In his July 14 Free Spectrum column, ITAA President Harris Miller urged high-tech workers displaced by the current wave of foreign guest workers and offshore outsourcing not to "act like King Canute and order back the tide." But many of the policies that he is championing are designed to tear down the existing sea walls and let in the flood.
Engineers and IT professionals deserve a timeout to discuss the implications of the current trends. We need to consider the impact of outsourcing on the careers of todays and tomorrows U.S. engineers and IT professionals, on intellectual property and competitiveness, and on national security.
Pro-company lobbies have always threatened that if Congress wont allow in cheap labor, corporations will send the work overseas. Now thats the mantra being used to justify importing engineering and IT guest workers and exporting American high-tech jobs and technology.
Many nonimmigrant high-tech workers are brought here specifically to facilitate offshore outsourcing. And others take their experience and knowledge of U.S. technology back home with them to form new businesses that can compete effectively with U.S. concerns, using lower labor costs to gain competitive advantage. We are exporting our intellectual property and technical know-how, losing our core competencies and ability to innovate, and diminishing our own tax base. This threatens our nations future economic and national security.
Besides cheaper labor, companies are outsourcing to save on taxes, health insurance and workers compensation. In response, our federal, state and local governments need to look at reducing the financial burdens on business.
Educational improvements are important but only if there are going to be good jobs. Permanent immigration instead of reliance on guest workers needs to be considered. America was built by those who came to these shores for a new life, not a temporary job.
The ITAA has stated that there is a shortage of engineers and IT professionals. Yet we see record unemployment for those in high tech. Opportunities are not being created here in the United States but are being sent outside. Short-term thinking that treats high-tech professionals as a disposable commodity cannot continue. We will never attract or retain technology professionals if jobs are eliminated or transferred as soon as a few dollars can be saved. We need the leaders of industry, government and the professions to come together and talk about the steps that can be taken to provide opportunities.
Paul Kostek is the current chair of the American Association of Engineering Societies and a past president of IEEE- USA. His e-mail address is pkostek@ aol.com. Send your comments to free_ firstname.lastname@example.org. Free Spectrum is a forum for members of the IT community.