The Travel Ban and Tech Industries
While agreeing the implementation of the temporary travel ban could have been better, the press continues to not include the agencies’ subversion of privileged communications forcing more drastic measures. After all the concern over the President’s temporary travel ban, it is evident there has been a missing wider perspective. What is being displayed is a self-induced personnel trauma and distancing of the indirect subsidized foreign investment H-1B visas allow. This is not a recent development. I have my own experiences with H-1B visa holders that go back nearly 30 years.
Tech giants are raising alarm about the temporary ban disrupting operations. Show me a wide ranging policy that does not disrupt major industries. Did not the PPACA (Obamacare) of 2010, that tripled premiums and many deductibles by up to 4X and fully implemented in 2013, disrupt the medical industry, Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 for executive accountability in the corporate world, PATCO strike that upset air traffic control, and DOL Fiduciary Rule that takes effect in April 2017 for the financial industry? I have not seen the media really look at this in the multi-faceted manner that sees how this one type of visa has allowed lower standards in our schools and abatement of support for current and future human capital of United States Citizens. There are also many issues that I have experienced highlighting profits versus a real human capital shortage. Many of these tech companies are what are called glamour stocks, as there are expectations for high growth each quarter.
First is the brief mention of no accountability to justify the need for H-1B visas. Industry leaders, like Bill Gates, have publicly criticized schools and have stated a desire for unlimited H-1B visas. Talking to many HR professionals, and looking for that elusive accountability clause, it appears these mega-tech companies have directed an implied justification rather than any quantifiable criteria. I did hear from one tech VP of HR that he recruits from over 400 colleges. This is one of the complaining tech companies listed in a joint complaint about the temporary ban that has been on hold.
Are all companies on-board with these visas? Many companies have found these H-1B visas have more issues than they want to deal with. There is an application cost, time constraints, competition for annual quotas, as well as, reporting requirements. Therefore, it is a not uncommon to see employment listings that specifically state sponsorship applicants are not considered. It places these H-1B visa holders in a default state of return should their company have to release them or they violate policies resulting in discharge.
Emotional images of families separated and lost time are portrayed as the evil effects on company personnel and the operation of said companies. Dissents from some visa holders are not lost on the general population that they are now integrated and for whom may be sharing a work space with someone that knows someone that was qualified and displaced. One software professional I met at an organization, over a decade ago, made it clear he felt many Americans resented his presence for taking a job away from natural citizens. His friends called him “Gopi”, an affectionate nickname in his native India. Gopi merely took advantage of an offer for employment in a foreign country, at a salary that was a fortune in his native India, and one that would invoke living sacrifices in his new place of residence. Gopi also stressed that he is a result of the hard work to get his credentials and that apparently Americans are too lazy to do the same. Therefore, he had no qualms of taking a job that native people were not willing to work to obtain. H-1B employment is also obliged by the needs of the employer that could result in the visa being revoked should the company have a RIF and a new sponsor not found. In effect, we have an authorized indentured relationship.
What is so evident is the overdependent use of the H-1B visa program to cut overhead personnel costs and not invest in talent development. This is akin to the dependent co-dependent relationship. I have seen an article that engineers are displacing human resources for talent acquisition but this is in an extremely limited venue that does not have the trappings for the scale needed. I have also had contact with well-known companies, as well as medical facilities, that require substantial technical training and experience as prerequisites to leading a HR department, and or recruitment.
Personnel costs are the most expensive for any business. As people are a fluid economy of scale then business has taken the path of least resistance in the H-1B visa program. It allows businesses utilizing these visas to let foreign governments use their state monies for education of its populations and then be American recruited at cut rate levels, that adds to the flush of around $1 Trillion aggregate in cash for venture projects.
Talking with the head of a large for-profit school’s recruiting department, he mentioned the major revisions to the data system to give the university more real time information. I asked about the talent required and whether there were problems in getting the needed personnel. He stated there were no problems in getting personnel but not at the cost he wanted to pay for them. To cut costs the director stated he hired three IT H-1B persons for less than the price of two American IT professionals. He stated it made good bottom line sense. This for-profit university also touts its IT programs. This institution of higher learning is willing to abandon its own alumni.
Yet, there is no shortage of criticism of the public schools and how “acceptable talent” is nowhere to be found. This applies to the feeder K12 system, as well as post-secondary education. (Education is a separate topic that can be improved over a several year time frame.)
These companies are not looking very hard. Managers: 1) purposefully limited selection parameters, 2) do not “upgrade” existing available talent (ESD was found to be an exception), 3) look for an exact replacement to fill a position with a candidate “that can hit the ground running”, 4) cut HR funding and staff necessitating farming out acquisition to sales commission agencies with the same “perfect match” parameters, without a time requirement to meet. This latter point is emphasized by talking with the employment agency recruiters. It was unanimous that a position would be left unfilled until an exact match was made to maintain the furture customer relationship. Note: Commissioned employment agencies are a $100+ Billion/year industry.
These conditions are ripe for abuse of the H-1B visa system, as well as other government sponsored programs. It also means these same companies are purposely letting critical positions stay open in order to self-justify the need for foreign labor. Not to mention the new over-the-hill age of about 35 that also appears to be a requirement. I guess many have not read about the many innovations and inventions that were created by experienced and more mature scientists and technologists.
Job fairs used to be a place for technical professionals to talk with a company representative, and or very rare occasion a hiring manager. Having surveyed job fairs, it is only the technical temp agencies that are now present on occasion. About the last time I saw a major company with a technical representative was over ten years ago. It was no surprise to see a count of over 60 hopefuls and the line grew substantially longer in less than 30 minutes. It was also no surprise that many of the hopefuls had at least a BSCS degree and were about 40, which exemplifies the preceding.
Our technical graduate colleges are also an indicator of companies supporting home grown talent. Our graduate technical schools are now comprised of about 60% foreign students. It is flattering that American schools are prized as the top education venues for the well-funded foreign families to afford their children an education abroad. It is also a sad state of affairs there is so little interest in our own children to keep making America Great with American Talent.
Security has also been an issue in the news. As stated earlier, the H-1B program has been around for decades. During my work in the semi-conductor industry, a new section manager was installed. As someone that had to have clearance to highly sensitive information while in the Armed Forces, I was astute to some security protocols. The section manager was part of an H-1B husband-wife team. Although both were working, it was easy to see financial issues were evident. The spouse worked in a similar capacity in another section of the plant.
Many government devices are bid, designed and have manufacturing in the same facilities as consumer products. One project for the military was being pursued with the new manager heavily involved. Law required a security clearance and US citizenship. The company let its guard down for security to allow cheap labor to work on a project that could be compromised. Once my concern was addressed, the section manager in my area was removed. I then also felt repercussions. While I do not feel there is an overt desire to subvert national security of products, it has implications of national and industrial proprietary losses. Conversations at a town hall meeting resulted in retired government workers extolling the virtues of the very nice H-1B staff they supervised. When asked what security clearances or background work was needed, they could only answer “I don’t know.”
Some countries are friendly to the United States and have demonstrated they will prosper with or without H-1B visas or on their own entrepreneurial ventures. However, there are also regimes that are business partners and also pirates of American technology. Controls or agreements appear non-existent to screen these candidates like our own citizens. They are also very young and very programmable at an early age.
These visas were for highly critical skills for demonstrated expertise needed to progress technology or security interests of the United States of America. It is one issue for a foreign national to request entry to the United States and have a needed skill. It is quite another to be recruited by United States companies because there is no incentive to work in a collaborative fashion to keep the Human Capital pipeline filled. A former minor party presidential candidate stated how we already know the answers to our problems; we need to find the best of those answers and implement them. So too, solutions are present. It appears that solutions will take a long time in coming as only billionaires appear to have standing in these issues that affect our Great United States of America. It is hoped our new President that is called the “Blue Collar Billionaire” will listen to those that have a different perspective. One thing is very clear, the annual quotas are used up every year and hotly sought after by the same companies complaining.
Darrel Keesee is associated with the Ascending Career Solutions Group, Inc. (ACS Group) that is a 501(c)(3) FBO. Darrel Keesee is an Educator, Counselor, Career Assessment Advisor, Community Financial Educator, Workforce Boards, and assisted distressed populations. He can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook (Personal and Acs GroupInc), Twitter and Instagram (@darrel_keesee)
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