Skills Shortage

Ben wrote a post about the H-1B visa program and included comments I made about that in previous writings. This reminded me to write something about what I’m seeing with increasing frequency over the last year, a serious skills shortage. Before moving on to that topic, I will say that in reading the comments to Ben’s post that I am surprised that people equate H-1B visas to indentured servitude. I know from previous companies and my involvement in hiring these visa holders, that economics were certainly not the driving issue. Furthermore, when you take into account the legal fees that companies incur as a consequence of hiring these employees, the economics don’t get any better.

I don’t know of one company right now that would not hire a senior J2EE software engineer if he/she became available. Now if you read that last sentence very carefully you will notice that I insert the assumption that all good J2EE engineers are already working… and that is the case, unless otherwise by choice! The supply of developers is seriously constrained on both the quality and the quantity axis.

I’m not using this as a platform to call for relaxing of visa regulations, I am suggesting that computer science departments across the country need to step up their recruiting of students as a start. A paper published by NAIT in 2001 painted a bleak picture of what was happening with industrial technology enrollment, a trend that has since not reversed. This data is somewhat old, but illustrates a trend nonetheless.

Lastly, fine education institutions like Harvard and Stanford should be putting their formidable endowments to work in order to expand the number of students they are able to accommodate and to hold the line on tuitions. Harvard’s $35 billion endowment borders on obscene, it kind of makes me wonder why alumni continue to contribute to it… To give credit where credit is due, it has been reported that Stanford is considering expanding the number of students by 10,000, which would be welcome news.