A few weeks ago Bill Gates told U.S. lawmakers that the government should eliminate the limit of 65,000 for overseas workers who can be hired each year by American firms under specialty H1-B visas. An AP article reported him as saying, "The whole idea of the H1-B visa thing is, don't let too many smart people come into the country."
Gates further said there's an insufficient amount of skilled people in the U.S. labor pool. As he put it, "Anybody who's got good computer science training, they are not out there unemployed. We're just not seeing an available labor pool."
Oh really. Tell that to the thousands of unemployed IT workers out there. In fact, government figures showed 5.7% of IT employees were out of work last year compared with 5.5% of all workers. Many of those people will tell you that it's a matter of money -- that employers don't want to pay U.S. workers the salaries they want. They say it isn't a shortage of skilled labor, but a shortage of cheap skilled labor.
If, however, there aren't enough well-trained IT professionals, then who's to blame? Do we blame the schools for not providing the education needed? Do we blame employers for not providing training opportunities? Do we blame the workers for not wanting to get training and learn the latest technologies?
It's probably a combination of all those things. We all know colleges don't or are unable to teach several aspects of computer science. (Often students graduate not even knowing what an iSeries is.) We all know budget cuts have prohibited the amount of training employers can provide. And we all know there are some IT workers who don't seek out new training. What they're doing now works, so why change?
I believe there are some IT workers who aren't adequately skilled, but to say the labor pool is dry is ridiculous. What do you think? Has the U.S. run out of skilled IT workers? If so, then what do you think is the reason? Send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Michelle Davidson
This was first published in May 2005