Is There a Shortage of U.S. Tech Workers?: Page 3

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“The more skilled workers you have competing for jobs, [the more] it can lower the cost,” Challenger notes. But the downside is worth the benefit: “It’s a macro vs. local issue. The less expensive it is [for companies] to invest and build their system, the more competitive our economy will be globally.”

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Furthermore, Kerravala says, while “There are a number of companies that use foreign workers as a way to get cheaper labor, I do think in a lot of cases, they use it to get the right labor.”

Blocking foreign workers as a way to protect U.S. tech professionals is a limited approach, he says. Instead, better education and training is the answer.

“What you’re seeing in the tech industry is, we’re going through a pretty fast shift, from a lot of older technology to a lot of newer technology. A lot of the newer technology is innovated in other countries.”

“As a country, we need to take some of those older workers and retrain them. And perhaps the government, instead of capping [H-1B visas] should focus on that.”

America: the Great Slacker?

Perhaps the most compelling question of the H-1B visa debate is: Why does America find itself in a position where major U.S. firms are lobbying to bring in more foreign IT workers?

Traditionally, the U.S. has been the global technology leader, from the early days of IBM mainframes to the Internet explosion of the late ‘90s. Moreover, tech jobs are highly paid jobs, with some experienced IT workers bringing home six figures.

Why aren’t there more than enough highly qualified American workers applying for every tech opening?

“I think we did get behind,” Kerravala says. “When I go to a lot of these conferences, and people talk about wi-fi mesh and advanced IP services into peoples’ homes, we’re talking about delivering more technology into locations that already have a lot of technology, versus delivering high speed Internet access into the areas of the country that are poor and don’t have it. So as a country we tend to ignore a lot of those locations.”

This emphasis on the few over the many doesn’t serve the U.S. well, he observes.

“I think that has created an environment where the population of advanced skill workers has shrunk a lot in the U.S., because we just haven’t created a fair system,” he says. “Where if you go to other countries, you’ll find national policy around broadband deployment, which creates a much more even playing field for people of all income levels to learn by and work by.”

“We did it to ourselves,” he says.

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