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RE: Jobs, Low wages, lost careers

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Title: RE: Jobs, Low wages, lost careers

I have been following this thread, and its cousins, with a mixture of interest and amusement.  I honestly do not believe that either H-1B or NAFTA represent any threat to mainstream American structural engineering practitioners.  American structural engineers sell professional services, not products.  These services include personal (usually face-to-face) interaction with the client throughout design, timely response to shop drawing submittals, and visits (often on short notice) to the jobsite to verify that the design intent is being achieved or to improvise on-the-fly when the contractor has screwed something up.  Engineers working overseas cannot reasonably perform these services.  Neither can new immigrants who have an inadequate understanding of our structural codes, language, and culture.

Our firm has more than 300 employees, and many are foreign-born.  However, to the best of my knowledge, all of them either are citizens or have their green cards.  We do not hire candidates with student visas or H-1B visas.  In the Structural Group, I further restrict the hiring to candidates that have received both their BS and MS degrees at leading American universities.  Even then, they won't get an offer unless they have excellent grades and have mastered spoken and written English.

For our firm, NAFTA has been a blessing.  We now design projects throughout Mexico, and our fastest growing office is on the border.  In addition, NAFTA has provided a boost to the economy in Texas, which continues to surge forward despite the negative national media reports that we are seeing every day.  All of us live in an increasingly global economy.  NAFTA has helped our firm to view that reality as an opportunity and to benefit from it.

In summary, I would suggest that those of you who feel threatened by H-1B and/or NAFTA take a good hard look at your practice.  The world is changing.  Are you keeping up, or just sitting on the sidelines complaining?

Okay y'all, flame away!

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE
Vice President
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Halff Associates, Inc.
8616 Northwest Plaza Drive
Dallas, Texas  75225
Phone:  (214) 346-6280
Fax:  (214) 739-0095
Email:  scaldwell(--nospam--at)halff.com
Website:  http://www.halff.com
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