Is there a way to fix the damage that globalization has done to US tech ind?

I was reading this article :
and it is pretty scary. I am graduating with my BSEE in June. This has been one of the most difficult programs that an undergrad can get into. I went in thinking that I would have no problem finding a job when I graduated, but that was 4 years ago.

It seems alot has changed. Everything is being sent overseas where US companies can pay a chinese or indian engineer $5K to do the same work that I would need $50K to live on. It seems that all manufacturing AND engineering jobs are leaving the US. It used to be just manu jobs, but now eng are leaving by the truckload.

Engineering message boards are overloaded with people of all experience levels who have been laid off for over a year or never got jobs who have giant student loans to pay off. Many students feel they were lied to when they picked EE, or other engineering disciplines, as majors. They were told of the big bucks, stable jobs, etc… and they are no where to be found. If you have less than 3-5 years exp in a very specific part of the engineering feilds you may as well go flip burgers because you are not going to get hired.

All the talk about CO-OPs, internships, projects, etc… is worthless now because for every 1 COOP or internship opportunity out there, there are 60 undergrads trying to get them. ITs just as bad as the job market.

I am commissioning into the AF in July to get engineering exp there and secure a retirement in the process. But for the people who aren’t doing that the outlook looks bleak.

What can be done about this? Or is the damage done? Is there anyway to make US companies pay someone $50K here when they can pay an Indian $5K?

I think the first thing that needs to be done is to drop the H1B visas. There is no benefit to americans to be importing engineers and other degreed workers when there are so many here already that can’t find jobs. It also makes no sense for us to be importing people from abroad when the terror climate is so high.


The most scary thing about it is how many people have no idea about the state of the U.S. tech job Market. I hear from lots of CS and EE majors who think their whole life of riches is set up and easy. And I meet many more who think a quick couple of months at ITT or Phoenix or something similar will be the life change they have always dreamed of. The companies supporting the H1Bs have a tremendous propaganda machine creating surveys that find thousands of jobs that cannot be filled by Americans, the tech schools push them around, and nobody actually bothers to look at the dept of labor statistics. Basically they were, and are being lied to.

Even without the H1Bs there would still be a huge benefit for outsourcing, and it might even accelerate the loss of IT jobs here, as companies that can’t import a few cheap workers to their facilities here, might just move the whole facility off shore.

I am an IT guys, and I know many many more. Lots of them have lost their jobs, and the rest are all scared that they will. So I view the problem personally. On the other hand I do believe in a free-market principle, and just believe that forcing companies to do things they don’t want to doesn’t usually end up helping things all that much. I have no idea what the solution is, but Somebody better figure out something, cause I don’t think the country is ever going to economically recover until the people who are tech edjucated can start contributing to the economy.

You’re forgetting that at the end of the production line is someone called the “consumer”, and they want the product as cheap as possible. Why should the customer pay you $50K when he/she can get the same product for $5K? That’s the “benefit to Americans” - cheaper products. And if you keep Indians (or whatever) out of the US to keep the country safe from terrorism (didn’t stop Timothy McVeigh), they’ll work on-line anyway, and their work will be imported via the Internet. Welcome to globalization - it’s great for consumers, bad for producers in high-cost locations. It happened to car workers in Michigan, now it’s happening to you. You need to re-think.

Hemlock: Your insane. He’s not talking about keeping foreigners out for terrorism. He want’s a job. And surprisingly, most Americans do. Not just contracting jobs either. We want 40 hours a week, we want benefits, we want 6 to 8 weeks of vacation.

I am not for telling companies what to do, but JhC, where does it stop?

Actually, read the last sentence of the passage Hemlock quoted, yme. And incidentally, he’s right. I care more about getting cheaper products and more bang for my buck than I do about whether Americans or Indians are making the product. Incidentally, a lot of Indian EE come out of Indian engineering schools with better skills and more creativity than their American counterparts - which is the main reason Indians are being brought in to work on H1B. They’re just better at it.

Christ, it’s not as if the unemployment rate is 50%.

Computer engineers are suffering more from the tech industry’s own mismanagement than they are from the threat of Damn Furriners. Perhaps if your predecessors hadn’t blown all their investment money on office Jacuzzis and $1 million LAN gaming retreats, there’d be more jobs.

There’s also a shift going on in WHERE the computer jobs are. Complain all you want about engineering firms, but companies near you are absolutely starved for capable IT people. I go to the job web sites and half the want ads are for LAN and database administrators.

What RickJay said. Our expectations were (are) influenced too strongly by the artificial bubble of the 90’s. Hope you enjoyed them while they lasted, because we will never (in our lifetimes, I hope), see such widespread waste of money.

I took my current position towards the end of the bubble. I fully expect to have to take a paycut for my next job, should I be laid off. The days of having recruiters fight tooth and nail over paper MCSEs are over. We are now back to semblance of normalcy, and it is a rude awakening to many.

Hey Stinkpalm - my brother has the same degree. And he felt pretty much the same as you do now, when he graduated from college in the 90’s.

He’s now making close to 80K, but he’s on the sales end of you field… to be honest, he never thought that that’s what he would be doing!! Take your licks, learn everything you can outside college, and you’ll be fine.

I don’t want to sound wierd here, but have you guys considered moving to India?

Seriously. The wages are lower because the cost of living is lower. You get more bang for your buck, and the fact that you aren’t getting as many bucks cancels out. Plus, the weather’s great!

Welcome to the free market. If the Indian guys can take advantage of it, why can’t you?

IT and DB admin jobs aside, engineering jobs are what I am talking about. If the engineering market is garbage then student counselors need to make that clear when kids are coming in to jump into these fields. Yeah I worked my ass off for my BSEE. I am graduating with a 3.85 GPA. I still know that I will have no chance of finding a job that will let me live comfortably while repaying my student loans for the next 10 years. I am not looking to make 90 grand a year off my EE. I just want to have a job I like and make 50-60K a year so I can live comfortably and buy my daughter x-mas presents. That is not alot to ask for considering the difficulty of the school years for EE’s. I am going to have right around $400 a month payback on my loans for the next 10 years. I am not a kid whose parents paid for them to go to school. I have been working mid shift for 4 years, lost my family in a divorce, and have sacrificed much to get thru this program, all the while living in a dream world where I could get a secure job and make decent money.

If the market for techs is never going to come back then they need to lower the price of the schooling to accomodate the expected decrease in income. Stop touting engineering as a prestigious, good income, secure job, when it really is just another degree. Universities need to stop cranking out engineers at such a high rate now. They need to make sure the kids are aware of the job market before they let them choose these majors.

While I am in the AF I am planning on getting an MBA or a masters in project management or some ullshit degree like that because there is no way I am going to depend on this EE to support my family when I seperate.

I’m a British IT guy and share the OP’s concerns. It’s not just software jobs, it’s call centers and just about any non-management job that involves sitting at a desk and using a computer.

Neurotik is very quick to disservice American engineers, and I’d like some independent cite for that observation, since my personal experience of Indian software engineering tends to the exact opposite. I’ve only had personal experience of two Indian-led software projects, but I was underwhelmed both times. Obviously unbeatable on price though.

And count me out of those who want the cheapest widget regardless of who makes it. We’ve seen the terrible social upheaval that happens when entire industries are transplanted abroad, and if all it takes to prevent that happening is tiny %age price increase (on a software product, or a car or a loaf of bread or whatever) then I’m happy to pay that. You can’t put a price on peace of mind.
Before I’m decried as a pinko commie bastard I’d like to say that I am actually very much pro- competition so long as it’s broadly fair. This Indian/Chinese outsourcing is UNFAIR competition… there is no way on earth I can compete on price with someone who can live like a king on 10% of my (very average) wage! Those Indian engineers won’t do my job better or faster than me, all they have is a circumstantial advantage of not having to pay Western prices for life’s essentials.

Lastly, ever wondered how come our agriculture industries enjoy vast public subsidy to protect them from third world “competition” while manufacturing (and now engineering) cannot be outsourced overseas fast enough?

Maybe all of us western engineers should start considering some sort of group action. Perhaps form a union or something. :dubious:

No cites. Just testimonials from my father who is a senior aerospace engineer who has had to work with Indian EEs on several occasions and a few of my friends who are engineers in the robotics industry.

I’m not talking about outsourced software, btw. I’m talking about Indian engineers recruited out of India and brought in to the US on visas. It could just be that the cream of the Indian crop is being brought over here and so their best is being compared against our average.

Hahahahahaah! Dude, trying lowering your expectations to a realistic level. Or try curbing your spending to something where you don’t need to work a 40-hour week.

But 8 weeks vacation a year in the US? Sorry, but that only happens in some European countries.

As much as you may fear losing your job to some lower wage foreigner, what do you propose to fix it? Pass laws forbidding companies from outsourcing? Require “domestic content” in products? Those strategies don’t work. Free trade does benefit everyone, but you can’t just sit on your butt and expect the world to stay static for you. There are lots of good ideas for adjusting to varying market conditions listed in some of the posts above.

Yme: You listed a lot of “wants” in your post. Who is supposed to provide those “wants” for you? I’m sorry, but if I have to chose between paying $200 for my DVD player vs $500 so that you can have 6 wks vacation, I’ll choose the former.

I missed this one on first read.


Are you insane? If you want eight weeks of vacation, become a schoolteacher. They get 8-10 weeks of vacation. Otherwise, what planet are you calling from? Three weeks is a good start. Two weeks is normal. Most people have to work for 15-20 years to get four weeks. I get 18 days a year plus statutories, and I’m thrilled. I have more vacation than almost anyone I know with my experience.

My best friend is a senior engineer at Cisco. He gets three weeks - including his sick days. That’s it.

Man, you guys have to seriously rethink what having a job is all about. You are not going to be able to leave school and immediately get exactly the sort of job you want with a high salary and eight weeks (bwaa ha ha ha ha!) of vacation, nor are you going to get a company Jaguar, a vacation home in PEI, and a pony. You have to start off modestly; a job that’s vaguely related to your field for a modest salary and two or three weeks’ vacation. Welcome to adulthood!

Given time and experience, your degree WILL get you big bux. Your long term income prospects are many, many times higher with a degree than without. Just don’t expect to be handed a bag of unmarked $100 bills the first time you do a job interview.

stinkpalm, why on earth are you limiting your job hunt to just engineering jobs? If you got into school thinking you were guaranteed a specific KIND of job, you’re remarkably naive. A degree in engineering can get you many sorts of jobs. Become a database admin or something. It may not be what you wanted to do, but most people don’t start off doing precisely what they wanted to do.

What’s wrong with wanting? I’m not big on settling. Is that wrong? My want’s are unlikely, but what is wrong with trying to achieve that goal in America?

I’m sure Sony makes enough money to sell you a $200 DVD player and still pay me $50,000 a year with 6 weeks of vacation. They’re just cheap. Which hell, if they wanna save $200,000 a year and lay off 3 or 4 people, they have that right, but it still sucks. Buy the way, that $200,000 they saved by layoffs isn’t getting passed to Joe Blow Consumer, it’s getting passed to Joe Blow CEO.

IMHO the only way to stave off the accelerating flow of tech jobs overseas is to find some way to create a competitive advantage for U.S. workers. I feel for the unemployed tech workers, but I have many, many friends who were making salaries in IT which were insanely high given their level of education and experience relative to people in other fields with similar levels of education and experience. (Most of them still are; I don’t begrudge them the money as long as they realize that society doesn’t “owe” them $100k/year.)

You can’t blame the H-1B workers for everything; if an employer is following the law (and yes, some don’t, but that’s an enforcement issue, not an issue of appropriateness of the existence of the H-1B category), they are paying their H-1B workers the higher of a) the prevailing wage for the position and geographic location, which is determined by a dizzyingly complex set of statistical criteria, and b) what they are paying all their other employees in equivalent positions. So if an employer is playing by the rules, it’s such a PITA and so expensive to hire an H-1B (due to legal costs and government compliance headaches) that there is no built-in incentive to hire a foreigner. The system has many built-in safeguards for U.S. workers. And green cards are a messier animal altogether.

And besides, there is a yearly quota of 195,000 H-1B visas, which wasn’t close to being reached this past fiscal year, and which goes back to 65,000 for fiscal 2004 unless Congress raises it, which is highly doubtful. Can you really blame these comparatively few people for the free-fall of salaries in the IT field? Besides, an H-1B can be used for any job that requires a bachelor’s degree in a specific field (or, oddly enough, fashion models), so they can be used for everyone from librarians to social workers to accountants to Ph.D. medical researchers to Gisele Bundchen. Yes, H-1Bs are disproportionately used for tech workers, but that’s just the nature of what the economy has been demanding in recent years.

If I were doing some macro-level thinking about the future of tech work in the U.S., I’d brainstorm on ways to keep the work from going offshore entirely. There is no inherent reason why much of it necessarily needs to be done in the U.S.; there are some good brains elsewhere, and while U.S. tech workers have been kvetching about their drop in salaries, Indians and Filipinos have been carving out a slice of the global pie for themselves. I, for one, respect their initiative. Anyone who gets a graduate degree in science or engineering deserves the best job he/she can find.

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal
With at least as much educational debt as her techie friends, and a much lower salary than most of them, due to the wonders of market economics
(and yes, I do H-1B visas, among many other things; flame away!)

I have friends in IT that are unemployed, are competant, and never made “insanely high” salaries. 165,000 H-1B visas look like a hell of a lot when they’re competing with YOU. It’s the combination of overseas outsourcing combined with visas for folks to come over for things that can’t be that makes it all such a killer – there’s a lot more than 165,000 jobs at stake.

On H-1B visas, see this site:

Yes, of course they’re a biased source. But that’s why they’re pissed enough to put together the site.

Yme: Actually, I wasn’t sure if you were even serious in your post when you claimed to want 6 wks vaca. Hey, go ahead and want away, pal.

Eva got it right. There is no way to stem the tide of globalization. You need to stay ahead of the curve by adding morfe value than the 3rd worlders can add. And there’s nothing special about EEs. The Aero guys got hit in the 70s and now it’s the EEs turn. But don’t get bogged down too much in this particular business cycle. The Tech industry has been thru many recessions where hiring was slow. This one is bigger and longer, but it’s unlikely to be permanent. And it’s probably bigger because the it had so far to fall from in the first place.

Well, I can counter your site with dozens of others making opposite arguments; that’s hardly the point.

Some of my points were a) not all 165,000 (actually less, as I wrote above; the quota wasn’t used up last year) are competing in the IT industry; b) talented people will go wherever (both geographically and in terms of type of position) they feel they are getting the best overall deal; and c) IMHO the drop in salaries for IT workers is merely reflective of a large and global market adjustment in the value of that type of work, not some sort of global conspiracy to trick the U.S labor force into entering tech fields.

I’m sorry graduating students will have to adjust their job/salary expectations. Average starting salaries for people in tech fields are still much higher than for liberal arts fields, given the same degree of education, so sorry if my heart doesn’t bleed for these people. Hell, a history Ph.D. or a social worker with an MSW will make less starting with a grad degree than many people graduating with a B.S. in science or engineering. Again, this is reflective of the market value of these kinds of degrees, with is something that shifts over time.

A similar market adjustment occurred in the legal field a few years back, and it’s much, much more expensive to get an undergrad and then a law degree than a BSEE. My mom, a paralegal, got laid off this way a few years back; the senior partner at her firm decided he could hire a fresh law school grad to do her job, and much more, for the same salary (which was still less than the average starting salary with a BSEE, and she had 20 years of experience in the field; back then – early 1990’s- I don’t think she was even making $30K). Obviously, she was not happy to be laid off, nor was I happy to see her laid off, but there was a certain undeniable economic logic to it. Honestly, I felt just as sorry for the fresh law school grad, who probably had $100K in debt, having to survive on that salary.

It’s a cycle; sorry, but tech workers are not exempt from the laws of economics.