The current state of technical certification and IT jobs in America

The current state of technical certification and IT jobs in America

Summary: An examination of the true state of the IT job market and the need for certification reveals some interesting results.

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TOPICS: Outsourcing, India
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It seems that, at least in some parts of the country, the IT job market remains strong in spite of rampant offshoring to cheap labor locations and a new influx of H1B Visa workers. The best and most abundant IT jobs are where you'd expect: Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Austin, Seattle, New York City, and Atlanta. There might be a few more select cities where there are open IT jobs but not many to choose from. There's also still the raging debate about industry certifications and college education for IT and knowledge workers. It's an interesting time for IT and the future is very hard but not impossible to predict.

Google the phrase, "Jobs outlook 2013" and you'll see conflicting reports in the headlines that result. You'll see headlines that include, "Bleak jobs outlook," "lower than expected outlook," and conversely, "2013 jobs outlook brighter." So it's apparent to me that the experts in the field can't accurately predict what will happen. 

Offshore Outsourcing

Although this post is more than a rant against offshore outsourcing and its negative effects, which I despise by the way, it's an analysis of the industry state as a whole—a big picture snapshot of the situation, including the role of offshore outsourcing.

Cheap labor locations such as India, Central America, South America, and Eastern Europe are eating away at the American job market in a very big way. Hundreds of thousands of middle-class, decent paying jobs have been moved, along with lower wage manufacturing, to these locations. The only [true] reason that they're moving is greed.

American business executives think that they're getting a deal by using these cheap labor centers. The truth is that they're not. A few years ago, when this trend started, I heard that it was because there was a labor shortage in this country. Interestingly, that same labor shortage existed in India too. They were hiring people off the street (literally) and putting them through a few months of training and then into a job.

The very sad part of this story is that we've spent billions of dollars building up a labor force in India and building up their outdated technical infrastructure so that they can be leveraged into cheap labor pools for greedy US-based companies.

Just think if those same billions had been spent in the US to build up our labor market and to train Americans, who are now out of work, for these jobs. Perhaps Mr. Obama's economy wouldn't be suffering.

The problems I have with offshore outsourcing are the following. First, our money is thrown away with the jobs that are lost. Those offshore workers don't pay American taxes, don't buy American products, and don't contribute to the welfare of this nation. Second, each time you layoff a middle class worker in this country, you effectively destroy a bit of the economy because the middle-class American is the US's tax and retail spending breadbasket. Third, you get what you pay for. Cheap labor gets you exactly that. It takes two, three, or more offshore workers to offset the loss of one American worker. In Argentina, one of those cheap labor locations, they have a saying, "How expensive is cheap?" Exactly.

Finally, I think it's unfair to falsely prop up an economy based on cheap labor because as their costs rise and wages increase, our greedy companies will seek out cheaper labor markets elsewhere and destroy another economy.

As a side note, for those of you who maybe think cheap labor is the way to go, let me paint a little scenario for you. Go look in your driveway or parking lot. What kind of car do you have? I'll bet it isn't the cheapest one you could find, is it? No, of course not because when you buy something for yourself, you buy the good stuff. 

So if you think that cheaper is better, then dump that high dollar car and go buy yourself the cheapest car you can find. Better still, go buy one from one of the cheap labor locations that you exploit and see how you fare with it. No? I didn't think so.

H1B Visas

H1B Visas are another bane to the American worker. Its another attempt to undermine our workforce with cheap foreign labor. Gosh, I'm starting to sound a bit Marxist with all this "worker" talk but I can assure you that I'm not. I'm an American first and everything else second. Our country is strong because we employ our own people. We build great products. We are innovators. It's a shame that some of our most prized American products are no longer produced in this country. Levi's, an American Original, is the first to come to mind. I digress.

I've heard arguments on both sides of the H1B Visa topic. The bottom line is that American companies claim that they can't find appropriate labor resources here and so they must seek out foreign workers. If that were true, you'd see H1B Visa holders from a diverse range of countries, not primarily India. True? It's another opportunity to be greedy. There's nothing wrong with making a profit but at the sacrifice of your own country's worker is just plain wrong and it's a negative blow to our economy.

It's also a slap in the face of American workers. It tells our young people that their livelihoods will be sacrificed for the promise of a few extra dollars. You know, those American college students who're paying top dollar for non-government subsidized educations and for loans that will take ten years or more to pay off.

But, hey, American company CXOs, don't let that bother you. You go ahead and take home your multi-million dollar compensation packages and your golden parachutes, while  the people in your hometowns hit the unemployment lines and go bankrupt. No problem. H1B Visas and offshore outsourcing are great ideas.

American IT Job Outlook

According to surveys that I've seen, it looks like the job outlook remains positive. It's no 1997 again, but it's not in decline yet either. There are jobs that may remain strong for the next few years. Some of those jobs are security professionals, database administrators, SAN administrators, and network engineers.

Since most of the lower level jobs are going offshore, companies are seeking out IT pros with several years of experience. Additionally, most job descriptions detail a diversity of required or desired experience. Specialization seems to be on the wane.

My assumption is that as offshore workers gain experience and do a bit of job hopping to up their pay rates, even the higher level jobs will be sent away too. My personal observation is that, unless our government follows other governments in protecting its workers, our jobs will continue to be drained off to cheap labor locations.

IT Certifications and Education

People who pursue IT certifications believe that they will give them an edge in the job market. Whether is does or not is debatable. Experience is still king in getting a new job or climbing the job ladder. The smartest and most employable workers use a combined approach to landed and keeping their jobs: education, continued training, certification, and varied experience.

I think by now, everyone with an Internet connection has realized that an MIS degree is a waste of time and money, although pure Computer Science degrees are still in some demand. Most IT workers don't have any sort of specialized education or degrees. Industry training is available from vendors, which is very good. However, most vendors now offer associated certification plans for those who take the training to prove their competence in a particular area or with a technology.

The problem with certification is that it's basically a money racket for vendors. They offer the education and the certifications. If the IT industry truly wants meaningful certifications, then the major players will have to create an independent certifying authority. Until then, certifications will continue to be meaningless.

IT needs a certifying authority like the Bar, Professional Engineering, Certified Public Accountancy, Teaching, and so on. Vendor certifications mean very little although some companies and execs still favor them because they sound good on paper. However, IT workers realize that these certifications hold no real value—at least those with significant industry experience realize it.

The Solution

A lot of people complain about the job market, unemployment, offshore outsourcing, and falling wages but I've heard no real solutions. I have at least one solution for our job market slump and sluggish economy.

The solution is to invest in our own infrastructure and our own people. It's that simple. If you offered the same training to our own people that you do to offshore workers, you'd have a much stronger economy, a larger tax base, and a stronger retail market. Now, realized that you can't pay American workers $30,000 per year like you do your offshore workers in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, or any of the cities listed above.

However, you can pay those kinds of wages in rural areas of the country. For example, smaller cities in the area of Texas I grew up in would be perfect. These smaller towns have been economically distressed for many years and the people would be grateful for the jobs, the economic boost, and the refreshed, modernized infrastructure.

You'd also be doing your fellow countrymen a good turn. There's value in that. There's also a name for it: Ruralsourcing. You still get your labor at a low price but you also get taxes being paid, goods being purchased, homes being bought, cars being bought, lunches being eaten, disposable income being spent—I think you get the idea.

Another Solution

When workers are treated unfairly and no one comes to their rescue, the workers have to do something for themselves. Let me also note here, before I say it, that I don't really like Unions. I think that Unions have, in the past, only served to perpetuate corruption that they were meant to alleviate. That said, I think that an IT Union is a good idea. There are two websites that I want you to check out to help educate you on this concept. One is TechsUnite.org, which also has links to other sites and a lot of news and information. The second is The Endicott Alliance site that was known as Alliance@IBM. It has a lot of great information, news, links, and an updated job cut alert. 

What do you think of the current state of IT jobs in America? Do you think that we can continue to survive the job hemorrhaging or do you think a unionized tech worker tourniquet is the answer? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Outsourcing, India

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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47 comments
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  • A degree still counts well for me at least

    I am from the Caribbean, but having a degree still counts if you want decent pay. I don't have one, but I am working on working towards one starting next year (meaning, I am saving towards it). The market is also saturated and as you rightly said, experience takes precedence over certifications. Another thing is connections, yes, you will see job postings in a news paper for a IT position, but usually, a best friend or family member ends up getting that position through a friend in the company. Its just that they put it in the paper not to look like creeps. I suspect its the same thing abroad. Honestly, I feel, where I am at in IT, I am stuck and there is no chance for growth. My plan is to work where I am at for a while (10 years) then transition out to something better, farming and live off the pension I get from the Government.
    adacosta38
  • Henry Ford was right

    Henry Ford realized that his employees translated to his customers. He paid well above the going wage giving his workers the ability to buy a car. If U.S. industry doesn't employ people in the U.S., we won't be buying things that are made and the economy will not be good in the world. Greed is bad for everybody.
    pokerpoodle1
  • I'm still making a decent living in IT.

    But only because I work in a heavily regulated industry that has strict regulations about where data is stored and who has access to it. That's why I think the move to the cloud will be the final nail for highly skilled US based I.T. workers.
    mikedees
  • Unable to accept change

    The author in my opinion is finding it hard to accept the changes in the status-quo. This article and the opinion stated is in my view similar to that where people oppose introduction of automation into industries. It too causes loss of jobs and only benefits the greedy owners.

    Though it is stated otherwise, the underling principle for the proposed governmental regulations in this article is Marxist, or at least not how a capitalist economy should work.
    Optrn
    • MISGraduate

      If you are so sure of yourself, why do you hide behind a anonymous name?

      I didn't graduate with a MIS degree simply because when I was teaching myself everything that I could about the technology industry, colleges did not offer classes like that.

      Technically they still don't because they are always playing catch up.

      What is worse is we get plenty of people like you in the industry that proudly hang that sheepskin on the wall and we watch in amazement and humor as you attempt to reinvent the wheel rather than learning from those that are willing to mentor you in a true master / apprentice relationship.

      But what is even worse is you have no concept what you are advocating for.

      For instance, I've been studying this since 2003.

      Lets say that you have bought a house because you are in the upper ten percent wage wise and you feel secure.

      Lets say you actually stay with a company for a few decades rather than work as a data ho like I did travelling from town to town, hotel to hotel, and bar room to bar room.

      Who will you sell that 250 to 450,000 dollar home to when you get ready to retire when 80 percent of Americans are now making five dollars per hour because we listened to people like you?

      I could go on an on.

      But I don't think it would do any good simply because you already have all the answers just like I did when I was a young punk fresh out of the navy.

      By the way, the navy gave me a damned good technology schooling.

      Does your current gig do that for you or do they expect you to train on your dime and your time?

      By the way, it took me a long time to figure out what is happening, and I've documented it all at Keep America At Work.

      One thing I am sure of is that if we continue on this path, when you turn 45 or 50, you will have a different perspective when you are discriminated against for your age by young anonymous punks just like yourself.

      Regards,

      Virgil Bierschwale
      A damned Navy Vet that is proud to stand behind his name.
      vbiersch@...
      • Amen

        From another former Navy Man.
        mikedees
      • Nick names?

        Mr. Bierschwale,

        I guess you wanted a soap box to stand on and make a speech. You did okay, but I have no idea why Internet nick names bother you. I want my neighbors to know me personally, but not you. Too much personal information is too easily available. You know that already. That's why we use nick names.
        SlimSam
      • Another Navy man agreeing

        Well stated Virgil.
        Keeping Current
      • R. Lawson

        Former Navy myself. Good to see such support on this issue from veterans.
        relawson@...
      • whats in a name

        I apologize for the delay as I created the account only to comment on the article. I will be more active forward.
        -------------------------
        You did not address any of the points I put up criticizing your article. I can respond in your tone but it is useless here.
        My MIS degree gave me what I could not get in a Computer science degree. Ignore this as it is not relevant either.
        I don't have to turn 45-50 to be replaced by a younger, better performing fresher(possibly non US Citizen), it can happen tomorrow. It keeps me on my toes, and my company ahead of the competition. If I don't like this, I would have probably become an English professor.
        Now, I can continue the debate if you address any of the points I have mentioned against your views.

        MISGraduate,
        Technology Veteran.
        Optrn
    • Two Dimensional Analyis

      One or two jobs won’t hurt. Thousands of lost jobs will and has. Problem is you can’t see the effect immediately. This allows the ignorant mouth off about accepting change. Remember Obama’s attempt to help the economy with a Reganomic stimulus package? It didn’t work did it? Why? Should be easy enough to figure it out: Offshoring. When you combine that with the job loss from automation, you get a perfect economic storm. The systems thinkers know that if you do it long enough, you will collapse the economy. It’s just a matter of time and simple economics.
      TheSaint777
    • Agreed

      I lost count of how many times the word "greed" and its variations were used in this bitter, shrill piece. Corporate leaders have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to maximize shareholder value, and I don't begrudge them for doing so.

      Yes, much work has been offshored--but not all of it. There's still plenty of work that can only be done in person, and that's the work I've chosen to specialize in. My prior job was at zero risk of elimination or offshoring, even during the recession. After earning my MIS degree, I sought a new, higher-paying position and found one--again, during the recession.

      Always update your skills/education/certification. Always. Your cheese WILL be moved, and if you don't alter your path, you'll be left behind.
      ParrotHead_FL
    • free trade and deregulation are liberal economics

      The traditional liberal economic agenda developed in the 19th century – free markets, free trade, and a small government requiring only low levels of taxation are not affiliated with fiscal conservatism. Deregulation is fundamentally anticonservative and is essentially left-wing. Reagan and Thatcher developed the initial wave of neoliberal thought in practice. “I think of myself”, Margaret Thatcher has said, “as a Liberal in the 19th century sense—like Gladstone.”Fiscal Conservatism was rhetorically promoted during the presidency of Ronald Reagan instead the liberal policies created deficits and tripled the national debt. Did your MIS degree include any history, economics or critical thinking. Adam Smith himself had thought that free trade should ever be entirely implemented.
      radicalcenter
      • Pedantic much?

        'Liberal' and 'conservative' have particular uses in the US. Deal with it.

        It is also wrong to think that 'conservative' is a non-relative term. In a communist country, conservatives are communist. In the US, our conservatives would be on the other end of the spectrum.
        DaveJMo
    • R. Lawson

      The status-quo is crony capitalism. We should all be opposing that.

      Trade is suppose to be mutually beneficial and the way you should determine if that is the case is to look at trade balances. If you are running a trade surplus or deficit for long periods of times you are causing domestic problems. I'll explain deficits since that's the only type of trade balance we know how to run.

      Trade deficits must be paid for somehow. We have deficits with all major trading partners and this is paid for through either consumer debt usually with interest, or by selling off American assets. So we are either taking out high interest loans for goods that will be in the landfill soon, or trading away real estate. That or the government simply prints more money, reducing the value of the money we already have. It's not sustainable.

      So India drives down the cost of software development. What do we get in return? In this case, higher productivity. There are different types of IT jobs but your typical IT worker doesn't exist to invent something or innovate. Our job is to either save money through addressing inefficiencies or to create new revenue streams (say online sales) - which technically is another efficiency.

      Either way we reduce overall employment because we reduce the need for manpower. So if your big plan to create jobs is to get more people into IT, that's a bad plan. Because we don't really do that, at least when measured as a net growth in payrolls. What company would hire us if we promised them that they would need to increase payrolls when the project is done? Unless that's to support more sales, they'd laugh us out.

      As far as Marxist or not Marxist, these are guest worker programs where EMPLOYERS control the worker. It's really a Fascist concept when you think about it where the government creates a labor subsidy that wasn't otherwise there, and the employer has rights to infringe on the workers ability to contribute their skill on the free market. Employers can stop sponsoring workers, and in effect control their very right to live in this country.

      Even Milton Friedman called the H-1b a subsidy for industry - only he thought that was a redeeming quality because he believed that the government should reduce our earnings through intervention and increasing the labor supply. Mission accomplished.
      relawson@...
    • Darn right skippy!

      Greedy? Cruxify them!!!

      What the probably agendized (sure smells like an Alinsky plant, part of the process the faithful are proud of) author of the article creates a strawman and blames greed. The whole concept is hogwash.

      First it assumes capitalism is all about greed. It is not. That is more a standing joke than a fact. The old "Greed id good" line is satire but what is behind it is no joke. The corner stone of capitism is that idea that specializing can take the same resource set and produce more goods and services with them. I know burn them at the stake! right. The "greed" part is the joke term applied to why a party is motived to produce more. A lot of greedy people I know selfishly feed their families better and if they are real SOBs, provide work so that someone else can feed their family. Yeah, there is place in hell for that those type of people I'm sure.

      And while I acknowledge that communism and socialism have never produced any negative aspects of any kind, well minus the 50 million people who starved to death in China and Russa but who cares, its the system that is important anyway, capitialism has some flaws as well. Large sums of money always lead to corruption, except in communist and socialist countries, and we can't let common un-elected citizens get away with that. So I'm all good with that Martha Steward went to prision while Diane Fienstine and her hubby made a bundle and Harry Reid made a quick buck by suddenly buying the piece of desert that the new freeway overpass at Dolder Dam went through and then selling it the governement for a nice bump. What a business man. And to think he only had that parcel for a couple of years total!

      The real point is that you can try to fight natural law, in this case that people with a brain will alway do with is in their best interest, you are going to lose that fight every time. Yeah I know if only Russia could have had another million secret police they might have got there. Even then these money grubbing $##@!s generally helps everyone else. They provide goods and services, jobs, and generally raise the standard of living. On the other hand a trillion dollars later Johnsons war on poverty has not made a dent.

      So put on the big boy pants blow your nose and dry your eyes and start asking how you can do better and then go do it.

      ARMY VET
      More than happy to meet you in the ring,
      not giving personal info because cowards shoot from behind and what fool invites that? Oh yeah see below.
      and I know mama's boys when I hear them.
      Oh poor me, boo hoo.
      Be a man: Represent
      maszsam@...
  • The current state of technical certification and IT jobs in America

    you are looking the economic/market dynamics in a limited vernacular.
    gone were the days when the us can support the weight of its own economy. to be neutral, let us take the case of japan, with just above 120 millions population. toyota alone produces 10 million cars per year, how on earth will they sell those cars internally?
    i know that people are suffering, but simplistic solution to a vexing problem is not the answer that dogged the us economy. i do not have a solution nor will i forward one since nobody can predict the future, but blaming outsourcing, cheap labor, etc. are way off. as in physics, the flapping of butterfly wings in south america has cause/effect somewhere on the planet. so, is the market movement in the us has the same effect felt in europe, asia, and the rest of the world. the current problem was known worldwide to have been started in the us and was caused by the toxic investment instruments plied by wall street jackals to the rest of the world for a quick buck ...
    kc63092@...
    • Wrong! Wall Street sold what Government created

      The investments were based on articles that the government created. Everyone with a brain knew they were crap. That is why Goldman Sachs hedged against them.

      Further if banks weren't quasi government institutions, thank you FDIC, they would have gone quitely into the night like they did in the 1930's.

      Now I'm not on the all government is bad band wagon. I personally would like to see some scientific principals used to dial in things. But that is unlikely to happen when the electorate is stupid enough to vote for candidates who run on "But they are gonna put you'll in chains" or vote in religiously a man who murdered his pregnant years younger mistress, or a man who by all rights should be a registered sex offender, or a man who not only got caught with a live boy but one running a gay brothel, in the officials own house and I'm starting to get writers cramp and I haven't got to the Republican A@#$@ yet like blubber boy Bainard. Are you kidding me? Can you get peanuts and cotton candy at this freak show?

      Guess the point is you get what you elect and so you desirve it. Para mio, etudie mas espanole y via por un otra pias, where the jobs and are.
      maszsam@...
  • Re: Those offshore workers don't pay American taxes

    But they're not getting paid that much anyway, so what would they be paying in tax?

    The point is, the companies employing them are still US-owned, and still repatriating MASSIVE PROFITS to their US-based shareholders. So it is still the US getting rich on the backs of these poor Indians. Are you objecting to that?
    ldo17
    • Yes, I object

      So the top 10% that own 80% of the wealth constitutes the US? 1 person out of 10 making a profit does not mean the US is making MASSIVE PROFITS. Let me get out of here its starting to smell because of all the BS.
      thekman58