One retired IT pro wrote me to relate the time he was assigned to supervise a few H-1B workers under contract at low hourly rates to deploy an ERP system. His manager brought the H-1B workers in--though none of them were qualified, he says--as an alternative to hiring or training staffers or contracting with a reputable local firm that bid a flat rate.
"The resulting programs didn't work properly, and some were never deployed," the former supervisor says. "The reputable firm was ultimately hired to do the projects (at the proposed flat rates), and a local consulting programmer was hired as an employee. The 'manager' responsible for this fiasco is still in charge and still resisting training for in-house staff." The mentality: Far is better.
A 61-year-old self-employed Oracle/JDE consultant and 40-year IT veteran wrote me to say he has been "watching this 'shortage' develop over the past 15 years" and is "constantly amazed at how shortsighted much of corporate America has become--'hit the ground running' and all the other euphemisms those corporate cheapskates have applied to acquiring temp and full-time labor." He relates how, back in the day, his uncle, a manager at a local GE factory, would discuss with him management's obligation to provide a productive work environment and advancement opportunities (including on-the-job training and outside classes) for those so motivated.
"Not anymore. The moral compass is busted," he says. The bottom line is all that matters. Hire only those persons who already have the skill(s) you need today; lay off the rest. No formal retraining, very little OJT--just too expensive."
If importing technical expertise or moving jobs offshore serves a company's best interests, then it should indeed move in those directions. I'm not here to indict an entire set of business practices. But more companies do need to look past their next couple of financial quarters.
While big American technology companies seek to import workers on green cards or temporary visas, some of their counterparts overseas are more inclined to plow some of their profits back into their workforces. Take Infosys, one of the world's most successful IT services vendors. Even with a population of 1.1 billion in its home country of India, it still faces shortages of key technical skills. So it's not only moving some of that work to its centers outside India (including partnering with Detroit's Wayne County Community College District to train software developers), but it also trains more than 14,000 people at a time at its 337-acre Global Education Centre in Mysore, India, the largest such corporate center in the world. Subject areas include consulting, software package implementation, systems integration, infrastructure management, and business process management.
"My challenge and advice to corporate America is to free up some of the billions on those balance sheets and provide some internal training to our own citizens," the 40-year IT veteran says. "Don't just sit on some TSC board (although that's certainly helpful), but actually set up some internal training programs for current staff. You just might be amazed at the outcome--higher loyalty, more productivity, probably less turnover.
"Yes, it might hurt the bottom line a teensy weensy little bit in the short run. But in the medium to long run, America becomes much more productive. And when Americans have jobs, they spend, in turn supporting and boosting the economy."
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