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.
=== 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%.)
> 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
> 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
> 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
> ''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
> ''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?''
Written in the public interest, the essays on
"Contemporary Problems in Science Jobs" are located at:
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