, he tells Datamation. Its the fuel, more than oil which were happy to import of a post-industrial economy.
Some argue that if companies cant bring foreign tech workers to the U.S., theyre more motivated to offshore their operations. So increasing the number of H-1B visas might actually stem the loss of American IT jobs. Furthermore, the U.S. currently allows a mere 65,000 H-1B visas annually, a small number in relation to the domestic tech industry.
But whatever the benefits of foreign talent, U.S. workers fear that theyll depress wages. Theres an element of truth to that argument, Kerravala says.
If importing foreign workers is being used to lower wages, It hurts all the other people in that position, he says. And it may even hurt the employer, if low-paid employees leave to get higher wages.