William H. Magill on Tue, 8 Jul 2003 22:13:26 -0400

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Re: [PLUG] Tech jobs and politics, and IT diploma mills

On Tuesday, July 8, 2003, at 10:36 AM, Magnus wrote:
On Tuesday, July 8, 2003, at 10:29 AM, William H. Magill wrote:
Easy... These are the same people who believe that taking an old 16 meg 286 out of the trash, "making it work again," and then giving it to people who don't have a computer is really a good thing -- because its better than nothing!

I think you will have a hard time finding people as enthusiastic about old hardware as I am ( http://trilug.org/~chrish/museum/ )

Keeping old machines running for "historical" or "fond memories" reasons is a far cry from passing them off to others as "computers." (I have enough of them in the basement myself.)

but the kids in these schools are being mislead into thinking that they are going to come out the other side of this experience with relevant skills working for big businesses. If they want to open a small neighborhood computer repair shop, that's fine, but they should be given an accurate representation of what sort of job they are being prepared for.

Agreed... This is the real problem.

Nothing is done to dissuade them from the idea that they are going to walk out the door and into a six figure job, or even one in the 50K and up range.

With very rare exceptions (like the Enterprise Institute,) no effort is made to provide any kind of insight into the ins and outs of running their own business.

Some of the better trade schools do run placement operations where they have some kind or relationship with companies who do have internships of trainee programs. But over the past 15 years, as part and parcel of "downsizing" (or "rightsizing" to be PC) and "productivity increases" the number and scope of these programs has dwindled dramatically. As companies merge and industries "consolidate" the ability of a company to invest in "marginally productive" workers has vanished. Only the largest, with pretty huge personnel demands can afford them today.

According to many analysts, "computing" or as it is more commonly referred to today, "IT," has become a "mature" industry. The good news to that is that "mature" industries attract fewer bodies than "growth" industries and the supply of workers decreases. The bad news is that in "mature" industries, positions become "replacements," not "additional staffing."

The industries of Telecommunications and IT had HUGE growth during the 90s. Today, something like 90% of the companies which were created during that time period have simply vanished. That has resulted in a huge number of bodies out of work, pounding the streets. By and large, the reasons that those companies vanished is simply that nobody bought their products; they spent money didn't make; and they ran out of that money. On the Iron side, Sun is still suffering from the fact that you can buy virtually new gear on eBay for a fraction of what Sun sells it for. And every system bought on eBay represents a revenue loss to Sun. Gateway now sells Plasma TVs instead of computers now for the same reason.

The H1-B workers are an interesting case. Those companies who use them are still in business in the US. Without their "wetbacks" they likely would move out of the country or simply shutdown. The "great sucking sound" that everybody quotes in H1-B discussions is a great sound-bite but doesn't wash. With few exceptions, the positions filled are not otherwise six figure slots. They are positions which for whatever reasons American citizens are not interested in or capable of filling. They are dominantly positions in Agriculture and in some manufacturing areas. Those I am familiar with in the Tech sector are typically at the PHD level and in research, not "operations."

None of FAIR's own data that I could find says anything about the jobs these immigrants are "taking." FAIR simply talks about "immigrants" in general. They may be programmers, but by and large, in my experience, that simply is not true.

Immigration issues are different from H1-B issues.

The contract programming jobs that "they" fill are filled by workers sitting in their own countries, not here in the US, which is whole different issue. "Contract programming" itself is a symptom of how poor the IT industry is doing. Companies which once had programming staffs now contract out the bulk of their work... both to domestic contract programmers and to companies based in foreign countries -- something which the Internet itself has made possible. Even System Administrator slots have been converted to "contract" slots instead of "payroll" slots. There are many reasons for companies doing that, but the primary reason is that they CAN -- there is a glut of talent in the market today. Companies don't have to "guarantee" a job loaded with bennies which exists into the future to get top-flight skills in todays market. The fact that they can do it more cheaply is an added benefit.

The alternative is a European style system where guaranteed high unemployment is the norm.

William H. Magill
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