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Outsourcing - Part I (was Sick Profession) a response to Stan Caldwell

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I started this thread because I read Stan Caldwell’s response to Ed Tornberg’s post on our Sick Profession. I happen to agree with Ed – we are in trouble but most of us do not realize it yet. Most of you are nine to five engineers. You look forward to your family and your hobbies away from the office. There is nothing wrong with this and it is exactly what I did while my kids were growing. However, like politics, it is our responsibility to stay informed and to understand the issues that affect us. If we let these issues pass us buy or trust that those in responsible positions in the associations that we pay dues to belong, then we are acting irresponsible. Some of those who have control are the ones who are creating the policies or taking the jobs away from Americans and seeking out lower income employees that relinquish responsibility to pay benefits or to maximize profits as all other sources of cut-backs have occurred from 1974 to the present.

To put it bluntly, you can erase this e-mail and chalk people like Bob Johnson (SE from Illinois) or I (who co-created this list) as zealots and you just don’t have the time or inclination to give us the time and consider the issues. You suddenly become part of the apathetic majority while us Baby Boomers who were the one time radicals on college campuses across the United States simply can’t let it rest.

 

What is the argument for my contention that wages are dropping and we will be (if not now) competing for jobs with those in other countries on our own turf? The first is that there is virtually no more manufacturing in the United States. The second is that Corporations have united globally and found it less costly to move their headquarters to European countries. Third, America has become a global nation and in the process voted into law policies such as NAFTA, GATT, H-1B, H-2B and other forms of outsourcing services to other countries or to foreign nationals on our own soil. Is some of this necessary – Yes I believe so. Is it necessary in our own profession? Until recently I would have said no, but something in David Fishers comments made me think that he was justified. He has projects that exist in other countries that require engineers with the ability to communicate and overcome the cultural differences that might occur with Americans. I think this is valid and I can dispute his justification for hiring an H-1B employee to handle an Austrian project his firm was working on.

 

Do I believe that a foreign national should skip over the line of immigration – those who need to wait years because of numeric limits allowed to obtain a green card in this country – No I do not. For whatever reason H-1B was initiated, the intent was (as I read from the original document a few years ago) intended to provide jobs to those companies that needed the help but who were not able to find Americans to fill the slot. Most were in the medical fields – nurses, technicians, some doctors – but others were fabricated to create a false impression of lack of available labor when there was sufficient resources in the country (such as the Electronic industry).

 

I highly recommend that each of you visit the H-1B database at http://www.zazona.com/LCA-Data/AdvQuery.asp . The importance of this resource is that it lists companies up to date and starting back as far as 1997 who applied for and received approval of H-1b and who have actually hired these non-immigrant status employees. There are many thousand jobs in the database and many hundred if not thousands of employers who are listed. In our profession, Structural Engineers can be deceptive. Some are called Structural Engineers (which I limited my search to) while others are listed as Architectural Engineers, Civil Engineers or Structural Engineers II (SE-II). However, These are not listed in the category of Structural Engineer but under Civil Engineering or Architectural / Engineers etc. You need to do some searching.

 

In addition, there is a limit  as to the number of pages of hits that can be obtained (ten pages) and if you find a major city with mixed categories of Civil Engineers, you can barely get through the “C’s” to a number of Structural Engineers. Another trick is to seek out cities and search for Civil engineers by city, state, company name etc. What you will find is that the list is much larger than even I had figured it would be – thousands of jobs if I discount Civil or Architectural Engineers. I did include some Civil’s but this was because I knew the firms and what their limits of professional type jobs that they hired engineers for. Even BQE (our own Shafat) has hired Civil Engineers to work for BQE Engineering (while some time ago, he hired programmers for BillQuick). Stan has not hired an H-1B for a few years (or his company Halff and Associates has not) but then again, he did mention that his H-1B employees obtained permanent status which is possible as they can apply for green cards while they work as a non-immigrant status employee. Dave Fisher indicated that his H-1B’s also became permanent status employees and even became a member of their communities by buying homes and paying taxes. Happy days are here again for foreign nationals.

 

It’s easy to accuse me of being a bigot when I fight to protect the job market in the United States. I am not hurting as there is plenty of work in my area and I turn down jobs daily. However, I don’t give them to engineers in Mexico, India or who are filling an H-1B gap. I have organized a listservice of local engineers who I post the jobs that I turn down. Virtually all of these jobs have found homes from those who are willing to take on the additional work load. This is a simple concept of working together and making sure that if the job is not for you or you are too busy that you seek your peers in this country to take over the overflow. There are times when I might need the work and I would be appreciative of the recommendations by my local peers who might have additional work or clients that they can not handle.

 

To simply seek outsourcing of services to satisfy the free enterprise system has put many of us in jeopardy now or in the future to maximize profits is ethically wrong (in my opinion). There is something inherently wrong with our profession when we use the backs of the apathetic to who provided the foundations from which your businesses were built to maximize profits and throw away workers or to hire foreign national at lower wages. CNN and others who provided studies found that those in foreign companies who finally had jobs had not improved the quality of their lives over a two year period while the companies that hired them improved profits for shareholders by a much more substantial margin.

 

Look over Part II of this study as the table (it is in HTML format) represent only a small minority of jobs that could have been available to American Professionals (and not through monster.com) were given to H-1B employees who ultimately obtained green card permanent status in the United States. Digging into this database at http://www.zazona.com/LCA-Data/AdvQuery.asp turned out to provide more than a few thousand jobs – much more than I thought would have been lost to Americans professional services in the small field of structural engineering.

 

If this doesn’t open your eyes, the start to think what will happen if you work for a publicly owned company whose shareholders want consistent profits each year or to small independent businesses that wish to maximize their profits and feel no responsibility to professional peers. Weigh into this the arguments that were on the list from East Indian, South American and African laborers who are available and need the work. Then consider that those we own money to (the bank, Visa, car payments etc) don’t have the sympathy we might and are not willing to reduce interest rates or forgive a home mortgage because we wish to share our wealth with those in other countries. Most of all, think about who profits from our work and what do we obtain in return by way of security – nothing.

 

Then write and I hope a lot of you will write – pro and con so we can hash this issue out among us and decide what is acceptable and what isn’t.

 

Best regards,

Dennis S. wish PE