Market Response

USA Today reports that college students have responded to massive technology sector layoffs by studying something besides Computer Science. This apparently comes as a surprise to the author, but not to the Chicago Boyz.

The article also points out that while the low-level tech jobs have been sent offshore to India, there is still a need for experienced people with both technology and business skills (business systems analysts, project leaders, etc.). The problem, which the author misses, is that the offshored jobs used to be the entry points into technology careers. Most of the accomplished techies I’ve met have spent time on the help desk, doing network maintenance, testing software, grinding out code, or doing some other necessary but “low-level” jobs. With these jobs scarce, there is no chance of getting the experience that the market wants. The pipeline is cut off.

We all know that HR’s ideal candidate is 22 years old with 15 years of industry experience. Good luck finding one.

11 thoughts on “Market Response”

  1. How sad. Now, that’s your argument against off-shoring. Talk about cutting yourselves off at the knees.

  2. Poor kids nowadays… A friend has a kid in 5th grade and they are already giving them what seems like a college level course/homework load. What ever happened to a carefree youth?

  3. And lets throw in the 1HB visa program which grew from around 10,000 a year to over 200,000 a year. I watched the want ads in the main trade journal Computerworld reflect a lot of HR requirements bloat in the 80s and 90s which was used to justify hiring foreign over domestic applicants. There was never a program to recheck if the foreign hire specifically matched the bloated requirements that the original posting listed.

  4. Interesting article, although it doesn’t mention what geeks are studying these days.

    One quick way to open up jobs in computers is to deregulate the crap out of, well, everything… that would jack up the demand for user-friendly interfaces for things that are currently off-limits to the unwashed masses. It would also open up jobs in aerospace for homegrown geeks, and tons of jobs in who-knows-what for everyone(Unless, as doomsday theorists are fond of saying, every new technology from now on will be worked on by the Indians and Chinese first because they’re so much smarter as well as cheaper…)

    In the meantime, local industry won’t be able to find mid-level programmers in a few years with CS degrees and years of competing for low-level jobs afterwards with India. So they’ll either hire someone that doesn’t fit that description, hire overseas, or do without. (Of course, “do without” might involve going into another line of business).

  5. Heck, it’s nice to see that undergrads can still put two and two together, so to speak. I swapped to systems and network administration from software development to improve my chances of keeping my career (it’s harder to outsource jobs that require one to go into the machine room daily for hardware swaps and reboots) — after years of being told the tight IT market was my own damn fault for getting into specialized skilled labor.

    Nice to see that students have been listening to what the market’s been saying. Ken, I was unaware that the tech industries were over-regulated at the moment. Could I ask you to elaborate on your deregulation proposal?

  6. I was speaking of other industries besides tech. Let some of the nice action that was going on in tech pop up in aerospace and nuclear power and so on, and give our geniuses something useful to do. Then the Indians and Chinese will eventually learn all that stuff too, and we’ll have to move on to something else. Rinse and repeat until the end of time.

  7. After thinking about this a little more, I recognize the problem. It’s the free-rider issue, where someone bears the cost (in this case, the cost of training a tech worker) and someone else benefits (by hiring the experienced worker away). The problem usually doesn’t get resolved until the costs become so onerous that the producer just quits and the free-riders have to provide for themselves. Even then, the first of the free-riders to break ranks and pay up is exposed to a new round of the cycle.

    I see a lot of H1-B workers getting green cards & eventually becoming US ciizens, which is one solution. I don’t like the idea, though, of US college kids being closed out of IT careers because it is cheaper to hire graduates of IIT.

  8. Yep. Junior technicians become senior technicians. Who’da thunk it? And American students repond as good rational actors and avoid areas (like the sciences) that have no future in the United States.

  9. “After thinking about this a little more, I recognize the problem. It’s the free-rider issue, where someone bears the cost (in this case, the cost of training a tech worker) and someone else benefits (by hiring the experienced worker away). ”

    Which begs the question of why companies were ever willing to hire entry-level tech workers, given our lack of indentured servitude.

    I don’t think they were bearing a cost so much as paying market value to workers that were providing enough value to justify it. It just so happens that the market value of the entry-level guys is dropping below what college students are willing to put their lives on hold for four years for. Or, put another way, the cost of gaining enough education and experience to qualify for mid-level jobs (in terms of foregone income in other fields compared to entry-level income in this field) is rising, and the pay of the mid-level guys will have to rise commensurately or else the ones looking for them will have to find alternate sources or substitutes.

    Either way, the problem will work itself out. It would probably come to a better solution, and could not come to a worse solution, if our economic laws were generally less restrictive.

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