N-, Can I repost this, too? ..Re: Boston Globe article

Arthur E. Sowers arthures at access5.digex.net
Mon Jun 15 14:32:35 EST 1998


Norm, I don't know how you feel about it, but I'd be happy to repost these
documents, with your permission, on the newsgroup, sci.research.careers,
where I hang out all the time. I might not repost all of them, but there
is a turnover in readership and you might spread awareness of the problem.
I still have to add your "heather" URL on my website, but its on my
Resources list that I post on s.r.c about once per week or two. 

Keep up the good work. 

Art Sowers
=== no change to below, included for reference and context ====


On Mon, 15 Jun 1998, Norm Matloff wrote:

> To: mailing list
> 
> This article features a nice collection of quotes from older workers who
> have trouble finding programming work.  I'm surprised, though, that she
> (or the editor) let Harris Miller's remarks about university CS
> enrollment go unchallenged.  Again, enrollment has been skyrocketing
> in recent years, and it is NOT true that "a significant number" of
> the BSCS degrees are going to foreign students, as claimed by Harris.
> (The actual figure is 6%.)
> 
> Norm
> 
>    Software job glut eludes older workers
>    
>    By Diane E. Lewis, Globe Staff, 06/15/98
>    
>    If the Sunday help-wanted sections are any indication, a
>    critical shortage of qualified computer programmers has spawned a job
>    market so tight that companies are wooing candidates with everything
>    from signing bonuses to adventure retreats in exotic locales.
>    
>    In fact, the software industry says finding good help is so
>    troublesome, it is pushing for legislation to increase the number of
>    visas for immigrants with high-tech skills. This spring, the industry
>    scored a victory with the US Senate's approval of a measure, but it
>    faces a battle in the House.
>    
>    ''There are now many more jobs than qualified people to fill them,''
>    said Kenneth Mokler, director of worldwide staffing for EMC Corp. of
>    Hopkinton, a maker of computer storage systems.
>    
>    But a growing number of unemployed and underemployed older high-tech
>    workers tell a different story.
>    
>    In Marlborough, 52-year-old Erick Andrews says he can't give his
>    skills away. A computer engineer and software developer who took a
>    buyout from Digital Equipment Corp. in 1990, Andrews hasn't worked
>    since a consulting assignment ended last July. ''I can't even find a
>    McJob,'' he said.
>    
>    Elizabeth Ebacher, 51, of Northampton was certain she could find
>    another corporate job after being laid off as a computer systems
>    manager. After an 18-month search, Ebacher received just one offer -
>    for a teaching position at Western New England College. ''I only had a
>    few interviews,'' she said, ''but invariably I'd find out that the job
>    had been filled by a younger person.''
>    
>    While US firms point to a dearth of qualified job seekers, some
>    academics and computer professionals on both coasts are claiming the
>    shortage is little more than a sham cooked up by an industry fraught
>    with age bias and consumed by a yen for cheap labor.
>    
>    ''The truth is, the industry would rather hire inexpensive labor,
>    primarily recent college graduates and foreigners who will work longer
>    for less pay,'' said Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at
>    the University of California at Davis who has studied hiring at
>    high-tech firms. He has found that companies hire only 2 to 5 percent
>    of their applicants.
>    
>    In Massachusetts, the American Scientists Association has drawn up a
>    petition against efforts to increase foreign visas.
>    
>    But the exploding software industry maintains that it is having so
>    much difficulty finding qualified employees - those who possess very
>    specific computer skills - that companies are raiding competitors and
>    stealing talented workers.
>    
>    ''Many companies that were used to 8 to 10 percent turnover are now
>    dealing with 20 to 25 percent turnover,'' said Harris N. Miller,
>    president of the Information Technology Association of America, a
>    national group representing 11,000 companies. ''There is also a lot
>    more focus on financial incentives, such as retention bonuses, as a
>    way of keeping people in these jobs.''
>    
>    A recent industry-backed study by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
>    State University concluded that there are 346,000 available positions
>    for computer programmers, systems analysts, computer scientists, and
>    computer engineers. ''The problem,'' said Miller, ''is that colleges
>    and universities are not producing enough people to meet that
>    demand.''
>    
>    He notes that in the mid-1980s, 50,000 new computer science graduates
>    were pumped into the market yearly. As of 1995, however, only 24,000
>    computer science graduates entered the market, and a significant
>    number of them were immigrants who later returned home, Miller said.
>    
>    But in what could shape up to be a drawn-out fight, critics claim the
>    industry's analysis lacks merit.
>    
>    ''The data that have been used to document the so-called shortage are
>    extremely weak data, almost useless data,'' said New York demographer
>    Michael Teitelbaum, former vice chairman of the US Commission on
>    Immigration Reform.
>    
>    In fact, the General Accounting Office in March said a government
>    study had failed to substantiate a shortage of computer workers.
>    
>    Teitelbaum says a tight labor market doesn't necessarily mean there is
>    a labor shortage. ''It means you must recruit better, retrain, offer
>    better working conditions, and work smarter.''
>    
>    But Joyce Plotkin, president of the Massachusetts Software Council,
>    says the shortage is very real. ''In Massachusetts, in 1989, we had
>    800 companies that employed 46,000 people,'' she said. ''In 1997, we
>    had 2,500 companies and they employed 120,000. We have tripled in
>    eight years. There has been tremendous growth, but there just aren't
>    enough skilled people out there to fill these jobs. The situation is
>    critical.''
>    
>    Says Jack Hahn of Washington, D.C., a retired engineer and former
>    recruiter: ''Jobs are much more focused now. Companies are paying
>    people for yesterday's experience, not last year's experience. They
>    want people who can do it all, and they want them right away.''
>    
>    Hahn, 70, maintains that in the time it takes companies to find the
>    perfect employees - sometimes months - they could just as easily
>    retrain laid-off computer professionals.
>    
>    Plotkin concedes that skill-fit is a big issue. ''It is easier for
>    companies to hire people who have exactly what they are looking for,''
>    she said. ''Some companies are so small, they don't have people who
>    can train.''
>    
>    The software council, along with the industry, the state, and the
>    federal goverment, is trying to address the problem by retraining
>    older workers who have been laid off.
>    
>    Frustrated by their inability to land lasting work, some older workers
>    have joined with the ITAA's opponents in slamming the idea of a
>    shortage. They maintain the industry's desire for young workers and
>    its go-go culture have forced senior computer professionals out of the
>    field. A 1993 survey of college alumni showed that 20 years after
>    graduating, only one-fifth of those who began their careers as
>    computer professionals were still in the industry.
>    
>    In support of the argument, Matloff, the California professor, points
>    to recent US Census Bureau statistics showing an unemployment rate of
>    17 percent for information technology workers over age 50, compared
>    with a scant 2 percent for all professionals 50 and older.
>    
>    Ed Blumenstein, 55, of Brookline is not surprised. Eighteen months
>    ago, he retired from his software engineering job so he could enjoy
>    life more fully. He believes the driving force behind the current
>    debate is that senior employees are more likely to be turned off by
>    the intensity and long hours that have come to characterize the techie
>    culture.
>    
>    ''I've worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day,'' said Blumenstein.
>    ''You have to work like a dog or there might be some young kid who
>    wants a new BMW and will work like a dog to get it. Before I left
>    there were young people who slept on futons under their desks, and
>    they are still doing that here in Massachusetts and in California. I
>    really don't think there are people my age who want to do that.''
>    
>    Bard-Alan Finlan holds a degree in computer engineering from the
>    University of California at San Diego, as well as degrees in music and
>    theology.
>    
>    ''The industry says it wants the most recent skills, the hot skills,
>    Java, for example,'' said Finlan, 43, who works as a temporary senior
>    technician. ''But I could learn Java within a month. I've sent out 200
>    resumes over the past 15 months, but I can't find a full-time job.''
>    
>    Finlan, who is married and has two young children, says he has never
>    held the title of computer engineer even though he has the degree. His
>    annual salary? $36,000.
>    
>    ''Companies really don't want people, older people, with families or
>    obligations,'' he said. ''We can't work 60 to 80 hours per week, and
>    they know it.''
>    
>    Margaret Morganroth Gullette, a resident scholar at Brandeis
>    University, says such observations ought to serve as a wake-up call to
>    the industry and the nation, where, increasingly, older is viewed as
>    obsolete and few companies, particularly those in high tech, are
>    willing to pause long enough to retrain people.
>    
>    She maintains younger workers are ready and willing to put in long
>    hours because the work is so appealing. But as they age, that appeal
>    lessens. Suddenly, Little League takes precedence over late-night bull
>    sessions on the job.
>    
>    ''What we are seeing in this industry and in others is something I
>    call middle-ageism,'' said Gullette. ''If people start losing out by
>    35 or 45, then how can anyone win in America anymore?''
>    
> 

Art Sowers
-------------------------------------------------------
Written in the public interest, the essays on 
"Contemporary Problems in Science Jobs" are located at:
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