In our present hysteria, we look to politicians to plug the hole with legislation. Even considering such a solution shows how panicked people are. In my capacity as an SAP consultant, I routinely work with non-U.S. citizens and have come to feel that the gap between our two groups isnt unbridgeable. But the gap in corporate perceptions of investment and people may be as wide as the Grand Canyon.
"Modern" corporations have gotten the idea that job skills development is an expense they can do without. Their permanent employees receive little or no training. The belief is, it is cheaper to hire technical skills than to give them to someone in-house. Hence, the increased use of consultants.
But consultants are in the same boat. They work through consulting companies that are almost all body shops. Training is out of the question. If the recruiter needs a skill, he or she simply waits until the Internet coughs up the appropriate résumé.
Few U.S. workers have the discretionary money to provide their own training—not with corporations cutting health care benefits and eliminating retirement benefits.
The result is that corporations are hiring skills, not people. When skills are outdated, new skills are hired. The obsession with skills combined with corporations unwillingness to invest in skill development makes outsourcing inevitable. It is a battle U.S. workers are forced to fight unarmed and unprepared for.
The U.S. work force is always at some skill level and heading downward.
Foreign professionals, on the other hand, work through consulting companies from their own country. One-on-one, they arent better or worse than U.S. workers. The difference is in training. In every case, extensive training provided by the foreign consulting company is the norm. Their workers get trained when they get hired. They get trained when new releases are available. They get trained when new products are available. After a couple of years of loyal work, an individual may get a bonus such as extra training for certification.
The foreign work force is always at some skill level and heading upward.
Like any army, the U.S. work force will never win if it is not fed, armed and supplied. The defeated in the economic war will be U.S. professionals first—we are already losing—followed by the corporations.
U.S. corporations need to learn that their wealth is in their people and that there is no investment with a higher return on investment than training.
U.S. corporations must learn what farmers knew 100 years ago: No farmer ever got rich on the money he saved by not feeding his horse.
Mike Dawson is an SAP consultant currently with Phifer Wire Products Inc., in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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