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All to blame

by Douglas E. Welch

September 10, 1999

© 1999, Douglas E. Welch

There seems to be a disconnect in today's high-tech job market. Companies claim that they can't find qualified people to fill their high-tech positions. They want the government to allow more international workers into the country on H1-B work visas to fill these positions. On the other side I meet eager, trained people every day who can't seem to find a job. While some may lack years of experience, their desire to learn and work hard cannot be disputed. Each side of this equation blames the other for this discrepancy but a little investigation shows that all of us are to blame for the current state of affairs.

Growing your own

It is a simple fact that many companies are suffering from a lack of technology workers due to their own lack of foresight. They refuse to see their employees as an appreciating asset. As employer-employee loyalty and respect has diminished over the years so has the desire of companies to develop their employees and promote from within. This breakdown has convinced most employers that it is useless to train their employees since the employee will just move to another company, taking the entire training investment with them.

This vicious cycle insures that there will be fewer and fewer qualified applicants for high-tech positions as the years pass. How is a new worker supposed to gain the experience necessary to fill the company's needs if they are never given a chance to grow?

Retaining and developing employees through improvements in the work environment, pay and training is the secret to developing a healthy and productive work force. Any one of these without the others is a futile gesture. If done correctly it will be a company's competitors that will be lacking employees.

Moving out to move up

On the other side of the coin is you, the high-tech worker. If you are already working in the high-tech arena the concept of "moving out to move up" has probably become ingrained in your career plan. You know that moving to a new company is sometimes the only way to garner a promotion and a significant raise. Unfortunately, this only confirms a company's decision to reduce training and promotion from within. You are feeding the very cycle that may have you being replaced with an international worker.

Within the limits of common sense you need to try and develop a working relationship with your employer. If your company decides to train or promote you, you should feel a reasonable obligation to remain with them. This doesn't mean you have to "go down with the ship" should the company begin to fail or renege on its commitment to you. It only means that we all have to put a little more thought into our career moves to insure that others have options down the road.


Unfortunately, on the employee side I am seeing a disturbing trend in new high-tech workers. In the "old days" there was no other way to gain computer experience except by spending time at the keyboard. There weren't any microcomputer degree programs or certification classes. If you wanted to learn about computers, you could only rely on yourself.

Today, there are many avenues for gaining training. Community colleges and universities offer a variety of classes and vendors heavily promote their certification programs. There are more computer books on the market today than ever before. Unfortunately, while it is easier to learn about computers this plethora of information has removed hands-on experience from its rightful place as the most important criteria for getting a job.

Too many people seem to think that just because they have completed a certification program or college degree they are somehow entitled to a job. Not just any job either. They want to start at least part way up the food chain. They expect employers to be waiting at the door as soon as they receive their diploma or certificate. This is partially due to the overselling of these programs. Whether it is actually spelled out or only implied the selling point of any training program is this; "Take our training and you will get a job." This simply isn't true and anyone who tells you this isn't being realistic. You can take as much training as you want, but it is your personal experience that will be the final arbiter in whether you get a job.

You wouldn't want to be operated on by a doctor who hadn't gone through his/her internship and residency. Therefore you shouldn't expect to be hired for a mission-critical position unless you have experience or are prepared to go through some sort of apprenticeship. None of us are "entitled" to any job regardless of our training.

Consider training as a means to a high-tech career, not an end.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/

He can reached via email at douglas@welchwrite.com